If you want to build up your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves with only barbells at home or the gym, you can do the best barbell leg exercises that I’ve shared in this article. Doing them all barbell workouts will help you build stronger, bigger, and toned legs.
Having strong legs eliminate the risk of injuries and help you perform various activities efficiently, such as deadlifts, squats, jumping, running.
Summary of Top 10 Barbell Leg Exercises
To build up your legs, you need to know what exercises work on what muscles. That’s why knowing about workouts for various muscles can help you train effectively.
The lower body has four primary muscles to develop, such as quadriceps, hamstrings, calf, and glutes maximum. And below, you can see the exercises for each muscle.
|Quads||Hams||Glutes & Calves|
|Barbell Squat||Barbell Romanian Deadlift||Step-up|
|Barbell Lunges||Barbell Good Morning||Hip Thrust|
|Sumo Deadlift||Single-Leg Deadlift||Calf Raises|
I’ve mentioned as many references as possible in this article so you can get accurate information.
Related: Dumbbell Leg Exercises (An Ultimate Guide)
The Best Barbell Quads Exercises For Strong Legs
Quadriceps are large muscles of the front part of your legs that spread from hips to knees. They are responsible for most of the day-to-day activities, such as running, jumping, and walking.
I’ve shared the four best leg exercises for quadriceps that you can do with a barbell.
However, you can also save several exercises from the dumbbell leg workout guide.
Okay, so let’s see how to do each workout with the step-by-step guide.
1. Barbell Back Squat
The standard squat is one of the basic but highly effective barbell exercises you can do to build stronger legs and improve power performance.1 Effect of 8 weeks of free-weight and machine-based strength training on strength and power performance – Journal of Human Kinetics
It works on several muscles at once, such as the quadriceps (primary), glutes, calves, and core.2 Effects of squat training with different depths on lower limb muscle volumes – European Journal of Applied Physiology
Although, you can do a standard squat not only with a barbell but dumbbells, kettlebells, and smith machines also.
However, barbell free weight squats produce higher activation in lower body muscles and boost strength and hypertrophy.
Here are the steps to do a barbell back squat.
- Grab a bar along with the desired weights, hold it on the back of your shoulders and stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Brace your core, inhale and bend at your hips and knees to squat down until your glutes are parallel to the floor.
- Push into the floor with your heels to slowly return to the standing position.
- Repeat for the required number of times.
- Your back should remain flat during the entire movement.
You can do a barbell front squat instead of a back squat If you have a knee problem.3 A biomechanical comparison of back and front squats in healthy trained individuals – Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
You can also try other variations of squats, such as barbell split squat, lateral squat, sissy squats, and many more.
2. Barbell Lunges
The Barbell Lunge is one of the crucial workouts that strengthen and tone various lower body muscles, primarily the quads.
By performing lunges with barbell squats and leg press, you can build muscular legs.
Moreover, lunge improves balance, stability, and posture, making it an essential barbell leg exercise.
You can do various types of lunges with a just barbell—for example, forward lunges, barbell reverse lunges, curtsy lunges, and in-line lunges.
How to barbell forward lunge
- Put the appropriate weight into the bar and hold it on the back of your shoulders in the standing position.
- Taking a large step, bring your right leg forward while keeping the rear foot in the same position.
- Bend at your knees until your rear knee touches the floor.
- Extend your knees to complete your first repetition.
- Keep your core tight, chest up and back straight during the entire movement.
- Do for the suggested number of sets and reps.
3. Barbell Sumo Deadlift
The Sumo deadlift is one of the super effective variations of deadlift exercises. It works on the inner and side parts of your thighs, and including it in your barbell leg workout routine can help you beef up muscles and strength.
It also put less stress on the lumbar spine than the conventional deadlift, an essential aspect of safe and efficient training.4 Exercise Highlight: The Sumo Deadlift – Research Gate
Like squats and lunges, you can also do Sumo deadlift with other equipment, such as a smith machine, kettlebell, and barbell.
How to perform barbell Sumo deadlift
- Insert the appropriate weight into the bar and stand upright with your shin close to it.
- Your feet would be two times wider than hip-width apart, with your toes pointing outward.
- Brace your core, and keeping your back straight to lower yourself to grab the bar firmly.
- Your hands should be hip-width apart and between your legs. That’s the start.
- Pushing into the floor through your heels, lift the bar with your full strength until your hips are fully extended.
- Slowly lower the bar back on the floor. That’s one rep.
- You can do it as many times as you like.
4. Landmine Squat
The landmine squat is a barbell compound workout that works on glutes, calves, and especially the quads.
It is one of the easier variations of squats that allows you to hit your leg muscles differently to build defined legs without putting much stress on the joints.
If you’re a beginner, incorporate it in your barbell workout routine for legs.
How to do landmine squat
- Place the one end of the bar in a corner to stay intact and insert the appropriate weights into another end.
- Stand in the shoulder-width stance, so the weight is in between your legs.
- Lower yourself to grab the working end of the bar with your hands (at your chest height).
- Press your feet into the floor to stand straight until your knees are fully extended and your body slightly leaning forward. And from that position, do as many squats as possible.
- Suggested sets are three, and repetitions are 8 to 10.
The Most Effective Hamstrings Exercises with only Barbell
Hamstrings are located on the back of your legs between glutes and knees. They are susceptible to injury that’s why you need to strengthen it.
Here are the top three workouts you can do with barbells.
5. barbell Romanian Deadlift
If you want to strengthen your hamstrings and lower back without machines and dumbbells, you can do a barbell Romanian deadlift.
