The Ultimate Lower Body Workouts: 8 Exercises For Total Leg Strength 

Any solid strength training program will certainly focus on lower body workouts.

The best lower body strength workout routines will include exercises that target all of the major muscles in the lower body, including the glutes, hip abductors, adductors, hamstrings, quad, calves, and shins.

However, the specific lower body exercises that you include in your lower body workouts should vary from workout to workout and may partially depend on your fitness level, primary training goal, and the equipment you have available.

While it would be virtually impossible to cover every lower body exercise in detail, in this guide, we will provide step-by-step instructions for the following 8 best lower body exercises to include in strength training workouts for the lower body:

Let’s dive in! 

The Ultimate Lower Body Strength Workout

Here are some of the best lower body exercises for strength, power, and muscle growth:

#1: Cossack Squats

Cossack squats strengthen your abductors and adductors, along with the other lower body muscles that work in the sagittal plane

Here are the steps for how to perform this lower body exercise:

  1. Stand upright with good posture, feet nice and wide, and your toes pointing out.
  2. Shift your weight primarily onto one leg as you sit your hips back and squat down. Lean into that leg while you straighten the opposite leg out to the side, placing your heel on the floor with your toes pointing to the ceiling.
  3. Press through the supporting leg that is bent to help return to the starting position, pulling the leg that is extended out to the side back to its original position.

#2: Stability Ball Hamstring Curls

The hamstring curl with a stability ball is a good exercise for building strength in the hamstrings, hips, and core.

Here are the steps for this lower body strength exercise:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs straight and your heels up on a stability ball. Place your arms at your sides with your palms down on the floor.
  2. Lift your hips up by engaging your glutes until your body is in a straight line from your heels to your shoulders. Your shoulder blades should be on the floor.
  3. Engage your hamstrings and glutes, and press your heels into the ball as you bend your knees to roll the ball in towards your butt.
  4. Push the ball back out. Move slowly and with control.

#3: Kettlebell Swings

According to a research study conducted by ACE Fitness, kettlebell swings are one of the most effective hamstring exercises, but you’ll also work your glutes, low back extensors, core, hip flexors, and shoulders.

Here are the steps for how to perform this exercise in your lower body workouts:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, gripping the handle of a fairly heavy kettlebell with both hands. Your arms should be fully extended so the kettlebell is hanging down in front of your body.
  2. Press through your heels and explode through your hips to drive the kettlebell upward until it’s roughly chest height and your arms are fully extended out in front of you. Allow a soft bend in your knees.
  3. Control the kettlebell as it descends, loading your glutes and hamstrings. The kettlebell should swing back through the opening between your legs.
  4. At the end of the arc of the swing, pop your hips forward again to propel the kettlebell back up to chest height.

#4: Bulgarian Split Squats

The Bulgarian split squat is one of the best lower body strength workout exercises. The unilateral nature also will help you correct strength imbalances and improve hip, ankle, and core strength and stability.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand facing away from a weight bench with the toes of your rear foot on the bench and your front foot far enough forward that when you drop into a lunge, your front knee does not extend beyond your toes.
  2. Place a barbell along your upper traps or hold dumbbells down at your sides.
  3. Keeping your core tight, drop down into a split squat by bending your knees.
  4. When the thigh of your front leg is parallel to the ground, pause and hold the contraction for 2-3 seconds.
  5. Explode through your heel to raise back up.
  6. Complete all of your reps and then switch sides.

#5: Pistol Squats

The pistol squat requires a tremendous amount of leg strength, especially in the quads, glutes, and hip rotators. 

Advanced weightlifters can hold dumbbells or wear a weighted vest for bigger gains in strength and mass.

Beginners can perform the pistol squat holding onto TRX straps to assist in balance and raising back up.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand upright with good posture, chest up, core, and glutes engaged.
  2. Lift your left leg off the ground and extend it in front of your body as you bend your right knee and sit your butt back to drop down into a single-leg squat. If you aren’t holding weights, you can push your arms straight out in front of your body for a counterbalance.
  3. Lower your body as far as you can, sitting your butt towards the floor.
  4. Press through your right heel to stand back up.
  5. Complete all of your reps and then switch sides.

#6: Goblet Squats

One of the best lower body exercises for leg strength, power, and hypertrophy is the goblet squat.

Here are the steps:

  1. Hold either side of the kettlebell handle in each hand, pressing your forearms into the bell to secure it in place as you squat. The handle of the kettlebell should be just under chin level, and the kettlebell should be a few inches in front of your body without touching it.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointing forwards (or the slightest bit outward).
  3. Bracing your core and keeping your chest up, bend your knees and sit your hips back to squat down as low as possible.
  4. Pause at your lowest position for 2 to 3 seconds, and then squeeze your glutes, hamstrings, and quads as you press through your heels to stand back up.

#7: Glute-Hamstring Raises

If you are doing lower body workouts at the gym, you can use this glute-ham raise machine to strengthen your posterior chain muscles. If you don’t have access to this particular machine, you can also perform Nordic Hamstring curls, as shown in the video.

As you get stronger, you can add weight plates or chains for leg strength workouts.

Here are the steps:

  1. Secure your feet on the glute-ham raise machine and then rest your quads in the middle of the pad. Cross your arms over your chest. 
  2. Bend your knees 90 degrees, and make sure to keep the rest of your body completely straight.
  3. Press your toes into the pad of the machine as you straighten your legs.
  4. Hinge at your hips to slowly lower your torso until your chest is parallel to the ground.
  5. Contract your glutes and hamstrings to raise your body back up to the starting position.

#8: Single-Leg Calf Raises

The single-leg calf raise is one of the best lower-body exercises for the calves, enabling you to strengthen each calf muscle individually.

You can hold a dumbbell or kettlebell to add resistance for bigger gains in strength and size. Hold on to a wall or the side of a weight bench for balance, if necessary.

Here are the steps for how to perform this exercise in your calves workouts:

  1. Stand upright with the balls of your feet at the edge of a plyo box or off the legs of a weight bench.
  2. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand.
  3. Lift up one leg and hook it behind the working leg.
  4. Press through the ball of your foot to raise up onto your toes.
  5. Hold the top position for 2 to 3 seconds.
  6. As slowly as possible, lower yourself all the way down until your heel drops below the step that you are on as far as possible.
  7. Pause at the end range of motion and then explode back up onto the balls of your feet until you are on your tiptoes.
  8. Complete all of your reps on one side and then switch legs.

For maximizing strength gains, work up to performing 2-6 sets, 3-5 reps per set, and at least 85% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM) for the load. The fewer reps you perform, the closer to 100% of your 1RM you should aim for with your weights.

If you are primarily doing lower body workouts for mass (hypertrophy or muscle growth), strive to perform three sets of each exercise, using loads that are 70 to 85% of your 1RM for 8 to 12 reps.

After your lower body strength workouts, try our foam rolling leg exercises to loosen up. You can find the guide here.

Bulgarian split squat.
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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