Training your legs is vital to any fitness goal, whether you want to build total-body strength, gain weight and increase your lean muscle mass, improve athletic performance, lose extra body fat, or elevate your levels of free testosterone, says Drew Little, C.S.C.S., a performance specialist at Michael Johnson Performance, a training facility in McKinney, Texas, where athletes go to train for the NFL Combine, NFL, MLB, MLS, NBA, and more. You need to train intensely; but you also have to train smart.

"It's important to have a balance [in your workout] of your lower body's fundamental movement patterns: vertical drive (squat variations), horizontal drive (single-leg knee-dominant variations, like lateral lunges), vertical draw (deadlift and Olympic lifting variations), and horizontal draw (posterior chain-dominant variations lying on your back or stomach, like glute bridges)," Little says. "These movements ensure there's no over-dominance of one muscle group, so everything works synergistically, and you have a balance that reduces the likelihood of injury," he explains.

While the majority of the workouts below are lower body-focused, they contain accessory exercises that train your upper, middle, and lower back to provide a base for your upper body to handle more weight for squats, deadlifts, and Olympic lift variations. There are also moves that train your core, which is important for increasing your trunk stability during leg-heavy workouts. And there are moves that work small muscle groups, like your traps and forearms, both of which are necessary for getting stronger and throwing around more weight. 

The Warmup

Complete this warmup before every workout.

Thermogenics (3-5 minutes)
Jump on a stationary bike, bound, skip, jump rope, do calisthenics, or even play pick-up basketball. "These are all great ways to increase your core temperature, increase blood flow, and stimulate a sweating response to get your body primed," Little says. 

Dynamic flexibility (5 minutes)
Perform dynamic stretches, like prisoner squats, knee-to-chest squeezes, leg cradles, hip swings, straight-leg kicks, and lateral lunges. "These are all great exercises to improve mobility and help your joints become more mobile so the exercises can be performed with a greater range of motion," Little says. "This will increase the quality of the training session and impact your goals."  

Glute activation movements (5 minutes)
"Mini-band exercises (with a band around your knees) are a great tool to activate and stimulate your glutes and hip stabilizers—two strong and powerful muscles necessary for high-quality training sessions," Little says. Walk laterally, forward and backward, and in a single-leg stance (athletic position actively spreading the band apart); these are all good starting points. "Perform 15-20 reps of slow controlled movements or 10 seconds per leg on the single-leg stance," he suggests. 

Before you begin

In order to train with percentages, you need to know your 1 rep max

It's also important to perform warmup sets before you jump straight into any workout. "Some people may only need a few warmup sets, while others might need to complete many before they're adequately prepared, so listen to your body." Little recommends.

Note: Use caution with these exercises. "If you've never done one before, make sure you can perform the movement proficiently and correctly before you try and add weight," he says. "Trying to perform these exercises with improper form will open you up to potential injury, set you back on your goals, or keep you from becoming as strong as you could potentially be." If you feel any pain, stop! 

Workout 1

Directions: Perform these exercises individually. Make sure you take the proper rest period for the first two exercises.

1.    Back squat 5x2 reps @ 80% with 3-4 minutes rest in between sets
2.    Front squat 3x5 reps @ 70% with 2-3 minutes of rest in between sets
3.    Good mornings* 2x8-12 reps with 90 seconds rest in between sets (How to do it: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, body tall, and shoulders retracted. Brace your core as you rest a barbell across the back of your shoulders (not your neck!). Hinge at your hips, not the waist, and bend your knees slightly as you lean forward. You'll feel a stretch in your hamstrings; but don't lean too far so it becomes painful. Keep an arch in your lower back.)
4.    Walk-out 1x10 seconds @ 110% (How to do it: Load the bar with 110% of your back squat 1RM. Set the bar in the normal back squat position. Take a big breath, brace yourself, and unrack the weigh. Take two steps out, and hold for 10 seconds. Rack the weight; consider this your workout finisher.)

*Note: If you feel strong, go heavier and bang out 8 reps; if you feel beat up, go light and do 12 reps. 

Workout 2

Directions: Perform these exercises individually. Make sure you take the proper rest period for the first two exercises.

