7 Ways to Get Bigger Legs

June 18, 2020

how to get bigger legs

So, you’ve been training for a while, maybe even years, and you’re pretty happy with your upper body.

Your delts are capped, chest poking out, and even your back has that V-shape going on. And your ‘s-medium’ shirts are tight around those arms!

But you’re downright frustrated with your lower body growth (or lack thereof!). And no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to get bigger legs.

Fortunately, you’ve stumbled upon this blog post. Because I’m going to give you 7 ways to build your legs into powerful tree-trunks!

Oh, and at the end of the post you’re going to get a complete leg workout for lower body mass gains (actually, you’ll get two leg workouts – I’ll explain why when you get there).

Here are your 7 tips…

1 – Pre-Exhaust Your Quads

leg extensions

You may already start your leg workout with a few warm-up sets with leg extensions. And that’s wise.

But I want you to take it a step further and throw in a couple of grueling sets. This is called pre-exhausting the muscle.

Here’s why you should pre-exhaust your quads for leg growth (I’ll go into ‘how’ after that):

  • You’ll pump more blood into your leg muscles
  • This will help set the tone for increased intensity throughout the rest of your workout
  • It’s going to force your leg muscles to work harder on your remaining exercises

The specific method here is combining warm-up sets with pre-exhaust sets using leg extensions. Your first exercise will look like something like this:

Set x RepsWeightMethod
1 x 12-15LightWarm-up; don’t go to failure
1 x 12-15LightWarm-up; don’t go to failure
1 x 12-15LightWarm-up; don’t go to failure
1 x 10ModerateIntense with a drop set
1 x 10HeavyIntense with 2 drop sets

Drop Sets: This is where you perform a set, decrease the weight about 20-30% and perform another set (no rest between those sets).

Now, you may be thinking: ‘Jason, that’s going to kill my strength on leg press and squats!’

That may be partially true, but it won’t be substantial. And remember, your goal is to gain muscle size; you’re not powerlifting or maxing out.

I’ve found that I’m a little stronger on my squats after pre-exhausting with leg extensions. You may experience the same but you really have to push through, mentally.

2 – Stay Away from Heavy Leg Press

leg press leg workout

Let me ask you this question…

How many times have you seen someone piling on endless 45-pound plates on the leg press only to see that they have skinny legs?

Seriously, you see it all the time; guys leg pressing 1,200 lbs. or more but they can’t even squat 225. That’s a ‘huge’ problem.

*I’m picking on ‘guys’ here because I rarely see this problem with girls – they know how to train their legs.

The issue really isn’t the exercise. It’s the person.
(Aka – don’t blame the leg press!)

You see, it’s easy to use leg press as an ego booster. You can leg press so much more weight than what you can squat. For that reason, many will pay more attention to leg press.

In addition, I rarely see anyone break parallel on the leg press (or even go to parallel). If you notice, most guys that are leg pressing ‘big weight’ will only go down a few inches. They’re barely working their leg muscles doing it this way.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I am NOT saying that you shouldn’t do leg press. You absolutely should do leg press in your leg workouts!

Just do the exercise correctly and make sure you’re working your actual leg muscles, not your ego!

And apply the next method that we’re about to discuss below…

3 – Do More Volume, Sets, and Reps

If you’re serious about getting big legs, do more. Increase your training volume by adding more sets and reps.

Legs are funny that way. It’s almost impossible to overtrain them during a workout. Most people under-train their legs, which it why they’re having trouble growing huge legs.

It’s easy to think that after doing several sets of heavy squats followed by some leg extensions and curls that your legs will grow (we’ll talk more about squats below!).

The truth is your legs, especially your quads, need more stimulation than that.

How do you fix this? Easy…

Literally just add more sets and reps. Here are some examples:

Old WayNew Way
Leg Extensions: 3 x 8-10Leg Extensions: 5 x 12-15
Leg Press: 3 x 10Leg Press: 5 x 15-20
Squats: 3 x 8Squats: 6 x 10, 10, 8, 8, 6, 6
Leg Curls: 3 x 10Leg Curls: 4 x 12
Calve Raises: 3 x 10Calve Raises: 7 x 12

These are just some examples. They’re actually techniques I have used and still use today. You’re simply doing more, and you can expect more leg growth.

4 – Train Legs More than Once a Week

Have you ever thought about how much time and effort you spend each week on upper body vs. lower body?

Most bodybuilders and weightlifters will train upper body 3-4 times a week while only dedicating one day a week to legs.

If that’s you, no wonder your legs aren’t getting bigger!

