How to Tone Legs: The Best Leg Workouts With and Without Machines
Want to know how to get the most out of leg day? While it can be tempting to skip it altogether, what you need is a handful of go-to effective leg workouts that make your least favourite gym day as efficient as possible.
At FitKit UK, we’ve listed our best leg workouts with machines and without; so whether you’re a gym-goer or prefer home workouts, you can optimise your workouts to see the best results.
The best machine leg workouts
If you have access to a gym or want to choose your own equipment for a home gym, these are the machines we’d recommend for covering all your bases:
- Leg press machines
The leg press is one of the best machine leg workouts for targeting your quads and your hamstrings. Though it primarily uses these thigh muscles, the movement also engages your glutes and your calf muscles, so it’s a good all-rounder.
There are two types of leg press machines: the vertical leg press, on which you sit at an angle and push a weight-loaded plate upwards, and a seated leg press, on which you sit up straight and push against a horizontal plate.
For optimum results, sit with your knees hip-width apart at a 90-degree angle, with your feet pointing slightly outwards. To work your glutes more, place your feet higher on the plate; to put more stress on the quads, place your feet lower down.
- Smith machines
Another machine that should be a staple in your gym routine is the Smith machine. With Smith machines, you have a controlled barbell workout that’s highly effective for building up the thigh and glute muscles. A great option for beginners or those unused to free weights, as the machine guides the barbell vertically between two rails in a smooth motion, so you don’t have to worry about balancing it while you squat.
Set the bar to sit across your shoulders, then add your desired amount of weight to each side. To start your squats, grip the bar just over shoulder-width apart and bend your knees to 90-degree angles.
- Leg extension machines
Leg extension machines are a great option for focusing solely on your quads. Seated with your knees at 90-degree angles and the weighted leg roller positioned over your ankles, straighten your knees in a controlled motion. Extending your legs like this requires all four muscles of the quads to engage, so you’re guaranteed to feel the burn!
- Leg curl machines
As well as targeting the quads, it’s important not to forget about your hamstrings. Leg curl machines are fantastic for not only strengthening them but improving their flexibility too.
You’ve probably seen both types of leg curl machines: the seated version, and the lying version. In the seated version, you sit with your legs straight with the weight resting under your calves. You then use your hamstrings to pull the weight down so your knees are bent. In a lying leg curl position, you position yourself on your front and curl your lower legs up behind you and back down again.
The best bodyweight leg exercises
But you don’t necessarily need machines or weights for a leg workout; bodyweight leg workouts can be just as effective in building and toning your leg muscles. Here are the best home leg workouts to try without equipment:
- Jump squats
A step-up from the classic squat, jump squats are a great aerobic exercise for really exerting your leg muscles. They target the quads, glutes, hamstrings and hips, and also have the added benefit of raising your heart rate.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees and jump high into the air. Land on the balls of your feet and bend your knees immediately again into your next squat!
- Sumo squats
Another squat variation is the sumo squat. This one is great for your inner thighs as well as your glutes, hip flexors and all your leg muscles. Stand with your feet wider apart than a standard squat and turn your feet outwards. Then, push your hips back and slowly squat down, focusing your weight on the heels of your feet.
- Forward and reverse lunges
Forward and reverse lunges are some of the best leg workouts you can do without equipment. They work your glutes, hamstrings, quads and thighs – plus your abs as an added bonus. Working one leg at a time is great for building strength up in all your leg muscles and improving balance too.
Forward lunges work your quads and your core more, whereas reverse lunges target the hamstrings and glutes, so a combination of both is best.
- Lateral lunges
Lateral lunges – also known as side lunges – are another great option that also target your inner thigh muscles and adductor strength. Instead of stretching a leg forward or backwards, take a big step to the side and clasp your hands together. Lean into one side, bending your knee at a 90-degree angle while keeping the other leg straight. Then, switch sides!
- Glute bridges
This one’s a great option for toning your glutes. Simply lie on your back, with your knees bent and feet slightly apart. Engage your core, squeeze your glutes and raise your hips up to the ceiling. You can mix up this workout with single up-and-down reps, hip thrust pulses or hold the pose at the top. To make it even harder, raise one leg!
Whether you prefer equipment or want to optimise leg day from the comfort of your living room, these are the best leg workouts we’d recommend in order to evenly build and sculpt your leg muscles. Incorporate these into a circuit workout and you can ensure you’re targeting all the leg muscles, and not focusing entirely on the quads!