For a bodypart designed to motor you from place to place, the typical weight-training leg workout is, well, a little static. People tend to rely on a host of linear actions, including the up-and-down of a barbell squat, leg press and hack squat, and the simple hinge of the knee for the leg extension and curl.
We’re not saying those exercises aren’t great. Indeed, the squat is arguably the most productive move you could ever do in a gym. However, for complete development — thighs that are not only aesthetically muscular but functional, too — it’s time to step out of your leg-training comfort zone. The following workout, targeting the fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers of your glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings, accomplishes just that.
Start with jumping bodyweight squats, in which you simply bend your knees and lower your hips deeply into a squat position, then drive yourself upward into a leap while reaching overhead as high as you can. Each time, land on soft — i.e., slightly bent — knees and dip right back down into the next rep.
Next, do five sets of a traditional squat, pyramiding up the weight from set to set. Try to incorporate an explosive motion out of the hole to reach a standing position, while taking the negative deliberately.
The third stop is the dumbbell step-up. You can either use a flat bench or a similarly high box. As in squats, push hard through the concentric portion of the rep to lift your body up quickly. You can either do all reps for one side, then the other, or alternate.
Following that, find a clear expanse of floor or hallway for walking lunges. Concentrate on long strides so your front leg reaches a 90-degree angle in the knee as your torso descends, while your back knee comes within an inch or two of the floor at the bottom of each rep.
The regimen winds up with two tests of speed and strength. For the sled push and pull, load up a training sled and first push it across the floor, getting low and using your leg power to propel it forward. Then pull it back to the start with a rope or D-handled strap attachment; again, use your legs to drag the sled step by step. After that, you’ll do sprints, either indoors on a treadmill or, if you can, outdoors on a track or in a park or other open space.
If you’ve been following the typical leg workout for months, even years, this change of pace may provide the perfect move in the right direction.
Dynamic Leg Workout
Jumping Bodyweight Squat (warm-up)
12, 10, 8, 6, 5
Dumbbell Step-Up (onto bench or box)
12, 10, 8, 6
Barbell or Dumbbell Walking Lunge
20 steps per foot
Sled Push and Pull
50 feet push; 50 feet pull (return)
Note: Finish the workout with sprints on a treadmill or outdoors. If you're on a treadmill, warm up for five minutes and then do eight to 10 sprints at an all-out pace for 30 seconds each, with a slower recovery pace of one minute between sprints. If you're outdoors, you can either use a time or pick a distance, such as a 50-yard or 100-meter dash, depending on your fitness level.