How to Build Bigger Legs? 15 Tips to Build Bigger and Stronger Legs

So you want to build tree trunk-like legs?!

The number 1 mistake young and beginner lifters do is ignoring working their legs properly. 

This is a costly mistake that becomes very hard to rectify at a later stage of the lifting journey. 

But hopefully, you’re not one of those. 

Building big and strong legs is the foundation of building a strong body. 

If your legs are lagging or not fully developed you are probably not putting enough time and effort to do so.

So, in this post, I’ll give you 15 tips to fix that. Some of these tips might seem counterintuitive at first.

But once you start implementing them you will notice a huge improvement in your entire leg muscles.

15 Tips to Build Big and Strong Legs

Follow these tips closely and watch your legs grow massively over the next 4-6 months. 


Start with Leg Curls

Hamstrings are the biceps of legs. They provide depth and thickness to the whole legs, especially from the side (the hang). 

Leg curl is arguably the best exercise for developing the hamstrings. 

Hamstring muscles consist of three heads connecting the knee to the hips: 

  1. Semimembranosus,
  2. Semitendios,
    both of these heads help stabilize the pelvis and provide internal rotation of the knee, knee flexion, and hip extension, and …
  3. Bicep Femoris consists of two heads (just like the one in the arm): long and short heads.
    The Bicep femoris help with knee flexion and lateral rotation. 

Unlike Romanian deadlifts or stiff leg deadlifts that target the first two heads, leg curls target all three heads of the hamstrings.

Build Big Legs _ Hamstrings_anatomy

Aside from hitting the hamstrings, starting your leg workout with leg curls provide two additional benefits:

(1) help you maximize working the hamstrings with intensity.

Do 5 sets of 15-10 reps. Incorporate, in the last two sets, cluster set and drop sets, iso-hold, full sets followed by partial sets on the lowest 1/3rd of the movement. 

(2) It’s a great warmup for the follow-up quad exercises. You will develop a much better mind-muscle connection in your squats. 


Have a separate day for hamstrings, if Possible.

You could do a whole day of hamstrings or just work them after another small muscle group, say arms.

Do lying leg curls, seated curls, stiff deadlifts, or machine squeeze, 3-5 sets of 15 to 10 reps each. 

This also allows you to devote a whole day to quads.


Pay attention to the Vastus Medialis (VM).

Or as usually referred to as the teardrop! When it’s fully developed it provides fullness and thickness to your legs from the front.

Two exercises to hit this muscle:

(1) Hack Squat: perform the full range of motion.

Fully contract the VM muscle when moving up in the hack squat, preferably perform them with a narrow angle. In other words, don’t do partials. 

Be cautious, though. Lighten the weights and go deep as well to fully stretch the muscle. 

(2) Leg Extension: fully extend your legs in the extension machine. 

As a pro tip, bend your toes inward when flexing all the way at the top and squeeze for less than a second. 

Use light to moderate weight, control the motion, and squeeze the VM muscle.

Bend your toes inward and contract all the way to the top and hold to target the Vastus Medialis muscle (the teardrop). 

Build Bigger Legs - Extension


Don’t ignore the Adductors!

The inner thigh muscles. They contribute significantly to the shape and size of your legs. 

And I’m not talking about using the adductor machine. It’s an OK one. But if you really want to hit that muscle, go deep in your squats – barbell or hack squat, preferably using a wide-angle feet position. 

Target your adductors by positioning your feet at a wide angle and going deep on the squat exercise.

Build Bigger Legs _adductors


Target The Vastus Lateralis (VL)! The Quad Sweep.

For a maximum activation of the VL muscle, perform the full range of motion on the barbell front squat, or hack squat, preferably using a slightly narrow-angle with a parallel foot position.

Alternatively, perform leg presses with a similar narrow-angle and parallel foot position.

Develop your quad sweep (the outer head of your legs) by performing the hack squat with narrow-angle and barrel feet. 


Use Less weight and no Knee wrap.

Ego lifter? Great. But don’t ask for leg development if you prioritize powerlifting. 

Use knee wraps, but only for the last set with heavyweights. Not on every set.

Knee wraps could absorb the tension away from the quad muscles.

Instead of the wrap, use knee sleeves as a better alternative for warmed-up knees. 


Train with High Volume.

Leg muscles are complex and constitute half the size of the entire body. Their muscle fibers demand a lot of sets and repetitions in order to grow. 

Sets of 8 or 6 reps don’t cut it. You need 10, 12, 15, or even 20 reps, say, on the leg presses or leg extension.


Exercise Order matters.

As I mentioned earlier. Starting with a hamstring exercise (leg curls) is a great strategy to perform better squats.

In addition, a hack squat or walking lunges should not be the first exercise. It’s much better to perform them after barbell squats or leg presses.

Here is a suggested exercise sequence for a leg day:

1- Leg curls 2- squat 3- leg presses 4- leg extension 5- walking lunges 6- calves. 


1- leg curls 2- leg presses 3- hack squat 4- leg extension 5- hip thrust 6-stiff deadlift 7- calves.


Incorporate Unilateral Movements.

This is particularly if you have muscle imbalances. A great example would be the on-leg Bulgarian split squat, which is excellent for quad and glute development.


Allow Time for Recovery.

The legs are big muscles. Do not train them when they are sore. Your performance won’t be optimal. 

If your legs are not ready, give them another day. Or, as I mentioned above, do hamstring and quads on separate days.


Train with intensity.

There is no way around it. Legs are going to burn and become sore.

Develop pain tolerance and work through the “good” pain. Program your brain to take it like a man or woman! Don’t let the pain dictate how to breathe. Stay focused and push hard!

Cluster sets, drop sets, supersets, full-range, partials, you name it. 

For a great example, check out the leg routine on the “how to break a muscle growth plateau” post.


Go Easy on Cardio

Don’t get me wrong, cardio is essential for any bodybuilder or lifter (I don’t care what anyone says). But there is a limit. 

For example, you don’t need 1 or 2 hours of cardio 5 days a week off-season, or long cardio sessions on the same day you train legs or even the following day. 

It adds so much stress on your legs and delays your recovery. Instead, you could do 10 – 20 minutes on a stationary bicycle or Stairmaster right after your leg workout to ease the muscle soreness


Eat Around your Training.

Before, after, and intra-workout nutrition is critical for the growth of any muscle group particularly the legs. Carbohydrates are essential to fuel your leg days. 


Throw in a Challenge Set.

Only one set for one exercise and for one leg day in the month. Make 

Go crazy. Preferably with reps. Do drop sets. Make it the last set of the day. Go someplace mentally you never went before.


Pick a Training Partner.

Ask a coach or a veteran lifter in your gym to train with you on the leg day.

Explain to them what you want to accomplish and ask them to hold you accountable. 

This will help push you hard especially with the previous point of the “challenge set” and the overall intensity.

Do it once or twice a month. 

Also on "How to Get Bigger" Series