1.    Deadlift 5x2 reps @ 80% with 3-4 minutes rest in between sets
2.    Deficit deadlift 3x5 reps @ 70-75% with 2-3 minutes of rest in between sets (Note: Stand on a plate(s) or platform)
3.    Romanian deadlift 2x8-12 reps with 1.5-2 minutes rest between sets (Note: If you feel strong, go heavier and hit 8 reps; if you feel beat up, go light and bang out more reps.)
4.    Lockouts 2x2-3 reps @ 100-110% with 3 minutes rest between sets (How to do it: Set the bar on a high-pin stack, above your mid-thigh. Load with 110% of your 1RM for deadlift. Lift the weight as you would a deadlift—just from a higher position off the floor.)  

Workout 3

Directions: Perform these exercises individually. Make sure you take the proper rest period.

1.    Back squat 3x3 reps with 6-second eccentric (lowering) @ 70-75%; 2-3 minutes rest between sets
2.    Romanian deadlift 3x3 reps with 6-second eccentric (lowering) @ 70-75%; 2-3 minutes rest between sets
3.    Dumbbell (rear foot elevated) split squat 3x5 (each leg) with 6-second eccentric (lowering) @ a challenging weight, taking 1.5-2 minutes rest between sets

Workout 4

Directions: Perform these exercises individually. Make sure you take the proper rest period.

1.    Back squat 3x3 reps with 3-second isometric hold at the bottom @ 70-75%; 2-3 minutes rest between sets
2.    Romanian deadlift 3x3 reps with 3-second isometric hold at the bottom @ 70-75%; 2-3 minutes rest between sets
3.    Dumbbell (rear foot) elevated split squat 3x5 (each leg) with 3-second isometric hold at the bottom using a challenging weight, taking 1.5-2 minutes rest between sets

Workout 5

Directions: Perform each exercise one by one until you finish the list. This counts as a set. Perform this circuit for 3 rounds, taking no rest between exercises until the circuit is complete. 

Note: For all landmine exercises, hold one end of a barbell (start with just the bar, then add plates as you wish) wedged into a corner with towels or sand bags, gripping so your palms face one another and fingers overlap. Position the barbell in front of your body.  

Landmine goblet squat 3x8 reps 
Landmine reverse lunge 3x8 reps each leg 
Landmine single-leg Romanian deadlift 3x8 reps each side (How to do it: Rather than hold the barbell with both hands, grasp the bar with one. If it's your left hand, your right leg will be the anchor, while your left leg swings out as you perform the single-leg RDL.)
Landmine lateral lunge 3x8 reps each leg
Isometric squat with overhead press 3x8 reps each side (How to do it: Hold the bottom phase of a squat while you press a barbell or dumbbells overhead.)
Landmine rotations 3x8 reps each side (How to do it: Place one hand at the top of the bar and the other right below. Raise the bar to shoulder-height and press out with straight locked arms. Rotate your torso as you lower the weight down to one hip. Torque your hips, but keep your back straight, as you swing the bar up and over to the opposite hip.)
Bentover single-arm row 3x8 reps w/ dumbbells
*Rest for 3:00*

Workout 6

Direction: Perform each exercise one by one until you finish the list. This counts as a set. Perform this circuit for 3 rounds, taking no rest between exercises until the circuit is complete. 

1. TRX Split squat jumps 3x5 reps each leg (How to do it: Adjust the TRX to a low position, around knee level. Place your non-working foot into one handle so it cradles the top of your foot. Perform a split squat; when you're at the bottom phase, explode up.)
2. TRX split squat 3x10 reps each leg (How to do it: Follow setup instructions for Split Squat Jump; now, perform slow, even squats on one side, then the other.)
3. TRX skater jumps 3x5 reps each leg (How to do it: Cross one foot behind your body and into a TRX handle set to a low position, between your shin and knee. Bend both knees to lower into a skater lunge, dropping your back knee until it's directly behind your front heel. Keep your weight in your front leg as you jump laterally to the side. Jump back to the start position, and complete reps on one leg before switching.)
4. TRX skater lunge 3x10 reps each leg (How to do it: Follow setup and how-to instructions for Skater Jump; now, perform slow, controlled lunges on one side, then the other without jumping.)
5. TRX lateral lunge 3x10 reps each leg (How to do it: Set the TRX to a low position, between knee and shin level. Stand to the side of it and step one foot in the handle, so it cradles your heel. Step out and lower into a lateral lunge; perform all reps on one leg before switching.)
6. TRX pistol squat 3x10 reps each leg (How to do it: Position TRX high, about chest level, and grasp handles for support as you perform pistol squats.)
7. TRX hamstring curl 3x10-15 reps (How to do it: Position TRX low, around shin level. Lie on the ground and place heels in handles so your feet rest against the straps. Lift glutes off the floor and draw knees up, engaging your hamstrings. Don’t let your glutes drop to the floor; keep them elevated.)
8. TRX hip bridge 3x10-15 reps (How to do it: Follow setup instructions for Hamstring Curl. Lie flat on the ground. Engage your abs and glutes as you bridge up.)
Rest for 3 minutes

