So, you’ve been training steadily at the gym for a while now, working those abs, biceps, shoulders and lats with ruthless efficiency. You’ve noticed your physique improve leaps and bounds. It’s all starting to come together and… wait a minute; you haven’t been skipping leg day, have you?
No matter how much attention you’ve been paying to your diet, and no matter how many barrels of sweat you’ve been offering up to the gods of the gym, neglecting your lower body training is bound to leave you with an unbalanced physique.
But what if you’re not in the mood for doing squats, leg press, or deadlifts for every leg workout you ever do? What if, instead, you’d prefer to take some more varied steps to reach your mass goals?
Here are five step-based workouts to help pack some size onto your legs.
Weighted walking lunges
Walking lunges follow the pattern of standard lunges, except, instead of stepping back to your starting position with your front leg, following each rep, you’ll step forward with your rear leg. This causes you to “walk” forward while performing the exercise.
Performing the lunge in this fashion puts extra emphasis on the quad muscle of the lead leg, and the continuous reps will mean quick exhaustion. Weights can be added for extra resistance.
Dumbbell step ups
Step ups are a great exercise for maximising tension in one leg at a time, assuming they’re done properly. Adding dumbbells to the exercise — one in each hand, of equal weight — is a great way of upping the intensity if you don’t feel you’re getting enough of a workout from the basic move.
A step up is done by placing one leg on a bench, stair platform or box — ideally around knee height — and then stepping up onto the box using the muscles of the front leg to lift yourself.
To ensure you’re isolating the lead leg properly, step close to the box before performing the exercise, and keep the toes of your rear leg pointed slightly up. This will prevent you relying on momentum or turning the workout primarily into a calf training session for your rear leg. Alternate your legs after a few reps.
The elliptical machine picks up the torch of more conventional cardio machines, such as the treadmill or stationary bike, and runs wild with it. Elliptical training utilises the legs in a stepping motion, along with the arms, which are used to work a pair of handles back and forth.
The elliptical machine is perfectly suited to doing HIIT, and with research showing that HIIT promotes significant muscle growth, that means this form of cardio can help to pack mass onto your legs. To maximise the focus on your legs with this exercise, you can let go of the handles and work the machine purely through the motion of your feet.
Jump lunges HIIT
Jump lunges are another HIIT workout, designed to blast your quads and supporting muscles in the shortest amount of time possible. To do this exercise, begin by performing a standard lunge, but instead of standing back up in the normal fashion, jump up and switch your legs around into a scissor fashion, landing in a lunge position on the opposite side.
Do this exercise, alternating between legs rapidly, until you can’t take any more.
Stair climber machine (to finish a workout)
Stair climber machines are, as the name suggests, pieces of gym equipment that replicate the motion of climbing up a set of stairs. This means that using a stair climber will work pretty much every muscle in the lower body, with you being able to change the degree to which different muscles are emphasised through your form.
Taking higher, or wider steps, for example, will activate the hamstrings and glutes more. Pressing up off the ball of your foot will engage the calves.
When it comes to building mass, the stair climber is best used after a heavy leg workout, as a low-impact way of really wrapping up the workout and taking your legs that extra step towards complete exhaustion.