Grow Your Legs: Guide to Leg Mass for Men & Women

Many guys will do anything to weasel their way out of a big legs workout, but here you are.

And for that, I commend you.

The fact that you want to learn how to get bigger legs means you’ve probably sloughed off the mistaken idea that a great physique is all about big arms, a square chest, and capped shoulders. 

These things are nice, of course, but if you don’t have thick legs to balance everything out, your physique can look lopsided and cartoonish. 

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to get bigger legs, including why growing your legs is important, the science behind effective leg training, the best exercises for building monster legs, and more. 

Why Learning How to Grow Your Legs Is Important

Many new weightlifters (and some experienced ones) prioritize training the muscles you can easily see in the mirror: primarily the shoulders, chest, arms, and abs. But they spend comparatively little time training their lower half.

Consequently, they build strong, muscular upper bodies that dwarf their underdeveloped legs.

Thus, the first reason learning how to grow big legs is crucial is that it helps you develop your lower body at the same rate as your upper body, preventing weak points in your physique and performance. 

The second reason learning how to grow big legs is useful is it can help you maintain a better overall body composition.

The best leg exercises train multiple muscle groups simultaneously and allow you to lift heavy weights. Such exercises produce the greatest increases in metabolic rate, muscle mass, and strength.

In other words, the exercises that help you build monster legs are among the most effective exercises for burning calories and building muscle.

Training your lower body also boosts your physical performance in multiple ways. For instance, lower body exercises:

Female Legion Athlete Deadlifting

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The Science of How to Get Bigger Legs

1. Train your lower body with 10-to-20 sets weekly.

Research shows that if you want to develop great legs, you should do 10-to-20 sets weekly for your lower body.

Beginners (less than 12 months of consistent training experience) should target 10-to-15 sets weekly, while more experienced weightlifters should aim for 15-to-20 sets.

2. Train every lower-body “movement pattern.”

Many guides on how to get bigger legs throw together leg exercises in a haphazard way, which means you often end up training some lower-body muscle groups (e.g., the quads) a lot more than others (e.g., the hamstrings).

A more prudent approach is to include exercises in each of your big leg workouts that train the three fundamental lower-body movements:

  1. Squat: Bending at the hips and knees, like you’re sitting back into a chair.
  2. Hip hinge: Bending at the hips with minimal knee bend.
  3. Lunge: Taking a step forward, backward, or sideways and lowering your body by bending both knees. 

Organizing your training like this ensures you train all your lower-body muscles with similar volume

3. Do the right balance of compound and isolation exercises.

A compound exercise is any exercise that trains several major muscle groups simultaneously like the back squat, front squat, and lunge.

Research shows that if you want to build thick legs, nothing beats compound weightlifting, which is why it should make up the majority of your training. 

That said, doing a few, carefully chosen isolations exercises (exercises that involve just one joint and major muscle group at a time) is also sensible, since some isolation exercises train your legs in ways compound exercises can’t—seated leg curls and sissy squats being two good examples. 

In other words, doing the “right” isolation exercises can help you achieve even more balanced leg development than doing just compound exercises alone. 

A good rule of thumb is to spend around 75% of your training time on compound exercises, and the remaining 25% on effective isolation exercises (more on the specifics soon).

4. Focus on progressive overload.

Here’s a point many guides on how to grow your legs miss: if you stop getting stronger, your legs will eventually stop getting bigger.

And that’s why progressive overload must be the focus of your thick leg workouts.

What does this mean exactly?

Progressive overload refers to making your workouts more challenging over time, and it’s important because research shows it’s one of the best ways to maximize the muscle-building effects of weightlifting.

Here’s the easiest way to implement it:

If your big leg workout calls for 4-to-6 reps of the back squat and you get 6 reps for a set, add 10 pounds to your next set.

If you manage 3 or fewer reps with the new weight, reduce the weight by 5 pounds to ensure you stay in the 4-to-6 rep range. 

Follow this pattern of trying to add reps or weight to every exercise in every workout and you won’t be fretting about how to get bigger legs for long. 

5. End every set 1-to-3 reps shy of muscle failure.

To grow monster legs, research shows you must take most of the sets to within a rep or two of failure.

How do you do this?

Ask yourself at the end of each set, “If I had to, how many more reps could I have gotten with good form?” If the answer is more than two, increase the weight or reps to make your next set more challenging.

Male Legion Athlete Squatting

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The Best Exercises for Thick Legs

You now know the science behind how to grow your legs. The next step toward getting bigger legs is learning the best exercises for adding leg thickness and mass. 

So, without further ado, here are the exercises that’ll help you develop monster legs, categorized by muscle group.