The barbell Romanian deadlift helps you build a strong lower body and reduce the risk of hams and low back injuries.5 Romanian Deadlift – American Council of Exercise (ACE)
Moreover, it also strengthens the glutes Maximus and improves hip mobility.
Depending on your needs, you can do a Romanian deadlift whenever you train your legs with the barbell.
Here’s how you can do:
- Pick a loaded barbell with your hands are shoulder-width apart and stand upright in the normal stance. Keep your arms straight in front of your thighs with your palms are facing.
- Lower your torso by pushing your hips back until the bar reaches just below your knees (your knees would slightly bend).
- Pressing into the floor, slowly return to the standing position until your hips are forward and knees fully extended. That’s the one rep.
- Do as many reps and sets as needed.
6. Barbell Good Morning
The barbell good morning is one of the favorite strength and conditioning workouts for many athletes and coaches.
It stimulates lower back and hamstrings strength and reduces the risk of injuries.
If you want to improve lower body strength, do a good morning workout whenever you do barbell exercises for your leg.
- Place a bar on the back of your shoulder and stand straight in the shoulder-width stance.
- Keep your core tight, chest up and back straight. That’s the start.
- Lower your torso forward (without bending your knees) until your chest is parallel to the floor.
- Pause for a movement, and return your torso to the upright position by pushing your hips forward.
- That’s one complete rep. Do as many times as required.
7. Single Leg Deadlift Exercise
The single-leg deadlift is one of the intermediate to advanced level barbell leg exercises that simultaneously strengthens and builds hamstrings and glutes. 6Comparison of EMG Activity between Single-Leg Deadlift and Conventional Bilateral Deadlift in Trained Amateur Athletes – An Empirical Analysis – International Journal of Exercise
It improves mobility, balance, and flexibility and lessens the likelihood of injuries by strengthening your posterior chain muscles.
Just give it a try and see how it works for you.
Here’s the step-by-step guide
- Put the desired weight into the bar and stand straight in the shoulder-width stance with your shin close to it.
- Hinge forward at your hips to grab the bar, maintain a slight bend in your knees.
- Lift the bar as you return to the standing position, so your hips come forward.
- Lower the bar just below your knees and raise your left leg behind you as high as possible so your hamstrings can engage – both at the same time.
- Hold for a couple of seconds before returning to the starting position.
- Do as many times as needed on both sides.
Barbell Workouts For Glutes and calves That Build Up Lower Body
Glutes are one of the largest muscles of the lower body situated between hips and hamstrings. Stronger glutes help you sit for a longer time, and allow you to perform myriads of compound movements with barbells and machines.
Calves are a small but important part of the lower body. It is located on the back of your lower legs, between your heels and knees.
Here are the three best exercises you can add to your barbell leg workout routine.
8. Barbell Step-up
The weighted step up is a strength and conditioning research that helps build up glutes strength and size.7 Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review – Journal of Sports Medicine and Sciences
How to step up
- Place a bar on the back of your shoulders and stand in the normal stance.
- Lift your right foot off the floor and put it on an elevated object to step up.
- Once you step up, bring both your legs together on that object. That’s one rep.
- Reverse the movement and repeat the eight to ten times, each side.
9. Barbell Hip Thrust
If you want to increase the strength and size of your gluteus maximus, you should do a barbell hip thrust.
The barbell hip thrust also works on hamstrings and helps you improve another compound lifting, such as the deadlift, squat, running, and sprinting.
- Place your upper back on the bench with your face up.
- Hold a bar on your hips with desired weights.
- Keep your feet flat on the ground and glute parallel to the floor. That’s the start.
- Brace your core, hips, and thighs.
- Thrust your hips upward as high as possible, so you feel the work in your glutes, Maximus.
- Squeezing your glute, pause for a moment, and then lower your hips to the start.
- Do complete three to four sets of 8 to 10 repetitions each.
10. Barbell Calf Raises
One of the smallest but essential muscles of the lower body is the calves. And it plays a crucial role in running, jumping, walking, deadlifting, and sprinting.
That’s why it becomes essential for us to build up strong calves with the help of isolation exercises, such as barbell calf raises.
The barbell calf raises solidify your calves and help you build absolute legs.
It’s pretty easy to perform. Grab a bar, hold it on the back of your shoulders and raise your heels as high as you can in the standing position with your feet together (on the floor).
You’ll feel the contraction in your calves when you raise your heels. You can squeeze for a moment and then lower it down and repeat for the desired number of times.
Barbell Leg Workout Routine For Lower Body Strength and Gain
You can follow the below workout routine when you do the upper-lower split or push, pull, legs (PPL) workout program.
Day 1 – Monday
|Barbell Lunges||10 x 2|
|Barbell Squat||15, 12, 10|
|Barbell Romanian Deadlift||8, 6, 4|
|Barbell Hip Thrust||10 x 3|
|Barbell Calf Raises||10 x 3|
Day 2 – Thursday
|Sumo Deadlift||6, 5, 4|
|Landmine Squat||12, 10, 8|
|Barbell Step-up||12, 10, 8|
|Single-Leg Barbell Deadlift||6 x 2|
|Barbell Good Morning||8 x 2|
I hope the barbell leg exercises and workout routine I’ve shared will help you build up the desired lower body.
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- 1Effect of 8 weeks of free-weight and machine-based strength training on strength and power performance – Journal of Human Kinetics
- 2Effects of squat training with different depths on lower limb muscle volumes – European Journal of Applied Physiology
- 3A biomechanical comparison of back and front squats in healthy trained individuals – Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
- 4Exercise Highlight: The Sumo Deadlift – Research Gate
- 5Romanian Deadlift – American Council of Exercise (ACE)
- 7Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review – Journal of Sports Medicine and Sciences