Build strength from the ground up with these lower-body moves.
Men's Fitness Editors 1 / 31
A strong lower body is crucial to performance—whether you're looking to improve your sports performance, gym work, or just daily fuctional fitness. And yes, we said "strong lower body." Leg exercises aren't just for quads and hamstrings—these exercises will work your core muscles, improve your balance, and grant you the added benefits of things like grip strength.
For the sake of your physique and training results, here are 30 strength-building lower body exercises to ensure you never skip leg day.
Set a barbell on a power rack at about shoulder height. Grab the power with an overhand grip at shoulder width and raise your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Take the bar out of the rack and let it rest on your fingertips. Your elbows should be all the way up throughout the movement. Step back and set your feet at shoulder width with toes turned out slightly. Squat as low as you can without losing the arch in your lower back.
Stand lunge-length in front of a bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest the top of your left foot on the bench behind you. Lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor.
Hold a barbell with a shoulder-width grip and stand with feet hip width. Bend your hips back as far as you can. Allow your knees to bend as needed while you lower the bar along your shins until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Keep your lower back in its natural arched position throughout.
In a squat rack or cage, grasp the bar as far apart as is comfortable and step under it. Place it on your lower traps, squeeze your shoulder blades together, push your elbows up and nudge the bar out of the rack. Take a step or two back and stand with your feet shoulder width and your toes turned slightly outward. Take a deep breath and bend your hips back, then bend your knees to lower your body as far as you can without losing the arch in your lower back. Push your knees outward as you descend. Drive vertically with your hips to come back up, continuing to push your knees outward.
Stand behind a bench or other elevated surface that will put your thigh at parallel to the floor when you place your foot onto it. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and step up onto the bench, but leave your trailing leg hanging off.
Stand straight up with feet hip-width apart and shins one inch away from the bar. Grip the bar with a double pronated or reverse grip, bend knees and push them into your straight arms. Bring your chest up as much as possible and look straight ahead. Keeping your back flat, extend your hips to stand up, pulling the bar up along your legs to lockout.
Brace your abs and raise your hips into the air but keep your knees straight and heels on stability ball. From there, bend your knees and roll the ball back toward you. Keep your hips elevated throughout the set.
Hold a dumbbell in one hand and stand on the opposite leg. Bend your hips back and lower your torso until you feel your lower back is about to lose its arch. Squeeze your glutes and extend your hips to come up.
Adjust the seat of the machine so that you can sit comfortably with your hips beneath your knees and your knees in line with your feet. Remove the safeties and lower your knees toward your chest until they’re bent 90 degrees and then press back up. Be careful not to go too low or you risk your lower back coming off the seat (which can cause injury).
Stand with your feet hip width, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Step forward with one leg and lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Step forward with your rear leg to perform the next rep.
Set up in a squat rack or cage. Grasp the bar as far apart as is comfortable and step under it. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and nudge the bar out of the rack. Step back and stand with your feet shoulder width and your toes turned out slightly. Take a deep breath and bend your hips back, then bend your knees to lower your body as far as you can without losing the arch in your lower back. Push your knees out as you descend. Hold the bottom position for two seconds.
Stand with the dumbbells still in your hands and step back with your right foot. Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your rear knee nearly touches the floor. Keep your torso upright. Step forward to return to the starting position. Complete all reps on one leg, then switch legs. That’s one set.
Stand with feet hip-width apart and the weight on the floor. Grasp the kettlebellwith both hands (palms facing you) and, keeping your lower back flat, extend your hips to raise it off the floor. From there, take a deep breath and bend your hips back, allowing the weight to swing back between your legs. Explosively extend your hips and exhale—allowing the momentum to swing the weight up to shoulder level. Control the descent, but use the momentum to begin the next rep.
Place a block, step, or weight plate on the floor. Grasp a barbell and hold it on the backs of your shoulders, as in a squat. Place your toes on the block so your calves are stretched, but make sure you can maintain balance. Raise your heels to come up onto the balls of your feet.
Kneel down in a lunge position with your right leg in front, and rest your back knee on a towel or mat, if available. Extend your left hand above your head and let your right hand hang at your side. Contract your left glute and push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip. Hold for 30 seconds.
Stand on your right leg and pick your left one up off the floor. Raise both arms in front of you to act as a counterbalance. If you have light weights or something similar to help you keep your balance, use it. Bend your hips and knee and lower your body as low as you can. Come back up.
Rest your upper back on a bench and sit on the floor with legs extended. Roll a loaded barbell up your thighs until the bar sits on your lap (you may want to place a towel or mat on your hips or attach a pad to the bar for comfort). Brace your abs and drive your heels into the floor to extend your hips, raising them until your thighs and upper body are parallel to the floor.
Lie on your back on the floor and bend your knees so your feet rest on the floor close to your butt. Brace your abs and drive your heels into the floor to raise your hips into the air. From there, walk your feet out in a V shape, taking small steps with your heels forward and away from the midline of your body. Keep your hips up. Continue until your legs are extended and then walk them back in. That’s one rep.
Lie on your back on the floor and bend both knees so that your feet rest on the floor close to your butt. Brace your abs and raise one leg up and bring the knee toward your chest. Drive the heel of the other foot into the floor. Bridge up until your body is in a straight line.
Use a seated calf raise machine, or sit on a bench and rest the balls of your feet on a block or step (and hold dumbbells on your thighs for resistance). Perform a calf raise as described at left, but with hips and knees bent 90 degrees.
Place the ball against a wall and stand with your back against it, holding it in place. Place your feet shoulder width and turn your toes out about 15 degrees. Squat down as low as you can, rolling the ball down the wall as you descend.
Sit on the floor and place your hands on the floor under your shoulders, fingers pointing in front of you. Place your feet shoulder width and squeeze your glutes. Push through your heels as you bridge your hips up. Your body should form a table, with your torso and hips parallel to the floor. Hold for two seconds.
Hold the weight close to your chest at shoulder level with both hands on the handle and palms facing each other. Squat down as deeply as you can and then press the bell straight out in front of you with arms extended. Bring it back to your chest and repeat for reps while maintaining the squat position.
Rest both feet in the foot cradles of a suspension with legs straight. Bridge your hips up so your body forms a straight line, and then bend your knees, curling your heels toward your butt. The closer you place your hands to your sides, the more support you’ll get.
Use a standing calf raise machine, or stand on a block or step with a dumbbell in one hand while holding on to something for support with the other. Lower your heels toward the floor until you feel a stretch in your calves. Drive the balls of your feet into the foot plate and contract your calves, raising your heels as high as possible. Control the descent on each rep.