Leg Day Workouts For Weight Loss (10 Must-Do Exercises)

Leg day workouts for weight loss (10 must-do exercises)

Never skip leg day. It’s a statement that you most likely have heard before and with good reason. Leg day workouts can help you build muscle in your lower body, resulting in more speed, strength and power. It’ll assist in keeping your body in proportion and balanced, not to mention, contribute to more calories being burned for weight loss.

Your leg day workouts should focus on building lower body muscle. The more muscle and definition you have, the more calories you can burn which can help with overall weight loss. We’re going to take you through our top 10 must-do exercises, including barbell squats, hip thrusts and walking lunges.

Need a workout program? Try Fitbod for Free.

10 Must-Do Leg Day Exercises For Weight Loss

10 Must-Do Leg Day Exercises For Weight Loss.jpg

Here are our favorite leg day exercises that can help propel your weight loss while building great definition in your lower body. You can put these exercises together to create your own workout program or head to the FitBod app to get a personalized leg day workout for you.

The 10 leg exercises for weight loss are:

  • Barbell Squats (High Bar)

  • Front Squats

  • Walking Lunge

  • Bulgarian Split Squats

  • Deadlift (Barbell)

  • Romanian Deadlift (Barbell)

  • Seated Leg Press

  • Hip Thrust

  • Goblet Squat

  • Glute Hamstring Curl

Related Article: The Best 3 Days A Week Workout For Fat Loss


Muscles worked: hamstrings, glutes, adductor (groin muscles), lower back, core

  1. Rest the bar on your rear shoulder muscles and carefully unrack the barbell, stepping back from the rack.

  2. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, with your toes point outwards on a slight angle.

  3. Take a deep breath in and brace.

  4. Slowly, lower yourself into a squat. Keep your hips back and don’t let your knees slide forward or buckled inwards. Pretend that you have a chair behind you that you need to sit down on. Aim to go down to at least parallel to the ground. However, if you’re new to barbell squats, then just go as deep as you can go. Depth is always something you can work on.

  5. Drive your heels into the ground and shoot back up into standing position. Try to make this as explosive and fast as possible.

  6. Take another deep breath and brace, before lowering yourself into your next rep.

  7. Only rerack the bar once you’ve completed your set.

Notes: If you’re not comfortable squatting using the barbell, then a dumbbell squat or kettlebell squat is a good option to add weight to your bodyweight without being too intimidating.

Related Article: 19 Swiss Ball Exercises For Weight Loss (That Actually Work)


Muscles worked: quads, glutes, hamstrings, upper back, core

  1. With the barbell still racked, get under the bar and position it across the front side of your shoulders. With your palms facing up and elbows forward, get your fingertips under the bar, around shoulder-width apart. However, some people may need their grip to be wider, depending on mobility. Unrack the bar and step out.

  2. Take a deep breath in, bracing your core.

  3. In a controlled motion, slowly lower yourself into a squat.

  4. Make sure your core is engaged and your chest up. Try to go as low as you can.

  5. Dig through your heels and drive yourself back up to standing position

  6. Repeat.

Notes: If you want to make sure the barbell is resting on your shoulders properly, try this test. Rest the barbell in position, with the bar unracked, and straight both your arms out in front of you. Hold them out so that they are parallel to the ground. If the bar doesn’t move and remains put, then you have the correct position.

Another thing to add, sometimes people don’t have the mobility in their upper body to hold the barbell using the fingertips. If that’s the care, then cross your hands over the bar and keep your elbows up and parallel to the ground, so that your arms are making X’s. Hold the barbell in this position for the front squat.

Related Article: Outer Quad Exercises: 7 Must-Do Exercises


Muscles worked: quads, glutes, hamstrings, hips, core

  1. Find yourself space so that you have room to walk. With your feet hip-width apart engage your core and look in front of you.

  2. Take a step forward with one foot and lunge. Try to get your thigh on the lunging leg to be parallel to the ground so your knee is at a 90-degree angle.

  3. Drive through your back foot, exiting the lunge to then smoothly bring the back foot up and in front of you, stepping into another lunge.

  4. Repeat.

Notes: To make this more difficult, you have the option of doing weighted walking lunges either by holding a dumbbell in each hand or with a barbell. Though, we suggest only doing barbell walking lunges if you’re used to having a barbell on your back.

