Best Leg Workout for Beginners for Muscle Mass Gains

February 23, 2021

best leg workout for beginners

Let’s face it, leg day is the toughest day of the week. Sure, you get great upper body workouts (especially on chest day!). But training legs is brutal.

And it’s frustrating when you train them week after week but you’re not seeing the results you want. Your quads and hams just aren’t growing at the rate your upper body is.

That’s why in this post, I’m going to give you the best leg workout for beginners to ignite muscle growth.

You’re also going to learn some simple methods that you can start doing right now to gain more mass in your legs. And I’ll explain these in more detail below.

Mass Gains Leg Workout for Beginners

Here’s the best leg workout for beginners:

  • Warm-up with Leg Extensions: 2 x 10
  • Squats: 5 x 8-10
  • Leg Press: 4 x 12
  • Lying Leg Curls: 4 x 10
  • Leg Extensions: 4 x 15
  • Seated or Standing Calve Raises: 5 x 15

Now let’s dive deeper into each exercise. I’m also going to share some additional methods that you can use to gain more size and strength in your legs.

Warming Up Before Squats for Beginners

I know, I know, you want to jump into the rack right away and start pumping out some heavy squats. But I strongly recommend that you do some type of warm-up first.

You can start by doing a couple of light sets of leg extensions. 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps should do the trick.

  • Set 1: Light weight for 10 reps
  • Set 2: Light-moderate weight for 12 reps

You can throw in a third set if you like. And once you get more advanced, you may even want to perform leg extensions with working sets before you squat (I personally do this now).

Another warm-up method you may want to consider is doing 10-15 minutes of walking on the treadmill. Or you could ride the recumbent bike as a warm-up. The idea is to get the blood flowing in your legs and warm-up your muscles and more importantly, your joints.

Squats: Why They’re Crucial for Beginners

Squats - parallel perfect squat

Squats are the king of exercises. That’s been said by countless bodybuilders, powerlifters, and other top-tier strength athletes.

Squats are going to be the key to building your foundation of muscle mass. Getting good at this exercise will help you get stronger and build more muscle in other areas as well.

Can you gain size without squats? Sure, but understand that squats are more than just a leg exercise. Squats are a full-body exercise and that will help you pack on more overall muscle mass.

Make squatting every week a priority. And as a beginner, go for 4- sets of 8-10 reps on squats.

Leg Press for Beginners: The Dos and Don’ts

Leg press can be an excellent exercise to build mass for beginners. You can load up some decent weight and pump out more reps.

But leg press can also be the worst exercise for legs.

As you’ve seen, most guys will pile on as many 45 lb. plates that will fit on the leg press machine. And you know what happens after that. They lower the platform down about two inches and call that a rep.

These guys usually have stick-legs. Why? Because they’re not performing leg press the right way.

If you want to get bigger legs with leg press, you have to two things:

  • Do more reps
  • Do controlled reps

You will more than likely find that your legs respond best to higher reps, in general. And they will definitely respond better to higher volume (more sets and reps, overall).

Also, doing controlled reps is what’s really going to make your legs grow. Especially on the leg press.

Controlled reps simply mean forcing your muscles to work harder. You’re taking a little more time throughout each rep and making sure that you feel your quads, hamstrings, and glutes working rather than just lifting the weight from point A to B.

Isolated Leg Exercises for Beginners

After squats and leg press, it’s time to move on to some isolated exercises. You now want to directly target your quads, hamstrings, and calves.

Here are the basic exercises you’re doing:

  • Leg extensions for quads
  • Leg curl for hamstrings
  • Calf raises for calves

As a beginner, you do need to focus more on compound exercises like squats. However, it’s also good to integrate these isolation exercises, especially if you’re going the bodybuilding route and want that muscle mass and definition.

The biggest thing here is don’t overthink these exercises. Just do anywhere from 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps each.

