Sculpt leaner legs

Get more out of your next leg workout in less time by pairing up key exercises for optimal results

HERE’S ONE WAY TO MAKE LEG DAY EVEN BETTER: Supersize it. “Reciprocal supersets increase training density, allowing you to pack more volume into less time. This not only makes your workout more efficient, it also means you’re increasing training volume within a given session, which can enhance muscle development,” explains Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., C.S.C.S. The concept is fairly simple: Work one muscle group (agonist) while the opposing one (antagonist) rests, then switch the order. For legs, this may mean focusing on quads for one move (with squats or a leg press), followed promptly by a hamstring-centric move like a deadlift or ball curl. “Studies indicate that by contracting an agonist muscle, you can actually increase force output during subsequent contractions of the antagonist,” adds Schoenfeld. These two workouts are based on Schoenfeld’s book, Strong & Sculpted. Warm up with five to 10 minutes of light cardio, then do one set of the first exercise, followed immediately by its superset pair. Rest 1½ to 2 minutes, then repeat with the two additional supersets. You can also sub in other moves to progress the workout (See “More Ways to Superset,” page 78).

1. Barbell Split Squat

FOCUS ON DROPPING DOWN ON YOUR REAR LEG: THIS WILL HELP KEEP THE FRONT KNEE FROM PUSHING TOO FAR FORWARD.

WORKS: GLUTES, QUADS

  • Stand with a barbell resting across upper back, holding the bar with hands wide enough so arms form right angles. Keep feet shoulder-distance apart and turned out slightly. Keeping core tight, bend knees until thighs are parallel to
  • Keeping core tight, bend knees until thighs are parallel to floor or just below. Keep knees tracking in the same plane as toes, lower back slightly arched and heels down.
  • Reverse direction, straightening legs to return to start.
  • Do 3 sets of 8–12 reps.

SUPERSET WITH Reverse Hyperextension

WORKS: BACK, GLUTES, HAMSTRINGS

  • Lie facedown on a Roman chair, keeping your chest on the pad and legs, hanging down as far as possible without touching the floor.
  • Keeping arms in place, lift legs until your body forms a straight line from head to heels.
  • Contract glutes and return along the same path to starting position.
  • Do 3 sets of 10–12 reps.

2. Sissy Squat

WORKS: QUADS

  • Stand with feet shoulder-distance apart, holding onto an incline bench or other stationary object with one hand. Rise up onto balls of both feet.
  • Thrust your knees forward as you lower down, leaning torso back and bringing shins almost parallel to the floor.
  • Reverse direction, rising back to starting position; stay on toes throughout the movement.
  • Do 3 sets of 10–12 reps.

SUPERSET WITH Stability Ball Leg Curl
WORKS: HAMSTRINGS

  • Lie faceup on floor with heels on top of a stability ball, arms at sides with palms down.
  • Keeping torso and thighs aligned, lift hips and pull ball toward body with your heels, contracting your hamstrings.
  • Return along the same path to starting position, keeping hips elevated.
  • Do 3 sets of 10–12 reps.

3. Barbell Back Squat

HAVE TROUBLE KEEPING YOUR HEELS DOWN? PLACE A ONEINCH-THICK BLOCK OF WOOD OR A WEIGHT PLATE UNDER YOUR FEET.

WORKS: GLUTES, QUADS

SUPERSET WITH Stiff-Leg Deadlift
WORKS: HAMSTRINGS

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell or dumbbells in front of thighs with palms facing body.
  • Keeping knees straight, hinge forward at the hips, lowering weight until you feel an intense stretch in the hamstrings.
  • Reverse direction, contracting glutes as you rise back to start.
  • Do 3 sets of 10–12 reps.

MORE WAYS TO SUPERSET

Looking for more variety in your workout? Try subbing in some of the moves below. Just make sure you’re adding a balance of quador hamstring-focused exercises where appropriate.

SUPERSET A
(Quad-dominant)

  • Barbell Front Squat
  • Bulgarian Split Squat
  • Dumbbell or Barbell Lunge
  • Dumbbell Stepup
  • Leg Extension

SUPERSET B
(Hamstring-dominant)

  • Glute Bridge
  • Cable Glute Kickback
  • Hyperextension
  • Machine Kneeling Leg Curl
  • Seated Leg Curl

DB Reverse Lunge
WORKS: GLUTES, QUADS, CALVES

  • Hold dumbbells by sides, palms facing body, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping core tight, step back with right leg, bending both knees 90 degrees.
  • Reverse direction, pushing through left heel to return to start. Repeat on opposite side.
  • Do 3 sets of 10–12 reps per side.

4. SUPERSET WITH Good Morning

 

WORKS: GLUTES, HAMSTRINGS

  • Stand tall with barbell resting across shoulders with palms facing forward. Keep feet shoulder-width apart, head up, and knees straight (A).
  • Hinge forward from hips until upper body is roughly parallel to the floor, keeping lower back taut (B).
  • Reverse direction, contracting glutes as you raise your body up along same path back to start.
  • Do 3 sets of 10–12 reps.

5. Goblet Squat

WORKS: GLUTES, QUADS

  • Stand holding a kettlebell in both hands in front of chest, elbows close to body, and legs shoulder-width apart (A).
  • Keeping core tight and weight in front of chest, squat until thighs are parallel to floor, maintaining a slight arch in your lower back (B).
  • Push through heels to return to standing.
  • Do 3 sets of 10–12 reps.

SUPERSET WITH Leg Curl
WORKS: HAMSTRINGS 

  • Lie facedown on a lying leg curl machine, heels hooked under pad. Curl feet toward glutes, stopping just short of touching butt or as far as comfortably possible.
  • Curl feet toward glutes, stopping just short of touching butt or as far as comfortably possible.
  • Contract hamstrings and reverse direction back to starting position.
  • Do 3 sets of 10–12 reps.

Leg Press
WORKS: GLUTES, QUADS, HAMSTRINGS

  • Sit on a leg-press unit, back firmly against the seat pad and feet on footplate about shoulder-distance apart. Straighten legs with toes angled out slightly and unlock the release bars.
  • Keeping back pressed firmly into pad, bend legs, bringing knees toward chest.
  • Without bouncing at the bottom, press the weight back up to start, contracting your quads; stop just before you lock your knees.
  • Do 3 sets of 10–12 reps.

6. Barbell Hip Thrust

WORKS: GLUTES

  • Sit on floor with upper back against a bench and barbell on thighs just below hips. Keep knees bent and feet on floor (A).
  • Keeping core braced and spine neutral, push through heels to lift hips up until torso is parallel to floor (B).
  • Squeeze glutes for one count at the top of the movement, then slowly lower hips back toward floor.
  • Do 3 sets of 10–12 reps.
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