Related Article: 17 Dumbbell Exercises For Weight Loss (That Actually Work)


Muscles worked: quads, calves, hamstring, core

  1. Find a bench or box that is around your knee height.

  2. Stand in front of the bench, balancing on one leg with your other one elevated on the bench behind you. Engage your core and keep your torso upright, facing forward.

  3. Bend at the front knee, lowering into a split squat. You want to get your front thigh parallel to the ground or as close to it as possible, bringing your knee to a 90-degree angle. Ensure that your knee is in line with your foot from start to finish.

  4. Push through your front foot and return to a standing position.

  5. Complete your reps on the front foot before switching.

Notes: The closer your front foot is to the bench, the more quad-dominant the Bulgarian split squat will be however, it may cause slight hip flexor pain in some. Experiment with your foot distance to identify what works best for you.

Related Article: Got A Big Upper Body And Small Legs? Here’s What To Do

Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try Fitbod for free.


Muscles worked: quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower and upper back

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your feet should be positioned under the bar, around where your shoelaces are.

  2. Hold the bar with both hands. They should be on the outside of both your legs, slightly wider. Make sure that your shins are touching the bar and keep your arms straight.

  3. Sit back so that your hips move back, keeping your chest up. Engage your lats, keep your back straight, chest up and brace.

  4. Push your hips forward as you bring the bar up until you are standing straight. As you lift the bar, ensure that it remains in contact with your body. Don’t let it fall forward as this will cause your body to fall forward too.

  5. At the top of the position, lockout your legs, squeeze your glutes and quads. Be careful not to over hyper-extend your back (arching your back unnecessarily at the lockout),

  6. In a controlled motion, bring the bar back to the ground.

  7. Repeat.

Notes: As you prepare to deadlift and sit your hips back, be careful not to end up in a squat position. Your hips should be back but still higher than your knees.

Related Article: 10 Knee Friendly Quad Exercises (Form Tips For Safe Knees)


Muscles worked: hamstrings, glutes, lower back

  1. Hold the barbell in both hands in front of you, with your arms straight down.

  2. Engage your core and lats and slowly lower the bar down, hinging at the hips. Your knees should have a slight bend in it. Ensure that the bar remains in contact with your body as you go down.

  3. Keep lowering the bar until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.

  4. Once you feel the stretch in your hamstrings, thrust your hips forward and bring the bar back up, ending in a lockout.

  5. Begin your next rep by lowering the bar again, from the standing position.

Notes: Contrary to belief, you don’t have to lower the bar all the way to the ground in the Romanian deadlift. In this movement, you don’t put the bar back on the floor until you’ve finished your set.

Related Article: 10 Knee Friendly Quad Exercises (Form Tips For Safe Knees)


Muscles worked: quads, hamstrings, glutes

  1. Adjust the platform to your height. From the seated position, you should be able to place both feet on the platform with a slight bend in your knees.

  2. To begin, ensure your feet are shoulder-width apart. Brace your core and bend your knees, bringing the platform closer to your body and your knees close to your chest.

  3. Once you’ve brought the plate in, drive through both feet and push it away from you. Be careful to maintain a slight bend in the knees (you shouldn’t completely lock them out straight). Pause at the top of the movement.

  4. In a controlled motion, bring it back in, bending your knees.

  5. Repeat.

Notes: Where you place your feet depends on which muscles you want to focus on:

  • Basic stance – hamstrings and quads

  • Wide stance – hip adductors (inner thighs)

  • Narrow stance – quads

  • High stance – hamstrings and glutes

  • Low stance – quads

Related Article: Can I Lose Weight By Lifting Weights Only?


Muscles worked: glutes, hamstrings, hip adductors, core

  1. Find a box or bench that you can comfortably sit against. Rest the barbell just below your hips (in the hip crease) with a pad around it for comfort. Ensure both feet are planted on the ground. Grip the bar with both hands.

  2. Lean back against the bench so that your shoulder blades are pushing against the bench and thrust your hips up. Your knees should be in a 90-degree angle, torso parallel to the ground with your chin to chest, looking forward.

  3. Squeeze your glutes in the top position, pausing for a moment.

  4. Lower the bar back down and repeat.

Notes: Ensure that your shins are in a vertical line when you thrust the bar up, as well as perpendicular to the ground. Having your feet too close to the bench and your body focuses the hip thrust on your hamstrings more as opposed to glutes. However, if your feet are too far away from the bench, it’ll make it a quad dominant exercise. Aiming for vertical shins can help you keep it a glute-based exercise.