For leg extensions and calf raises, try the higher reps (12-15). For leg curls, you may find that doing 10 reps is more effective. Your hamstrings may respond a little differently from quads and calves, which require more volume.

What About Deadlifts for Legs for Beginners?

Deadlifts - 365

Deadlifts are another full-body exercise and are preferred for building your foundation for size. However, when you’re just starting out, I would rather you do deadlifts on another day.

The reason for this is both squats and deadlifts take a lot out of you. Trying to tackle them on the same day along with the other leg exercises you’re doing isn’t a good idea.

You could do deadlifts on back day or do them on a different day. If you’d like to read more about deadlifts and other compound exercises for beginners, read my post: Fundamentals of Weight Training.

More Leg Training Tips for Beginners

You’ve got an awesome leg workout for beginners and we broke down each type of exercise. Now let’s dig into some additional strategies that will help you gain more muscle mass.

  • Do some type of squat every leg workout! Never stray from the basic principles for building muscle.
  • Add more volume to your leg workouts (you can do this by simply adding another set to each exercise).
  • Increase your reps, especially for exercises like leg extensions and even leg press – you may find your legs respond better to higher reps.
  • Alternate different foot positions on the leg press (wide, regular, close – you’ll see this example in the workout below).
  • Remember to control the weight as you’re lifting; don’t let the weight control you.
  • Spend 5-10 minutes stretching your quads and hamstrings after each leg workout.
  • Give yourself at least 4 days before training legs again. The once-a-week rule works as well.
  • Go heavy but not to the point where you’re sacrificing your form or safety.

Also, as you gain more experience you can start adding techniques like drop sets and rest-pause sets to make your workouts more intense. At that point, you’ll be ready for one of my premium training programs.

Faster Results and Nutrients Needed for Building Legs

Before we get into this next part, please understand that there’s nothing that replaces training hard and consistency. Nothing. Period.

And there’s no magic pill or supplement that’s going to give you unrealistic gains. However, there are some things you can do to get faster results, as long as you’re doing everything else right…

You need to ensure that you’re giving your body the proper nutrients (and balance of those nutrients) to gain muscle and size.

When you workout hard, you deplete your body of these nutrients. Especially on leg day because remember, leg training takes a lot more effort than training your other muscle groups.

And not only do you need to replenish those for muscle growth, but you also need more than the average person that doesn’t train hard (or at all). Because you’re certainly not average.

Here are the nutrients that you need to gain more size in your legs (and gain muscle, in general):

  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • B vitamins

Those are the must-have vitamins and micronutrients needed for muscle growth. And it’s a good idea to get into the habit of taking these as a beginner (those good habits will carry forward).

These essential nutrients can also help boost your testosterone naturally. And if you want to take it further, you can add ingredients like DAA (D-aspartic acid), fenugreek, and BioPerine.

That leads me to one supplement that contains all of this (and more). It’s actually more cost-efficient to take as opposed to having to buy all of those supplements individually.

If you’re like to learn more, click here: Recommended Test Booster for Mass Gains

Nutrition for Leg Gains

Lastly, although this probably should have been first, you need to make sure you’re eating plenty of quality foods to gain muscle mass as a beginner. Develop those good eating habits now.

Here are some nutrition tips for beginners for mass gains:

  • Eat 5-6 meals a day
  • Make sure you’re getting plenty of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats (yes, you need all macronutrients)
  • Eat a meal (or drink a shake) with high protein and some simple carbs for post-workout
  • Make sure you have adequate fuel before you train

You can also check out my Sensible Muscle Building Meal Plan in my shop. That’s the only nutrition guide you’ll ever need.

Train with Passion,

Jason

About the author

Jason Stallworth

Hi, I'm Jason Stallworth and I created The Muscle Program in 2010 for the purpose of helping you build muscle. I know first-hand how weight training and being in the gym has shaped my life in more way than one. And here is where I share that experience with you so that you can continue pushing yourself and becoming the best version of yourself each day!