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Barbell Leg Exercises

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Here lies the magic to most strength training workouts. Barbell leg exercises will shape your butt, add strength to your glutes, work your quads, engage your core, and the list goes on. These exercises are some of the most important and most frequently used exercises in any great workout routine. We’ll list a few of the most popular leg exercises below. However, it is HIGHLY recommended that if you’ve never done some of the key lifts (squats, deadlifts) that you ask a trainer or expert at the gym to comment on your form. Start with low-weight until you’re confident with your form.

Make Sure to Warm-up

As you begin to add weight, warm-ups will become more important. Squats and deadlifts are two primary barbell leg exercises, and each taxes your central nervous system. To avoid injury, and also help get the most out of your lift, a good warm-up is necessary. Here’s a great example of a warm-up. In Grant’s Body Series: Legs, his routine may include doing squats 5sets x 5reps. To work-up to the weight where you’re only able to do 5 reps, Grant recommends doing roughly 5 warm-up sets. The first at light weight to help you get the form down. The next 2 warm-ups sets should be 3-5 reps of increasing weight to help prepare your body. Then try one rep at the weight that you’re planning to do for the 5x5. Finally, Grant suggests walking out with the bar with weight that is a bit heavier than you’re going to squat. You don’t need to do any reps here, but your body will have the feeling of heavier weight, making your working sets feel much lighter. Grant’s program updates every day with a new leg workout – start your trial today. If you’re looking for examples of barbell leg exercises, take a look at our list below. Note - some of these workouts are on machines, but are added to this list as they are low-impact alternatives to other examples included:

Barbell Squat

Standing with feet shoulder width apart, place a barbell on back at shoulder level. Keep your torso upright, stick your butt out behind you and lower your body until your knees are 90 degrees. Keep your weight on your heels. Push off your heels and stand to starting position.

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Barbell Deadlift

Stand over barbell with your feet underneath the bar, stance roughly shoulder-width. Bend forward at the waist and grab the bar. With your weight primarily in your heels, keep back straight, exhale and lift the bar off the ground by standing up.

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Barbell Front Squat

Start by holding a barbell at shoulder height, elbows forward. With a straight torso, bend the knees and lower your body until your knees reach 90 degrees. Keep your knees from going over the toe line. Exhale and stand back up to starting position.

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Barbell Step-up

Position a barbell on back while facing a box or a bench at knee height. Lift one leg and place your foot on top of the box. Press with your heel and step to the top of the box or bench. Step back down and repeat with the other leg.

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Barbell Sumo Deadlift

Stand over barbell with your feet underneath the bar, stance wider than shoulder-width. Bend forward at the waist and grab the bar. With your weight primarily in your heels, keep back straight, exhale and lift the bar off the ground by standing up.

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Straight-Leg Barbell Deadlift

Hold dumbbells at hip height, hands shoulder width apart. With a soft bend in your knees and a flat back, bend forward at the hips lowering the dumbbells to the ground. Stop once you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Return to the starting position.

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Barbell Split Squat

Start with a barbell across your back. Place one foot behind you like a lunge. While keeping your torso upright, lower your back knee toward the ground. Stop before the knee touches the ground, press through the front heel and stand back up.

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Barbell Reverse Lunge

Position a barbell on back. Step backward with one foot about 2 or 3 feet. Keep your torso upright and lower your body toward the ground. Bend your knees to 90 degree angles. Press through the front heel and return to starting position.

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Barbell Push Press

Hold barbell at shoulder level in with overhand grip, hands shoulder-width. With feet shoulder width apart bend your knees. Keeping back straight and torso tight, straighten your legs and push the barbell over your head.

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Barbell Machine Back Extension

Lie on the back-extension machine with your body in a straight line, holding a barbell. Exhale and lift your chest up. Hold a moment and then slowly lower back down.

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Barbell Lateral Step-up

Position a barbell on back while standing to the side of a knee-high box or a bench. Lift one leg and place your foot on top of the box. Press with your heel and step to the top of the box or bench. Step back down and repeat with the other leg.

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Barbell Lateral Lunge

With barbell on shoulders, step laterally with one foot about 2 feet. Keep torso upright and lower body over the outstretched foot. Keep one leg straight and bend the other to 90 degrees. Press through the front heel and return to starting position.

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Barbell Hip Thrust

Lay against a bench with the bottom of your shoulder blade resting on the edge and a barbell layng across your waist, preferably with a pad. Drop your hips down and then drive your heels into the ground and squeeze your glutes and hamstrings until your torso is parallel to the ground. Pause at top.

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Barbell Glute Bridge

Lay with your back and heels on the ground and a barbell across your hips. While keeping your shoulders on the ground, press your hips up in the air squeezing the glutes at the top of the movement. Lower your body back to the ground.

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Barbell Front Reverse Lunge

Position a barbell across your chest. Step backward with one foot about 2 or 3 feet. Keep your torso upright and lower your body toward the ground. Bend your knees to 90-degree angles. Press through the front heel and return to starting position.

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Barbell Curtsy Lunge

Stand shoulder width apart with a barbell on shoulders. With one foot, step backwards laterally behind the front leg. Keep your torso upright and lower body toward the ground. Bend knees to 90 degrees angles. Press through the front heel and return to starting position.

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Seated Machine Calf Press

Sit at calf machine and place the ball of the foot on plank. With the toes pointing straight, raise the heels up as you exhale by contracting the calves. Pause for a second at top and then lower to starting position.

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Seated Machine Leg Press

Sit on seat and place feet on platform in front of you, shoulder width. Push forward and extend legs. Do not lock legs. Bring legs back toward starting position, stop when you hit a 90 degree angle.

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Dumbbell Leg Exercises

What’s the main difference between lifting with barbells vs dumbbells? Actually, don’t think too hard, we’ll just tell you. It’s the fact that a barbell is one piece of equipment and dumbbells are two. Might not seem like a huge deal, but it is. In theory, you could probably find a way to tie all dumbbell leg exercises to a barbell leg exercise – squats, for example. However, there’s a ton of value to be realized when you have the added flexibility of working-out with a weight in each hand, versus one bar that lies across your body.

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Bodyweight Leg Exercises

These are great exercises to have in your back pocket. The best part is you can use the anywhere and for a variety of purposes. For example, you can put the icing on the cake after a heavy and long leg day, get a good workout in your apartment or hotel room, or charge-up your cardio with some plyometrics. The bottom line is bodyweight leg exercises have their place in many different workouts.

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