Related Article: 9 Leg Exercises & Workouts You Can Do With A Bench


Muscles worked: quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, core

  1. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell to your chest. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, toes facing slightly outwards. Keep your torso up straight.

  2. Brace, engage your core, and lower into a squat. Keep your shoulders and hips back and chest up.

  3. Try and get your hips parallel or below, to your knees.

  4. Drive through your feet and push yourself back up to standing.

Notes: The goblet squat is a great precursor to the front squat. By holding the weight in front of you as well, it teaches you to prevent your chest from collapsing down as you move through the movement which then can be translated to other lifts like your barbell squat.


Muscles worked: glutes, hamstrings

  1. You’ll need a bench or machine that you can tuck your feet in securely. Most gyms will have a GHR machine or you can also use the pads on a lat pulldown machine or get your gym buddy to hold your feet for you.

  2. Kneel with your feet tucked behind you. Make sure it’s secure. Cross your arms over your chest.

  3. Engage your core, squeeze your glutes and slowly lower your body to the ground. Keep your body in a straight line as you do it—don’t let your bum sit back.

  4. Go as low as you can go. Pause for a moment.

  5. Engage your lower body and core as you come back up—again, with your lower body in a straight line.

  6. Repeat.

Notes: An option to make this easier is to have a bench or box in front of you. Go as low as you can and then use your hands to push off the bench or box, springing you back up to the starting position, then repeat.

Sample Leg Day Workouts For Weight Loss

Sample Leg Day Workouts For Weight Loss.jpg

To help get you started, here are some sample leg day workouts for weight loss, for each fitness level.


  1. Seated leg press – 3×8

  2. Romanian deadlift – 3×10

  3. Hip thrust – 3×10

  4. Goblet squats – 3×10

  5. Bodyweight walking lunge – 3×20


  1. Goblet squats or front squats – 3×8

  2. Deadlift – 3×10

  3. Bulgarian split squat – 3×8

  4. Hip thrust – 3×8

  5. Bodyweight or weighted walking lunge – 3×20


  1. Barbell high bar squats – 5×6

  2. Romanian deadlift – 3×8

  3. Superset:

    1. Glute hamstring curl – 3×8

    2. Bulgarian split squats – 3×8

  4. Weighted Walking lunge (dumbbell or barbell) – 3×20

Can you get big legs without squats (yes, here's how)

Gaining muscle mass and size is not a small feat. It requires a delicate balance of loading, training volume, and time. Compound exercises like back squats and front squats are great ways to stimulate serious muscle growth and strength for any level lifter.

But what happens when you are unable to squat due to injury concerns (lower back issues), lack of proper gym equipment (no squat rack), or simply want to add variety to your workouts?

When looking to add leg size without squats, lifters can integrate unilateral leg exercises (split squats, lunges, and step ups) and machine-based movements to increase muscle growth. When performing such movements, the emphasis should be on performing the repetitions in a full range of motion with control and coordination to the growth stimulus on the muscle tissues.

In this article we will offer lifters rules to live by when building big legs without squats and offer some exercises they can do to specifically increase leg size (and strength) in the event they cannot do squats (back squats or front squats). Additionally, the below exercises are also great ways to add more direct quadriceps and hamstrings training even with programs that include squats.

Need a workout program? Get 3 free workouts on Fitbod right now.

4 Tips To Build Big Legs Without Squats

4 Tips To Build Big Legs Without Squats.jpg

Below are four ways you can improve leg growth without doing squats in a leg training program.


Compound exercises are great movements to maximize muscle growth and strength in all level lifters. In training programs that omit squats, for whatever reason, lifters can still perform a wide variety of compound lifts like lunges, step ups, and stiff leg deadlifts to maximize muscle growth.

Using compound lifts as the pillars in your program can also help you improve movement quality and help you get similar benefits as if you wear to squat.

Related Article: Outer Quad Exercises: 7 Must-Do Exercises


Lifting in the full range of motion is key for muscle growth both in programs that include squats and those programs that do not. Increasing the active range of motion of any exercise can increase the muscular demands and force output requirements in a movement.

Additionally, by training in the full range of motion, you preload a great amount of tension on the skeletal muscles without having to use as much weight as if you were doing partial reps, which could help you minimize excessive structural stress on the joints and connective tissues.

