How to choose the right leg exercises in your program for maximal results
Updated: Sep 24, 2020
by Dan Eiden
In my last blog post I talked about how to choose exercises to not create redundancy in a workout program and to maximize your time spent in the gym. Now on the same note I want to talk about exercise selection when training legs. With so many exercises to choose from where does one start? Does one start with squats? Leg press? Leg curls? Dead lifts? It can be confusing and a bit overwhelming when you walk into a big gym or health club and see what seems like an endless sea of equipment. So let me help cut through the confusion and overwhelming feeling that can come with walking into a gym and seeing rows and rows of exercise equipment and not knowing where to start your leg workout.
The first thing you want to factor in when training legs is you want to build your workout or program around what is called multi joint, ground based leg exercises. These are exercises that you perform standing and involve movement at multiple joints in the body. Moving at multiple joints = multiple muscles being worked. These type of exercises include squats, dead lifts, step ups, lunges and split squats among others. These exercises work the most muscles, burn the most calories, stimulate the greatest release of muscle building and fat burning hormones and get you the most overall bang for your buck when exercising.
I recommend doing at least one if not two or more multi joint, ground based leg exercises in every leg workout. I also recommend doing these exercises first in your workout. This doesn’t include doing a couple of sets of activation exercises like band walks or leg extensions to activate the glutes and quadriceps first before your first exercise.
If you are doing two or more multi joint, ground based leg exercises in your workout you don’t necessarily have to do them all in the beginning but you should start your workout with one of them. These exercises tend to be very taxing on the nervous system and on the body in general so you would want to prioritize them by doing them first when you are fresh as to get the most out of them.
From there you can work your way out to other exercises such as other multi joint, ground based leg exercises or multi joint leg exercises that are machine based and done sitting down such as leg presses.
After that isolation or single joint exercises working smaller muscles like the calves can be done towards the end of the workout. These tend to be less taxing on the body and are not difficult to do toward the end of a workout when the body is fatigued because you are just focusing in and training one area or body part.