The main muscle groups of your legs, which include the calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes, power your stride as you walk or run throughout the day. By performing a variety of exercises targeting each muscle group, you can add muscle mass to your legs while improving strength of the muscle, bones and ligaments, increase knee and hip flexibility, reduce your risk of leg injury and give your metabolism a boost for easier weight management.
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Choose one to three exercises each for your calves, hamstrings, quads and glutes. Compound exercises like squats, lunges or leg press work multiple muscle groups at once to cut down on your time at the gym. Keep your total training time to under an hour each session.
Start your workout with the larger compound exercises like squats and lunges, followed by isolation exercises of the larger muscles of the upper legs, such as leg extensions or hamstring curls. Finish with isolation calve exercises. If you perform smaller isolation exercises first, you may not have the strength you need to perform the compound movements.
Complete three to six sets of six to 12 repetitions to stimulate muscle growth or hypertrophy, suggests the American Council on Exercise. Select a resistance level to completely fatigue your muscles by the last repetition, and rest for 30 to 90 seconds between each set.
Balance your workout to include equal numbers of quadriceps and hamstring sets. If you exercise one muscle group more intensely than the other, you create a muscle imbalance that increases your risk of injury.
Work your legs two to three times per week with at least one full day of rest between each session to allow your body to build and repair muscle cells. You can still train your upper body or get in some cardiovascular training on your leg recovery days.