Seriously though, consider training legs twice a week. Here are the benefits you can expect:

  • Lower body muscle gains due to the increased volume for that week
  • Strength gains
  • Better overall conditioning (just from the sheer nature of training legs)
  • Lower body muscle definition and striations

*When we get to the leg training at the end of this post, you’ll see how to split up your leg workouts).

5 – Don’t Neglect Squats

Squats are crowned as the king of both bodybuilding and strength training workouts. And rightfully so, because there’s no exercise that will pack on muscle mass and make you stronger than squats.

Normally you’d start out with squats, or if you’re following these tips, you’ll do them after you pre-exhaust with leg extensions. And that’s a great formula for big legs.

But I also encourage you to play around with the order of leg exercises in your workouts. Mix it up a bit.

For example, sometimes I’ll even save squats for the end of my workout and just do one moderate weight for four sets of 10. And for some workouts, I’ll do squats after leg press.

Personal Note: I made this mistake in my early years of lifting. And I suffered for it by missing out on building the foundation of mass I could have had. Fortunately, I caught on later.

On the flip side, there are a few that may not be able to squat due to certain conditions. If that’s you, read this post: How to Build Legs Without Squats

6 – Increase Your Workout Intensity on Leg Day

Leg day needs to be intense. You really need to push your muscles if you want them to grow. That’s the case with gaining muscle in general, but especially with legs.

Of course, the added training volume we just talked about is going to increase your workout intensity. And exercises like squats will do that as well.

But there are some other ways you can ramp up your leg training to promote more muscle growth:

  • Drop sets: I mentioned this earlier, but this is where you do a set, reduce the weight 20-30% and do another set.
  • Rest-pause sets: Do a set, rest 15-20 seconds and do another using the same weight (this also works great for pre-exhaust, and to end your leg workouts with).
  • Superset agonist with antagonist muscles: Do an exercise for quads followed by an exercise for hamstrings. These are best done with isolation exercises (leg extensions supersetted with leg curls). This will give you a tremendous pump!

7 – Eat More Carbs on Leg Day

food - mass meal burrito with nachos

Building big legs will not happen if you’re not eating enough calories. There are two crucial aspects of food and gaining size:

  1. You need food for energy to get you through leg day
  2. You need food to recover from those brutal leg workouts

It’s a simple concept but often overlooked.

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Make sure you have a moderate amount of protein and complex carbs about two hours before your workout (if you train early mornings like me, chug some whey protein and eat a bowl of oatmeal, or eat a protein bar)
  • Take an energy drink that also helps with mental focus before your workout like PreFierce
  • Load up on protein and simple carbs right after your workout with a post-workout shake (I like to use whey protein with frozen berries)
  • Eat plenty of whole food meals the day before leg day
  • Bump your calories up the day of training legs

I have some meal plan ideas you may want to check out on this post: Meal Plans for Mass Gains

Your New Leg Training Routine

I’m going to give you two workouts for legs. These are meant to be performed within the same week, so you’re working legs twice a week.

You’ll notice the workouts are different because I want you to focus on different areas of your legs for each workout.

*Make sure there’s at least three days between these leg workouts.

Leg Workout 1

ExerciseSets x Reps
Leg Extensions5 x 12-15*
Squats6 x 10, 10, 8, 8, 6, 6
Leg Press5 x 12
Lying Leg Curls4 x 12*
Single-leg Extensions4 x 12*
Standing Calve Raises7 x 15**

*Do a drop set on final set
**Rest-pause set on final set

Leg Workout 2

ExerciseSets x Reps
Seated Leg Curls5 x 12-15*
Stiff-leg Deadlifts5 x 10
Leg Press (close-stance)5 x 12
Front Squats4 x 12
Leg Extensions4 x 12**
Seated Calve Raises7 x 15**

*Do a drop set on final set
**Rest-pause set on final set

Feel free to take these workouts and change them up. You can add some supersets or different exercises, or switch the order of the exercises around. This is just an example of what you can do.

Muscle Mass vs. Strength for Legs

There’s one thing we didn’t talk about yet. There’s a difference between gaining muscle size in your legs and getting stronger.

Everything I went over in this post will indeed help you get stronger but that’s a secondary effect. These tips and the workouts I just gave you are designed to help you gain size and get bigger legs.

It’s important to note that because if you’re true goal is to gain strength, such as increasing your squat, this is not the best program for you.

For strength gains, I would point you to Mike Westerdal’s Critical Bench 2.0 program (don’t let the name of the program fool you; this program will help you get strong in all areas).

I hope that you follow these tips. I’m certain that you’ll be happy with the result you get. Just remember to be consistent!

And never, ever skip leg day!

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Excuses Don’t Build Muscle,


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!