Follow these leg training principles and the workout plan to build strong, muscular legs so great, you’ll want to wear shorts not only in the warm weather, but all year round.

1. Focus on Functional Exercises for Your Heavy Sets

Skip the heavy leg extensions and leg curls, our bodies weren’t designed to flex and extend our knees while in hip flexion (seated position). Doing heavy weights on these machine-based exercises can cause both structural issues such as patellar tendonitis as well as muscular imbalances, either of which will set you back weeks from your goals. Instead, get your heavy work done with functional movements like the squat and deadlift. These two exercises should be the cornerstone of any leg routine. Focus on correct technique on these exercises and your legs will start to change before your eyes.

2. Work Unilaterally to Ensure Balance

Almost everyone is either left or right dominant, thus one side of the body is almost always doing a bit more work than the other. Add unilateral exercises such as lunges or single leg squats and single leg deadlifts to ensure that both legs develop evenly, minimizing any muscular imbalances.

3. Don’t Forget Stabilizers

Most guys we see at the gym neglect the smaller stabilizing muscles in the hips that prevent injury and ensure correct movement and stability of the hips and pelvis. Without these muscles working correctly, all other movements become less effective and potentially more dangerous. Work the abductors (outer thigh) and adductors (inner thigh) as part of your warm-up prior to squatting and deadlifting.

4. Warm Up Properly

No, the 10-20 minutes on the treadmill/elliptical/bike do NOT constitute a proper warm up. Merely doing the cardiovascular warm up has done little to prepare your body for what is about to ensue. Always begin your session with a good 5-10 minutes of active stretching (movement based) then your stabilization work.

5. Use isolation movements purely for toning purposes

Those leg extension and curl machines? This is where they can be properly enlisted. Use light-moderate resistance and work high repetitions on these isolation machines in order to perfect definition on the quads and hamstrings. Be sure to set up your machines correctly (the knee joint should directly line up with the axis of the machine) in order to prevent injuries to the knees.

The Workout

Active Stretching:

  • Walking straight leg kicks for 20 yards
  • Walking quad stretch for 20 yards
  • Walking knee hugs for 20 yards
  • Alternate hamstring stretch with back roll


  • Rubber band abduction for 10 yards in each directions
  • Rubber band walks for 10 yards forwards and 10 yards backwards

The Routine:

  • Squats 4 sets x 8 reps
  • Deadlifts 4 sets x 8 reps
  • Walking lunges with sandbag 3 sets x 20 steps
  • Unilateral Superset
  • Single leg step ups 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Single leg hip thrusts 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Seated leg extensions 2 sets x 20 reps
  • Seated leg curls 2 sets x 20 reps
  • Standing calf raises 4 sets x 8 reps
  • Seated single leg calf raises 3 sets x 8 reps/side

Foam Roll & Stretching:

  • Spend 5 minutes rolling out the muscles of the legs to prevent soreness.
  • Spend 5-10 minutes holding static stretches for all muscles worked.

Exercise Physiologist & Sports Conditioning Coach, Byron Paidoussi sculpts athletes, as well as average Joes, into superheroes. Certified Personal Trainer, Pilates Instructor & Nutrition Counselor, Whitney Cole is a triple-threat in the fight against fat. Together they own and operate FITNESS and FUEL LA in Beverly Hills, California, where they inspire clients to exceed their fitness potential.