The Best Quad Exercises 

The quads are the group of four muscles on the front of your thigh. Their main job is to extend (straighten) the knee, though they also assist hip flexion (bringing the thigh toward the chest).

The best exercises for training the quads are squatting and lunging exercises because they typically allow you to lift heavy weights safely and progress regularly, which is vital for building leg thickness. 

To develop truly great legs, however, it also pays to include exercises such as the sissy squat, leg extension, and reverse Nordic curl in your quad training. 

Unlike compound exercises that train the quads, these exercises emphasize the rectus femoris (a quad muscle), which helps you build bigger, more balanced quads than if you only do compound exercises.

Here are the best quad exercises for building monster legs:

[Read More: 13 Quad Exercises for Your Next Quad-Focused Leg Day]

The Best Hamstring Exercises 

Many weightlifters focus on developing their quads and treat their hamstrings as a secondary concern. But if you want to get bigger legs, this won’t suffice—you have to train your hammies just as hard as your quads. 

Only once the back of your thighs are developed will you have truly thick legs. 

When it comes to building bulky hamstrings, “hip hinge” exercises, such as the deadlift and Romanian deadlift are your bread and butter. Similarly to the quads, however, you also need to mix in some isolation work; without it, your hamstrings will never develop fully. 

Specifically, the seated leg curl is a hamstring isolation exercise that deserves special attention. Unlike other hamstring isolation exercises (including the lying leg curl), the seated leg curl trains the hamstrings through their full range of motion and when fully stretched, which research shows makes it especially effective for increasing leg thickness. 

Here are the best hamstring exercises for growing your legs:

[Read More: The 8 Best Hamstring Exercises You Need to Do]

The Best Glute Exercises

Your glutes are some of the biggest, most powerful muscles in your body, which is why training them is essential for both aesthetics and performance. 

Squatting and hinging exercises heavily involve the glutes, so doing a hearty mix of both is essential for maximizing glute growth.

Here are the best exercises for building big glutes:

[Read More: Growing Your Butt: Best Glute-Focused Exercises]

The Best Calf Exercises

Generally speaking, the calves get less love than the muscles of the upper leg. Those looking to get bigger legs should avoid this misstep, though.

Big, strong calves are important for two reasons.

First, they balance your lower-body aesthetics.

And second, they help you jump higher and further, sprint faster, improve your squat and deadlift strength, and (probably) lower your risk of knee injuries in a range of sports. In other words, they’re a boon for athletic performance.

To effectively develop your calves, you have to do a combination of straight- and bent-leg calf exercises, as this is the only way to train all areas of the calf.

Here are the best calf exercises for lower leg size:

  • Seated Calf Raise
  • Standing Calf Raise
  • Leg Press Machine Calf Raise
  • Donkey Calf Raise
  • Single-Leg Calf Raise
  • Farmer’s Walk

[Read More: The Top 10 Best Calf Workouts]

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FAQ #1: What foods make you gain weight in your legs?

No single food can make you gain weight in your legs. Instead, focus on eating enough calories and protein to drive muscle growth. Specifically . . .

To learn more about how to diet to get bigger legs, check out this article:

Bulking Guide: How to Gain Weight & Muscle without Gaining Fat

FAQ #2: Is how to get bigger legs for females different than for males?

The basic principles of building bigger legs are the same for both females and males: train effectively, eat enough calories and protein, and rest adequately.

For more information about the best ways to build muscle as a female, check out this article:

The Ultimate Guide to Female Muscle Growth

FAQ #3: Can skinny legs get bigger?

Yes, skinny legs can get bigger, provided you train hard and sensibly, eat plenty of calories and protein, and get adequate rest.

If you’re doing the above and still struggling to get bigger legs, check out this article for more tips:

The Best Diet and Workouts for “Hardgainers”

FAQ #4: How can I get big legs fast?

To get big legs fast, do the following:

  • Follow a well-designed strength training plan that includes plenty of squatting, deadlifting, lunging, and so forth.
  • Do 1-to-3 lower-body workouts each week.
  • Eat enough calories and protein to drive muscle growth. To learn exactly how many calories and how much protein, take the Legion Diet Quiz

FAQ #5: How long does it take to get bigger legs?

The time it takes to grow your legs varies depending on several factors, including your training history, workout frequency, diet, and recovery. For example, beginners following a bulking diet and getting plenty of rest will see much faster progress than experienced weightlifters who are less meticulous.

As such, it’s impossible to give a one-size-fits-all timescale.

That said, most people will see noticeable improvements in their leg thickness within 3-to-12 months if they follow the principles in this article. 

+ Scientific References


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