Workout 7

Directions: Perform each exercise one by one until you finish the list. This counts as a set. Perform this circuit for 3 rounds, taking no rest between exercises until the circuit is complete. 

1. Jump rope 30 on, 30 rest
2. Prisoner squat 30 on, 30 rest (How to do it: Rest hands on the back of your head, retract shoulders back, and push hips back as you squat.)
3. Split squat pause jumps 30 on, 30 rest (Note: pause as you land to take 3 seconds rest between reps)
4. 1.5 prisoner squat 30 on, 30 rest (How to do it: Follow directions for Prisoner Squat above; at the bottom of the squat, rise up half-way, then squat down again before rising up to the start position.)
5. Prisoner reverse lunge 30 on, 30 rest (How to do it: Rest hands on the back of your head as you perform reverse lunges.)
6. Forward lunge 30 on, 30 rest
7. Valslide hamstring curl 30 on, 30 rest (How to do it: Lie on your back, on a hard-surface floor (tile, wood) with a slider under each heel. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat as you raise your hips so they're aligned with your knees and shoulders. Place your arms out to either side for stability. Slide your heels forward until your legs are straight, never letting your body drop to the ground. Drive through your feet to reverse the movement back to starting position.)
8. Single-leg line hops forward/back 15 on: 15 rest
9. Single-leg line hops side to side 15 on: 15 rest
3 minutes rest

Workout 8

Directions: Perform each exercise one by one until you finish the list. You'll complete descending reps every round, starting with 20 reps for exercise 1, 20 reps for exercise 2, 10 reps for exercise 3, and 80 reps for exercise 4. Next round will go 19, 19, 9, 76, respectively. Every round you decrease the kettlebell exercises by 1 rep and the jump rope by 4 reps. Continue through until you’ve reach 10 sets or reps of 11, 11, 1, and 44.

Ideally, you want to finish the workout with no rest; but take breaks when needed (as little as you can). 

1. Kettlebell swings 20, 19, 18, …11
2. Kettlebell front squat 20, 19, 18, …11
3. Kettlebell squat jumps 10, 9, 8, …1
4. Jump rope 80, 76, 72, 68, …44

Workout 9

Directions: Perform the first two exercise one by one. Complete 3a and 3b as a superset.

1.    Barbell squat jump 3x3 reps @ 25% level I (continuous reps), 35% level II (continuous reps), 50% level III (3 individual reps). Rest for 2-3 minutes
2.    Deadlift 5x5 reps @ 70%. Rest for 2-3 minutes
3a.  Glute ham raise 2x6-10 reps
3b.  Banded wall sits 2x30 seconds (resistance band around thigh, just above knees) with 1-1.5 minutes rest between supersets

Workout 10

Directions: Perform the first three exercise one by one. The exercises 4a and 4b will be done as a superset.

1.    Kettlebell swings 3x10 reps (heavy). Rest for 2 minutes
2.    Dumbbell rear foot elevated split squat 3x5 reps (each leg) at a challenging weight. Rest for 2 minutes
3.    2-Dumbell single leg RDL 3x8 reps (each leg) at a challenging weight. Rest for 2 minutes (Hold a dumbbell in either hand.)
4a.  Goblet squats 2x12 reps
4b.  Valslide hamstring curl 2x12 reps with 1-1.5 minutes rest between supersets