This is key because we know that lifting very heavy loads does not always promote the best muscle growth, as the stimulus to fatigue ratio may not be as optimal as using moderate to heavy loads in a full range of motion.

Related Article: 10 Knee Friendly Quad Exercises (Form Tips For Safe Knees)


Use Machines to Drive Intensity and Volume.jpg

Using machines like the hack squat, leg press, and single-joint exercises like leg extensions and leg curls in a program can be helpful when looking to drive training volumes while minimizing structural loading (when compared to heavy compound lifts like squats.

These are also great ways to push intensity and minimize technique demands, which will often allow for muscular failure to occur prior to technical failure, fighting the ability to promote muscle growth.


Controlling the eccentric phase of the movement will result in increased muscle damage and growth.

For nearly every exercise below, taking 2-3 seconds during the eccentric phase to load the muscle fibers is suggested to help maximize muscle growth and minimize injury.

Adding pauses at the bottom of the range of motion or at various points throughout the range of motion can also be a great way to add extra tension demands and stretch on the muscle to further enhance strength and hypertrophy.

Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try Fitbod for free.

10 Exercises To Build Bigger Legs (That Aren’t Squats)

Below are ten exercises lifters and coaches of all levels can integrate within training programs to add leg size and strength without squats (back or front squats).


The hack squat is an excellent option for anyone who does not have access to a barbell to perform back or front loaded squats.

The hack squat machine is designed to help specially target the quadriceps. Unlike the back squat (which can be manipulated some to better isolate the quadriceps), the hack squat machine puts the lifter in a position that promotes greater amounts of knee flexion than a standard back squat.

In doing so, the quadriceps are isolated to a higher degree, while also minimizing stress on the hips and lower back.

Related Article: Got A Big Upper Body And Small Legs? Here’s What To Do


The leg press, like the hack squat, is a great machine variation to build bigger legs without squats.

To maximize results with the leg press and minimize unnecessary stress on the knees and lower back, it is imperative to perform them in the fullest range of motion you can while maintaining a flat lower back.

This is often done by placing the feet towards the lower end of the sled. By also controlling the lowering phase you can properly load the quadriceps To maximize muscle growth and minimize unnecessary joint stress.

Related Article: How To Get Rid of Skinny Legs (Complete Guide)


The Bulgarian split squat is an ideal lower body exercise for lifters looking to increase muscle growth with dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells.

Unlike bilateral movements, the Bulgarian split squat can be done using lighter loads (great for at home workouts or during times of injury) yet still produce a full stimulus to the muscles of the leg.

To best perform this exercise for quadriceps hypertrophy, you want to make sure to (1) control the eccentric phase of the movement, (2) descend into the deepest position you can while staying upright to force high degrees of knee flexion, and (3) to focus on using the quadriceps to drive the body and load upwards, rather than the back or hips.

Related Article: 9 Leg Exercises & Workouts You Can Do With A Bench


Similar to the walking lunge and Bulgarian split squat, the front foot elevated split squat can be done to increase the amount of knee flexion in a movement to further drive quadriceps growth.

By performing any of the unilateral exercises (Bulgarian split squat and lunges) with the front foot elevated, you can add a fuller range of motion to a movement to further enhance its muscle building potential.

In the front foot elevated split squat, the lifter should focus on keeping the front foot loaded throughout the movement and minimize the amount of hip flexion (hips shooting backwards or torso leaning excessively forward) if they are doing this to develop the quadriceps.


The lunge is a dynamic lower body exercise that targets the quadriceps, glutes, and even hamstrings.

This is a great exercise to not only develop bigger legs, but it can be ideal for lifers looking to build muscle and movement coordination (such as athletes and general population). This can be done with a variety of equipment (dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, bodyweight), and requires little to no set up.

To isolate the quadriceps more, you can take smaller steps and work on increasing the amount of knee flexion in every step. If you take bigger steps, you can really increase the amount of both knee flexion and hip flexion, increase hamstrings and glutes involved.

Related Article: 18 Lunge Variations For Glutes, Quads, Bad Knees, & More


Single joint leg exercises can be a great way to add significant leg size without having to incur a lot of systemic fatigue.

By adding leg extensions within a training program you can increase hypertrophy using higher reps sets with lighter rest periods.

It is important to note there that going heavy on single-joint exercises may not be advisable for most people. Rather, use the leg extension as a warm-up or light training exercise.


The stiff leg deadlift is a great exercise for hamstrings strength and growth.

