calf raises

Exercise Plan – Leg Workout

The following leg workout is ideal for anyone looking to increase strength in their legs. While an improvement of size may be noticed, this routine primarily attempts to improve the strength in your quadriceps (quads), hamstrings and calves, as well as targeting some secondary muscles.

Leg workouts differ depending on your goals. Those playing ‘in-season’ sports may only look to train legs once, early in the week, whereas others may do as many as two leg sessions a week. This workout covers the areas you need to strengthen and improve overall leg performance.

The Workout

As with any exercise, warming up is strongly advised to allow the muscles to operate more flexibly. A ten minute steady cycle is enough to get the muscles required ready for training.

1. Start with squats – squats are a full body workout that targets not only your legs, but compound muscles as well, such as your abdominal muscles. Primarily you are targeting your hamstrings and quads here, as well as your gluteal muscles. However squats also work to strengthen bones and ligaments, as well as improving core strength. In this way squats are the most comprehensive exercise that targets the most muscles.

Pyramid sets are a good method to use – the weights you use are completely up to you, but you want to pick weights that challenge you, without risk of injury. There’s no point in picking weights that are too easy for you, or that you can’t lift. You want to be doing between 5 and 7 sets, for example:


Set Number


Number of reps

Set 1



Set 2



Set 3



Set 4



Set 5



 Obviously depending on your progress the weights may be different, but you should look to stick to this structure, with 45-60 second rests in between sets.

Without correct form the benefits of squats are greatly reduced. Master the correct form however, and your core strength and leg strength will both improve. Key things to remember with form:

  • Lean back on heels
  • Tighten abs
  • Keep a straight back
  • Push into the bar



2. The next exercise is leg extensions. These primarily target your quads, however unlike squats, leg extensions are an isolated exercise not a total leg workout.

 All following exercises should be completed in 4 set drop sets of 8 reps and 10 reps, with 45-60 second breaks in between sets.

Ideally four sets of 8 reps should be at the weight that challenges you the most and then the four sets of 10 reps should be at around 75{e247ef2f99dfc0bc75e074b1ac933c200478cf8913d2da2bbe9d5daddf1eb195} of the original weight.

 E.g. set the machine to 100kg for four sets of 8 reps, and then drop the weight to 75 kg and complete four sets of 10 reps.

 It is important to remember that with drop sets you don’t want to do any more than two sets on the same muscle group because there is a danger of ‘over-training’.

leg extension 1 leg extension 2

 3. Using the leg curl exercise you achieve similar results to the leg extension, but instead you are targeting your hamstrings, not your quads.

 Again, the weight you choose is up to you. You need a weight that challenges you – one that makes you feel like you’re working, but isn’t out of your capability.

Gluteal muscles are used as a secondary muscle here as they provide resistance to the lower leg.

 4. Finally you need to train your calves. Extending the ankle uses the three muscles that make up the calf – gastrocnemius, soleus and the tibialis posterior. Calf raises allow you to do precisely this in order to strengthen your calves.

calf raises

 You may be used to doing other exercises in the gym, that’s fine. This isn’t the only way to train, do what’s best for you. If you’re just starting out though, or really want a noticeable improvement in your legs this guide will help you do that.

(All images sourced from Wikimedia Commons)

Ollie Lawrence
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