How to Build Big, Strong, Powerful and Defined Legs

The legs are, or are meant to be the biggest and strongest muscles in your body. If this isn’t the case for you and you’re walking around on stilts, then maybe it’s time to hit the gym and start squatting! Remember your body builds from the ground up. Not only does your leg workouts stimulate all round muscle growth they also strip fat, keeping you lean and toned.

The key points to any leg workout are form and intensity, and should last 1 hr – 1 1/2 hrs, depending on your experience. You should always start your leg session with the squat as this is your main muscle building exercise.

Squatting conditions and strengthens your whole body throughout, getting you a bulging six pack and strong lower back, expanding your waist for power. Most compound (An exercise that is performed using multiple joints and muscles) exercises effect your body in this way.

Best leg exercises for muscle growth and strength

Listed below are the most effective exercises used to build your leg muscles as a whole. Remember that this is not related to power or speed directly. The tempo (The rate at which the exercise is performed) and biomechanics (The bodies correct movement to perform an exercise) are the techniques used to increase power, speed, definition and tone.

  • Squats

    · Front squats
    · Lunges (Walking / alternate)
    · Pistol squat (Can be performed on a bench)
    · Leg press (Plated machine)

The exercises above build your legs muscles as a whole but don’t really use your calf muscles. This is a very common thing to come across in the gym, users neglecting their lower legs. The most effective way to train your calves is over high repetitions, using a mix of slow movement and fast.

Example: Calf raises

Slow: 3 – 5 seconds rise, 3 – 5 seconds holding contraction, 3 – 5 seconds lowering. Perform this for 10 – 15 reps.
Fast: 15 – 25 reps at a fast pace. Using this as a burnout set after the slow repetitions.

How do I increase power and speed?

The key to increasing power and strength is the tempo at which you perform your exercises and of cause form which can be linked to biomechanics. A good example to look at would be using the squat.


To use a squat when building power you need to look at lowering yourself down slowly and then using maximal force / contraction to bring yourself into a standing position, similar to an elastic band. When transferring this into speed you need to perform a fast repetition, being careful not to damage your knees (If you don’t have sufficient strength around your joints you will injure them so increase knee and hip stability first).


Regular discussions in the gym are “How deep should I squat?” And “Is it safe to squat to the floor?” This does relate to power and is specific to your reason for training. If you’re building power for an explosive sport like Rugby then you would need to perform full squats and half squats because your body performs both of these movements during the game. This is called Sport specific training. If you’re building your power for something like Football then you would only need half squats because you never go into a full squat position during a match.

Having said this I personally recommend that everyone performs full squats, just not at a heavy weight and using high reps. This actually strengthen and stabilise your joints and core, limiting the risk of injury. Furthermore it will condition your muscles along their full range increasing your flexibility.


This training technique basically requires you to perform a movement explosively. It teaches your muscles to react fast, turning your static strength into power! An example of this would be a side jump over a box. You can adapt most of your weight training to this technique like a simple press up by applying enough force to allow yourself to come off the floor, a Plyometric press up.

How do I get better definition in my legs? It’s simple although painful to create well defined muscles, perform the exercise slowly! Relating this to your legs workouts and your quads, we will look at using the leg extension.

The leg extension has three phases the lifting phase (positive), the hold phase (contraction) and the lowering phase (negative). The usual way of lifting weights on this machine is two powerfully lift the weight and then slowly lower, not really concentrating on the top contraction. For the definition we will look at slowing each phase down and performing them equally as shown below.

  1. Lifting phase (positive): Take 3 – 5 seconds to reach full extension.
    2. Hold phase (contraction): Hold the contraction for 3 – 5 seconds.
    3. Lowering phase (negative): Take 3 – 5 seconds to reach the bottom, but don’t drop the weight instead start again.

*This technique can be used on any body part, but remember to use a spotter where possible to remove chance of injury and to push through the extra reps for increase muscle gains.

Now you know how to get a good size pair of legs and have hopefully been convinced; if not already, to take up training your legs. If you have any further question please contact us or go to my profile.

Here are some leg workouts to be getting on with, our Plyometric workouts will be available soon:

  • Legs: Endurance, Speed, Power, Strength
    · Extreme Legs
    · Intermediate legs
    · Intro to legs
    · Using Barbell for Legs

In addition to this, due to your leg workouts being so intense remember to keep the intake of calories high. 

Author Bio:- Alice May is the former editor of Verve Fitness. A writer by day and a reader by night she loathes to  discuss herself in the third person but can be persuaded to do so from time to time. She is always willing to write for fitness blogs.

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