While squats primarily target the quadriceps and glutes, well-developed hamstrings can improve knee function and health, allowing you to further push intensity and growth with leg training.

This exercise also requires no rack, and can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, and kettlebells making it a great option for most training programs.


The Romanian deadlift, like the stiff leg deadlift, is a great hamstring and glute exercise to develop significant amounts of muscle mass to build bigger legs.

The main difference between the Romanian deadlift and the stiff leg deadlift is that the stiff leg deadlift places more loading on the hamstrings due to the increased knee extension angles at the onset of the movement.

That said, both the Romanian deadlift and the stiff leg deadlift can be pillars of your hamstring training in a workout program geared to build bigger legs without squats.


Like the leg extension machine, the hamstring curl can be used to add size to the hamstrings.

This machine comes in two main variations: seated hamstring curl or lying hamstring curl. Both can be used to promote hamstrings hypertrophy.

For best results, use these as primer movements or later in sessions with moderate to light loads. Repetitions should be performed in the full range of motion with eccentric control.


Sled pushes can be used in warm-ups.  They are great for increasing blood flow to the quads, hamstrings, and calves without having to load the lumbar spine. Sled pushes can also be helpful for lifters who may experience knee pain or discomfort when squatting.

Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals.  The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts.  Try Fitbod for free.

Sample Bodybuilding Program To Build Bigger Legs WITHOUT SQUATS

Sample Bodybuilding Program to Build Bigger Legs.jpg

This program is to be done weekly, with all leg muscles being trained twice per week. The total training volume per muscle group is as follows: 16 total sets for quadriceps, 14 total sets for hamstrings, 10 total sets for calves (sled pushes are not counted for, which can be used for all muscle groups).

To progress this, you could add one set per week to the total weekly training volume (so select one exercise per muscle group per week and add one set… do not add one set for every exercise every week) for 3-4 weeks in a row, prior to deloading and resetting the program.


The goal of this workout is to develop the quadriceps and calves. Additionally, some hamstring work will be done as well, however the hamstrings will be more directly targeted on the second training day of the weekly program.

  • Hack Squat: 4 sets of 5-10  reps, slow eccentric and brief pause at full depth

  • Front Foot Elevated Bulgarian Split Squats: 4 sets of 10-15 reps

  • Leg Extensions: 4 sets of 10-20 reps

  • Leg Curl: 4 sets of 10-20 reps

  • Standing Calf Raise: 5 sets of 10-15 reps


The goal of this workout is to develop the hamstrings and calves. Additionally, some quadriceps work will be done as well, however the quadriceps will be more directly targeted on the first training day of the weekly program.

  • Stiff Leg Deadlift: 6 sets of 5-10  reps, slow eccentric and brief pause at full depth

  • Leg Press: 4 sets of 10-15 reps

  • Leg Curl: 4 sets of 10-20 reps

  • Sled Push: 4 sets of 45-60 seconds of continuous sled push (use as heavy of weight as possible)

  • SL Standing Calf Raise: 3 sets of 20-30 reps per leg

Related Article: 18 Lunge Variations For Glutes, Quads, Bad Knees, & More

Final Notes

Building bigger legs takes time and an understanding of training principles and joint actions. Most individuals will walk into the gym, do some squats, and call it a day. Instead, by having a better understanding of the muscles worked during a particular exercise, and how to structure a training program to better isolate muscle tissues that you want to target, you can add quality size and strength to your legs both with or without squats (back squats or front squats).

About The Author

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.

Mike has published over 500+ articles on premiere online media outlets like BarBend, BreakingMuscle, Men’s Health, and FitBob, covering his expertise of strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, fitness, and sports nutrition.  In Mike’s spare time, he enjoys the outdoors, traveling the world, coaching, whiskey and craft beer, and spending time with his family and friends.

Final Notes

Targeting all the major muscles in the lower body with our 10 must-do exercises for leg day, you can ensure that you’ll gain more strength, speed and power while keeping your body balanced. Not to mention, with more muscle being built, you can burn more calories leading to more weight loss! Get started with our sample workouts today or visit the FitBod app for a customized leg day training workout for you.

About The Author

Emily Trinh

Emily Trinh

As a health and fitness writer, Emily combines her two passions—powerlifting and writing. With a creative writing degree under her belt, she spends her mornings lifting weights, her nights putting pen to paper, and eating too many snacks in between.