Sculpting the perfect booty and defined legs can often seem like an impossible task, leaving you wondering just how the model in that Instagram built such an amazing set of glutes.
Unfortunately, many take the wrong approach to leg training for a number of reasons including lack of actual resistance and fear of gaining too much bulk.
Not to mention, many fitness professionals, who already have sculpted legs, provide guidance that simply won’t work for normal people looking for a better behind.
In this article, I’ll touch on some essentials for building the perfect bum and legs, while creating head-turning definition.
Muscle & Definition Principles
Before getting into specific movements for building better legs, you first need to understand what is actually necessary to improve definition through resistance training.
Unfortunately, many fitness professionals have made certain movements and exercises famous, despite the fact that they don’t actually work. Truth is, most bodyweight movements don’t actually produce a meaningful improvement in muscle definition, as many have claimed.
Many of these professionals actually also use resistance training in their routine and have done so for years. The issue is that many times, these movements simply aren’t sexy enough, giving the impression that using them will be the key to more definition.
When it comes to building leg muscle and thus, improving definition, there are 3 principles you need to execute each time you exercise.
Use Reasonable Resistance
If your leg workout consists of flexing your butt, while walking on the stairmaster, you should consider changing that routine immediately by adding in movements that use resistance.
Unfortunately for our stairmaster fanatics, simply flexing your legs and hips won’t provide any meaningful benefit unless you stress them to the point that growth is required.
For improvements in muscle growth and definition, the amount of resistance needed to stimulate growth will also determine the amount of repetitions being used. When using heavier weight, fewer repetitions are required.
However, if you’re using very light, or no resistance at all, the amount of repetitions needed to stimulate growth is very high. So rather than endlessly flexing your butt with no resistance, use an exercise with resistance for less reps to actually see results (1, 2).
Practice Progressive Overload
This suggestion is more global than leg specific, but still just as important. Progressive overload is a method of increasing reps, sets and weight being used to ensure that you’re placing you muscle under enough stress to grow (1, 2, 3).
If you’re constantly using the same exercises, weight, reps and set scheme, it’s quite possible that you aren’t seeing results.
When lifting weights, you’re stressing the muscle, causing it to increase in size and strength. Eventually you adapt to this stress, which requires increased effort to continue to grow.
Ensure you are practicing progressive overload to build more shapely legs.
Work Target Muscles Directly
While exercises such as the squat and deadlift will work your legs to a reasonable extent, it’s also a good idea to work target muscle groups, such as glutes, hamstrings and thigh muscles directly, using isolation movements in addition to compound movements.
Doing so will allow you to specifically stress muscles you want to grow, expediting the growth process.
The Best Hamstring / Glute Exercises
When it comes to building an amazing behind, the days of squatting and calling it a day are over. Certainly the squat, in its many variants may be adequate for glute growth, but working them directly with the best exercises will make the process more streamlined.
The Romanian deadlift is easily one of my favorite glute dominant exercises. To execute this exercise, you can use a loaded barbell, dumbbells, kettle bells and even a low cable, making this a very accessible exercise.
- Starting with weight in your hands, place feet shoulder width apart.
- Bend at the hip, keeping a slight bend in your knees, extending downwards to the extent that your knees allow, without flexing further.
- Return to the upward position.
Note: to supercharge this exercise, consider using a banded RDL variant of this exercise.
Barbell Hip Thrust
The barbell hip thrust is a fairly new technique, yet one that has actually been shown to activate glute muscles to a greater extent than the back squat. If you want sculpted glutes, this is the exercise to use.
- Sitting on the ground, move against a bench, with your shoulder blades on the bench edge.
- Place a barbell across your lap, in the crease of your hip and the beginning of your thigh muscle.
- Place feet flat on the ground, with a bend in the knee.
- Drive through feet, extending hips and weight upwards, flexing glutes at top.
- Slowly descend to ground.
Note: consider using a towel or barbell pad on the barbell where it meets your hip crease. Using too heavy a weight could cause immense pain, reducing muscle activation.
The Best Thigh (Quadriceps) Exercises
If you’re looking to build shapely thigh muscles, you’ll need to use exercises which are optimized for stimulating your quads as much as possible. Here are some of the best.
The hack squat machine is surprisingly one of the most effective quadriceps exercises. Recent research actually determined that muscle activity in the thigh muscles was higher in the quadriceps muscle than a barbell squat!
If you’re looking for a great quadriceps exercise, the hack squat machine should be one of your first choices (4).
Leg Press, Squat & Leg Extensions
In the same study that evaluated hack squats, researchers found that quadriceps muscle activation was very similar across the leg press, barbell back squat and leg extension (4).
Therefore the use of all three exercises should be considered. Further, since each will be unique, allowing for different amounts of weight and repetition ranges, using all three of these exercises when targeting thigh muscles is advised.
The Best Practices & Exercises For Building Shapely And Sexy Legs
When attempting to build sexy legs, avoid just doing bodyweight exercise like many professionals advocate. Rather, stick with resistance-based exercises to stimulate the muscle growth and definition you desire.
Further, have a combination of compound movements and muscle group specific exercises to stimulate specific body parts, improving growth and definition.
If you follow these principles and use these exercises regularly, you’ll soon have a set of legs and a behind that is worthy of envy.
- Hass, C. J., Feigenbaum, M. S., & Franklin, B. A. (2001). Prescription of resistance training for healthy populations. Sports medicine, 31(14), 953-964.
- Orr, R., Raymond, J., & Singh, M. F. (2008). Efficacy of progressive resistance training on balance performance in older adults. Sports Medicine, 38(4), 317-343.
- Kraemer, W. J., & Ratamess, N. A. (2004). Fundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 36(4), 674-688.
- Boeckh-Behrens, W. U., Beier, P., & Buskies, W. (2001). Fitness-Krafttraining: die besten Übungen und Methoden für Sport und Gesundheit. Rowohlt-Taschenbuch-Verlag