1. Leg Press
For those of you hoping leg presses could replace squats in your leg workout, the divide between the two movements can’t be overstated. Because the leg press recruits less muscle mass than squats, it simply doesn’t generate the same degree of testosterone release. Nor is the body position here particularly functional, unless your log cabin collapses and your only way out is pushing the timber forward.
2. Squat (High And Low Bar)
Squats are king because they’re simply the most challenging leg movement you can do, especially when loaded appropriately. They work all the lower-body musculature (we’re counting glutes), and have been shown to spike muscle-building hormone release. In fact, we even know that squatting before doing curls has been shown to significantly improve arm strength.
Dead-lifts and dead-lift variations like sumo are considered whole-body exercises, specifically for the posterior chain, which includes the hamstrings and glutes. But there is quad activation in this movement as well, mainly observed in the sumo dead-lift.
This gets tricky, as dead-lifts are typically trained during a program that’s built around the bench press one day, squat the next, and dead-lift on the last. That doesn’t neatly fit with a bodybuilder’s leg day.
4. Hack Squat
Machine exercises don’t rank high on our list, because they control the pathway for you, meaning stabilizing muscles take a back seat. In addition, the hormone boost they generate just doesn’t compare to their free-weight brethren.That’s one reason to do them later in your leg-training session, when your thighs are already fatigued.
5. Dumbbell Lunge
Like all the movements listed thus far, multi joint lunges require hip and knee extension, which gives you the stimulus for the thighs and glutes. They can be done standing in place, or stepping forward or backward—decide for yourself which subtle variation you prefer. You can also choose between a barbell and dumbbells.
6. Front Squat
Some individuals find that squats build their butts well, but they really need help building their quads. If that’s you, try front squats! By shifting the bar from the back to the front of the body, even just 6-8 inches, you change the relative amount of muscle loading that occurs. Front squats emphasize the quads over the glutes and hams, which means you’ll sacrifice some of the load.