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Hey everyone! Today I will be giving you a full leg day workout routine! This will be highly applicable to the goal of strength or hypertrophy as I will be giving guidelines on exactly how to tailor each exercise to these goals!
This routine will consist of 6 different exercises, so let’s get to it!
Exercise #1 – Main Squat Movement:
Our first exercise of the routine will be a main squat movement. This will either be a front squat or back squat. I have chosen this exercise as it can be trained heavy and can have progressive overload effectively applied to it in a variety of ways. Let’s talk about tailoring this exercise towards different goals!
For the goal of strength, I would suggest the back squat, this is for two main reasons. The first is it can be trained heavier (which is most relative to strength training). The second reason is that in actual strength competitions (powerlifting meets), the back squat is one of the exercises performed. So those gearing up for a competition should certainly be performing the squat.
I would suggest training this exercise between 3 and 5 sets in the 1-6 rep range. This will allow you to use enough weight to effectively apply progressive overload via weight used. Over the course of a 4, 6, 8 week (etc.) program, I would suggest starting at the higher end of volume (sets and reps). This means you will be using less weight. From there, consider gradually lowering the reps, then sets, while staying within the suggested rep and set range. This will allow you to increase weights over time, which will strengthen this movement.
Back Squat Technique:
For hypertrophy, I like the front squat as it has a higher amount of quad activation, and you can typically achieve a better mind-muscle connection with it. For this movement, consider starting with between 3 and 4 sets, and 6 to 8 reps. However, with the goal of hypertrophy, we will be progressing training volume as our main method of progressive overload.
As the weeks go on, try to add a rep each week until you hit about 10 reps. Consider adding in a set instead of a rep (lower the reps when the set is added) after 3-4 weeks of this. Although not forbidden, not going above 10 reps will allow you to reap the heavy training benefits of this exercise.
Front Squat Technique:
Exercise #2 – Romanian Deadlift:
The next exercise is meant to target our hamstrings through a compound movement that is highly versatile. I like to train this exercise similar to how we trained our squat movements. It really fulfills the same purpose, only it is for our hamstrings instead of our quads.
For strength, try and stick between 3 and 5 sets in the 1-5 rep range. Consider using a barbell as you will be able to train it heavier, which is once again… you guessed it, more relative to strength training! Focus on applying progressive overload via weight as your primary method. Gradually reduce training volume as your program progresses.
For hypertrophy, I prefer dumbbell Romanian deadlifts as I feel it gives me more freedom of motion to activate my hamstrings and achieve a greater mind-muscle connection. The same guidelines mentioned above for the front squat apply here. Start at between 3 to 4 sets and around 6 to 8 reps, then slowly progress training volume from there.
Romanian Deadlift Technique (Barbell and Dumbbell):
Primary Movement Recap:
Those are your primary exercises for your quads and hamstrings. To recap, focus progression through weight for the goal of strength, and training volume for the goal of hypertrophy. However, don’t be afraid to dip into the opposite for a smooth progression transition if you are reaching the limits of one progression method. For example, you may be maxed out on your rep range, and don’t want to add a set. So consider increasing the weight you are using and lower the reps, then progress from there. Training variables are all interrelated.
Exercise #3 – Leg Press or Glute Ham Raise:
The “or” is an option for you to choose whatever muscle group of yours may be lagging behind. If your quads are a lagging muscle group, go with the leg press. The opposite applies for the hamstrings.
These exercises are meant to be volume-based movements. For the goal of strength, lower rep volume work between 6 and 8 reps is my suggestion. This will allow you to get in volume while still using a fairly heavyweight, and still apply progressive overload via weight.
For the goal of hypertrophy, consider switching the rep range to between 10 and 12 so our muscles are getting more training volume via time under tension. The goal with these should be achieving a strong mind-muscle connection.
Leg Press Technique (Skip to 4:25):
Glute Ham Raise Technique:
Exercise #4 – Assistance Exercise or Superset:
For exercise number 4, there are even more options to customize this training session to you. For the goal of strength, you’re going to want to pick an exercise that is relative to your weak points. This will typically be with 3 sets of higher reps as you will already be fatigued. However, the higher rep sets will allow you to practice the skill you are trying to work on.
For example, if stability in the hole of the squat is an issue for you, consider implementing some paused goblet squats so you can work on solidifying this bottom position. I like to put these into practice with 3 sets of 8-12. Progressing reps first until I reach 12, where I then increase the weight and bring the reps back down to 8 and start progressing the reps again.
If your goal is hypertrophy, I suggest a superset to achieve a good amount of volume in a time-efficient manner, all while achieving a wicked pump. I would suggest this superset to be isolation exercises as you will be quite tired by now. Sets with high rep amounts (15-20) are my recommendation.
An example would be a leg raise superset with a seated hamstring curl. Controlling the reps, and really focusing on a mind-muscle connection while going near or to failure (with proper form) will allow you to reap maximum benefit from these gruelling sets!
Goblet Squat Technique:
P.S – Be very cautious with the leg raise. If it is causing you pain around the knee, DO NOT DO IT! This same rule applies to every exercise you do in the gym.
Exercise #5 – Calf Movement:
You gotta show the calves some love. Exercise number 5 is a calf movement of your choice (they are all pretty similar). No matter your goal, I would suggest training them in the higher, 15ish rep ranges. This because the calves typically respond better to higher rep training, and they aren’t responsible for much when it comes to the standard weight focussed strength movements.
An example of how I implement calf training would be 4 sets of 15 reps done to near failure. I then progress the reps until I reach 18 to 20. I will throw in an added set or two instead of reps (lower your reps when adding a set and start progressing from the lower rep range) as the weeks go on as another method of progressing training volume.
Calf Training Video:
Exercise #6 – Your Choice:
Exercise number 6 is totally up to you and what you feel is most important for you and your goals. For some, it may be not performing another exercise from a respecting recovery needs standpoint. For others, it may be a burnout set or two of jump squats to get in some extra volume. Meanwhile, other trainees may take this time to work on addressing mobility concerns for their training.
That wraps up the training session! I just wanted to take a second and write a section about personalizing this training to your needs, as not all the guidelines within this article will suit everyone’s needs.
There may be better exercise options for the goal of strength. Such as a Bulgarian split squat instead of the leg press for stability purposes.
Some people may want to prioritize certain muscle groups over others. In that case, move those muscle group exercises up the order. If you have a strong mind-muscle connection and still aren’t seeing gains, consider increasing the volume.
All in all, this is a sampler leg day routine with a very good guideline that will work well for the majority of lifters looking to get a solid training session in, that can be applied into a full program for the leg portion. It contains good exercises and quality progression guidelines. However, look into your needs and personalize them to your personal situation for maximal benefit!
Don’t force any of these exercises. If they don’t work well for you, your goals and circumstances, don’t do them! There are almost always alternate movements you can put into practice!
I hope everyone enjoyed the article and was able to benefit from it! The goal with this article was not to provide a generic leg day routine, but one that people can tailor to their goals for actual benefits and results! I thank you very much for taking the time to read this article; and as always, if you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to leave them below and I will be sure to reply!
Until Next Time,
Please refer to my liability disclaimer to ensure you know who is responsible for use of this information after reading.