Choosing the right exercises to get thicker legs can be as simple as choosing what to eat for breakfast. Although strength exercises will increase your muscle tone, the kind of exercises you do depend on your goals and fitness level. Once you develop a good habit and routine, you will automatically know what to do without looking lost at the gym.
The isolation method targets individual muscle groups in your legs to gain maximum muscle group, which often involves using resistance machines. Because your body is placed in a fixed position, you can lift more weight to gain more mass in your legs. These exercises include the leg extension, the leg curl, the calf raise and the leg press. Although your legs and joints will get stronger, they do little to improve functional or athletic movement.
Full-body strength exercises for your legs are often performed in a standing position. Although your legs are doing most of the work, your buttocks, back, abs and even your shoulders are working together to stabilize your whole body to maintain your alignment, balance and movement control. These exercises include the squat, lunge and step-ups. Master these exercises with no additional weight first before training with free weights. For the lunge and step-up exercises, you can add variety to your workout by doing them laterally, front to back or with a torso rotation.
Power training is adding speed to your strength workouts, which is necessary for most activities you do. One common type of power training is plyometrics, which involves moving repetitively as fast as you can with maximal muscle contractions. Sample exercises include box jumps, power jump rope, power lunges, side hops, bounding and depth jumps.
Do a variety of exercises and don't stick to one kind of training just because it's comfortable. Change your workout every two weeks and gradually substitute one or two exercises each week. For example, after a week of doing most isolation exercises, substitute the leg press with body-weight squats. Once you master the squats, progress to box jumps or squat with a heavy kettlebell held in front of you. If you are new to strength or power training, work with a qualified fitness professional before training on your own. Do not train if you have pain or any medical conditions that worsen with exercise. Consult your health care provider before you start to train.
- Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook
- NSCA’s Performance Training Journal: Introduction to Plyometrics
- NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training; Michael Clark, DPT
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.