Discover my favorite quad and glute focused exercises!
Leg day is, without a doubt, my least favourite muscle group to train. But! There’s nothing better than feeling violently nauseous with your head spinning after a killer leg day, so stick around as we unpack what I’ve discovered to be one of the best leg workouts I have ever had the pleasure of suffering through.
(These focus mostly quads and glutes, and I have a separate workout to target hamstrings)
Exercise #1: Barbell Back Squats (3×10 OR 5×5)
A leg day staple! Back squats are a compound exercise, so they not only hit quads and glutes, but also engage your hamstrings and adductors as well. That being said, the prime movers in the motion are still your quads and glutes. You want to preserve lots of energy for this exercise, which is why I find it best to start with.
3 sets of 10 at light to medium-heavy weight really gives you a good burn. 5 sets of 5 reps at heavy weight is also insane, if you want to meet God.
Most important things to note with squats are good form and hitting at least parallel – the position where your femur is parallel to the ground. Without it, you’re just wasting energy. That being said, good squat form is going to look different on everyone based on your anatomy. When increasing weight on this exercise, you definitely want to make sure you’ve got your form down pat or else you’re at huge risk for injury. I highly recommend having a trainer or experienced lifter check your form every now and then to keep you on the right track!
Exercise #2: Hip Thrusts x Kas Glute Bridges x Bridge Hold (3×10/5/15sec)
I know this looks crazy but let me unravel this a bit. An incredible glute super set.
3 sets of 10 reps of HEAVY hip thrusts, really squeezing at the top of each rep. At the end of each set of 10, perform 5 pulses using only the ROM (range of motion) at top of the movement. These are called Kas Bridges, and are going to recruit your glutes like crazy. After those 5 pulses, hold the very top of the movement (the bridge position) for 15 FULL seconds (no cheating!).
- 10 thrusts
- 5 pulses
- 15-second hold
All with no rest in between. Your glutes will be on fire, but the pump will be insane and you will thank me later.
Exercise #3: Smith Machine Deficit Reverse Lunges SS Sumo Squats (3×8/8)
SS = Super Set
This is probably my favourite quad super set of all time. Your legs will quite literally be shaking by the end of it, your head will be pounding, you’ll feel winded and light-headed – it is incredible.
Place any sort of step (can be a platform or a bumper plate) on the ground to create an elevated surface, grab a heavy dumbbell for later, and go to f**king TOWN.
3 sets of 8 reps of reverse lunges, immediately followed by 8 reps of deep sumo squats with that dumbbell we grabbed earlier.
One fantastic part about Reverse Lunges is that while they heavily recruit your quads (and glutes), it simultaneously requires a lot of engagement from your adductors in order to maintain balance. Unilateral exercises are great for this reason, in that they require you to engage your entire core and all your stabilizer muscles so to effectively load only one side of your body. In addition, the deficit allows you to reach a greater range of motion, allowing for full expansion and contraction of the muscle! Following with the sumo squats is great for the glutes and adductors as well.
Exercise #4: Leg Extensions SS Bulgarian Split Squats (3×10/AMRAP)
Oh… you thought we were done? How cute.
If you’ve heard anything about Bulgarian Split Squats, you know they suck. If you have ever DONE Bulgarian Split Squats, you know even more that they suck. Fact of the matter is, they suck. They hurt and they’re hard. But they are a fantastic exercise.
Which is why you’re going to do them.
Find yourself a pair of light dumbbells, and a leg extension machine. Hop on the leg extension machine and do the weight from the dumbbells less than the highest weight you can do on leg extensions. I know that’s a mouthful so, for example:
If you normally do leg extensions at 150lbs, and you grabbed a pair of 15lb dumbbells, then do your leg extensions at 120lbs.
150 – (15×2) = 120.
After 10 reps of leg extensions, prop your back foot up on the padded bar, pick up your dumbbells, and drop immediately into the split squats for AMRAP (as many reps as possible). Personally I find that once I hit 7 reps, I feel like my legs are going to collapse… so go to that point! Then do the other leg, AMRAP, and then rest. It’ll go like this:
- 10 leg extensions
- AMRAP split squats (L)
- AMRAP split squats (R)
All without rest. Then break, and do it another 2 times! Quads and glutes, baby! QUADS AND GLUTES!
Exercise #5: Elevated Calf Raises (3×20)
Okay, you can relax. We’re pretty much done. While it’s quads and glutes day, we NEVER skip out on calves. Your knees hold almost all of the weight of your entire body, and your calves support your knees. In addition, having strong calves will help you with exercises like squats, as they will give you the strong foundation needed to support the weight.
Also, you don’t want a huge ass and huge thighs and skinny little stick calves. That would look really f**king weird. So go! Spam those calf raises!
Similar to the deficit reverse lunges, place down a platform or bumper plate and stand atop the edge of that when doing the calf raises to allow your heels to enter a deficit to reach a fuller range of motion. Go as heavy as you’d like on these. Since calves are a fairly small muscle, made up of only the soleus and gastrocnemius, you don’t need to overload them like crazy to build strength and grow, so it’s mostly up to personal preference. Medium-heavy weight at high reps tends to get the job done.
I like to carry dumbbells in each hand, but some will use a loaded barbell or smith machine. Whatever works best for you!
Exercise #6: 10-15 minutes Stretch n’ Roll!
The best part of leg day is objectively the post-workout stretch session. It just feels so good. While I wouldn’t consider it one of the ‘exercises,’ it is EXTREMELY important for muscle repair, as it reduces the accumulation of lactic acid in the body, as well as helping to relieve the tension that was just built up in our muscles through the workout. It also helps improve flexibility, which is important for achieving fullest range of motion, and being mobile in everyday life.
Also, just using a foam roller against the quads and glutes feels fantastic, especially after you’ve just finished OBLITERATING your legs.
Here is a list of some of my favourite post-leg day stretches:
- Forward lunge
- Pigeon hold
- Seated hamstring stretch
- Butterfly stretch
- Lying knee-to-chest stretch
- Frog split
- Lying (or standing) quad stretch
- Pretzel stretch
Each of these can be held for around 30-45 seconds, while slowly transitioning into the next stretch. Feel free to hold them longer, go through them multiple times, or even include some of your own favourite stretches!
Now I dare you to try and walk up a set of stairs. Just try it. I dare you.
5 bucks you’ll stumble.