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The 15 Most Powerful Barbell Leg Exercises

    When you first think about barbell leg exercises, I’m sure that the first move that appears to your mind is squat. Yes, that it is maybe the king of the leg training, but if you check out this guide, you will see that there are so many other efficient barbell exercises for legs.

    Why should you do other types of exercises if the barbell squat said to be the most beneficial for legs?

    Well, one reason can be that always doing the same leg routine is a bit boring. You can get your workout more challenging by using heavier weights, but it is still just squat. If you like me, I quickly get bored with doing the same movements all the time.

    Another, a more important reason is that by doing various leg exercises with a barbell, you can focus on one particular muscle group better. Let’s say you want to improve your glutes (buttocks), while squat works that part, lunges train them even better.

    Another reason I do more types of leg exercises is that most of them are compound moves that engage several other muscle groups at once. This way, I can strengthen my entire body as a whole. For example, the front squad is excellent to train your lower back, hip flexors, and shoulders as well as your core muscles that are essential for good posture and balance.

    And why use barbell? I believe if someone wants to be strong and build muscle mass, free weights are the weight to go. For beginners, they are harder to use, though. Since more control and existing strength is required to perform the moves correctly.

    To sum it up, a barbell is excellent equipment to have a total lower body workout. You just need to do the right type and variety of moves.

    Check out related equipment: and the top Olympic weight sets here.

    The Anatomy of Leg Muscles

    Before showing you the various barbell leg exercise videos, it is crucial to understand what sorts of leg muscles are there. I grouped the activities based on which muscles they target more.

    Anyway, keep in mind that each of the following movements strengthens and tone each of the leg muscles less or more.

    leg muscles anatomy


    Barbell Exercises for Quadriceps (Quads)

    That is the front section of your legs, and I think the easiest to train. Here are the most beneficial moves for this part.

    Lunge and Its Variations

    The first two moves are easier ones, while the second two are a bit harder. To avoid injuries and to get the most from these activities, pay attention to performing them correctly. Hence, use lighter weights or just your bodyweight first if you are a beginner.


    Reverse or Rare Lunge

    Side Lunge

    Walking Lung

    Single-Leg Split Squats

    These exercises require a pretty strong core to keep your balance, but you can focus on your quads. It is maybe better for those who are already at a higher fitness level.

    Bulgarian Split Squat

    Side Split Squat

    Barbell Squat Variations

    There are quite a lot of versions of squat, and I have already shared a post about them here where you can learn 10 squat variations here. Here you can find the ones that are better for your quadriceps. For example, instead of you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, you can increase or decrease the distance. Another example is when you don’t put the barbell on the upper back but your upper chest.

    Traditional Squat

    Front Squat

    Hack Squat

    Zercher Squat

    Step Up with Barbell

    And finally, here is an excellent advanced move for your quads.

    Barbell Exercises for Hamstrings

    You have learned many exercises to strengthen the front of your legs. The next is to boost the back of it, the hamstrings. Here are the most powerful practices.

    Good Morning

    Deadlift with Straight Leg


    Inverse Leg Curl (with barbell)

    Barbell Exercises for Glutes

    To shape your glutes, do any of the drills above. However, from my experience, lunges work the best.

    Barbell Exercises for Calves

    And finally, we must not forget about the calf muscles, like a lot of people do. To have great looking and strong legs, your calves should be trained as well.

    Standing Leg Calf Raise

    You can make this move on the floor, but if you want to add an extra boost to it, use calf block.

    Sample Leg Workouts with Barbell

    You just have learned a lot of barbell leg exercises, so it is time to see a workout plan. As you see with a barbell, you could train all your leg muscles efficiently, but using other equipment, such as dumbbells, is always recommended.

    Here is an only barbell leg workout routine, though.

    And here is a sample program for women.

    leg traning for women

    Women’s barbell leg workout

    Other great barbell leg exercises

    Hip thrusts

    Hip thrusts

    One of the top glute exercises out there. Hip thrusts help you sculpt a perfect backside while strengthening the stabilizer muscles and tendons in the hips. The motion of this exercise extends the hips fully, which squeezes the glutes even tighter.

    Start by resting your upper back on a bench. Do this in such a way that your body is perpendicular to the bench, and there is nothing under your lower back, glutes, and thighs. Position your feet directly underneath the knees and ensure your neck remains neutral. Place the barbell above your waist and, using your upper back as a sort of hinge, thrust your hips upwards to raise the barbel. Engage your glutes as you do this and raise your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

    Seated barbell calf raises

    This awesome calf exercise is yet another application of the versatile barbel. It is also a great substitute for people who struggle with the standing barbell calf raises.

    You will need a bench, a step, and a barbel of course. Sit on the bench with the step in front of you. Next, place your toes on the step and place the barbell on your thighs. While supporting the barbel with your hands, raise your thighs by pushing your toes up. Hold the bar at the top, and carefully lower it. That’s one rep. If you are doing it correctly, you should only feel the burn in your calves.

    Barbel front half squat (wide stance)

    Here’s a variation of the squat that you should definitely try if you are a beginner.

    While standing, hold a suitable barbel in front of you, around the collar-bone area. Fold your arms so that the bar sits on your shoulders. Widen your stance and slowly bend your knees to a 90-degree angle and hold. Engage the glutes and thighs to slowly raise yourself up again. That is one rep.

    Glute bridges

    Glute bridges, like the hip thrusts, are great for your hips and glutes. Your hamstrings and abs will also benefit from this easy to do exercise.

    While seated on the floor, place a barbell over your hips and lay down on your back. Tuck your legs toward you and plant your feet flat on the floor. Use your heels to generate power and lift your hips as high as you can. Hold at the top, and then come down slowly to complete the rep.

    Barbel curtsy lunge

    I know. We all hate lunges. However, you cannot escape them, so it’s better that you learn to love them. The curtsy lunge is one variation that has special benefits for the gluteus medius, in particular. Your quads and glutes will also feel the same burn we have come to expect from lunges.

    While standing, keep your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the barbell on your shoulders, behind your neck. With your left foot planted, move your right leg behind it and slowly go down. Once the left thigh is parallel to the ground, stop lunging, and hold briefly before coming up again. The movement should resemble a curtsy, hence the name.

    Repeat this for a set and then switch legs.

    I hope you enjoyed and found these tutorials useful, and you will use what you have learned to build strong and massive legs. Also, use a squat rack for maximum safety. If you have any advice or questions, feel free to ask below.


    I have only dumbbells at home, what kind of exercises I can do for the lower body?

    Don’t worry. There are several other moves to do for muscle building. For example, you can also squat by holding the hand weight by yourself or do goblet squat. Also, you can do various types of lunges that are great for the quadriceps and glutes. Finally, we should not forget the stiff leg deadlift that is great for your hamstrings.

    I’m a beginner and bad at barbell squat, what is the best machine to develop strength?

    I recommend you to do bodyweight squats or use light weights until you get strong enough. Alternatively, you use the leg press machine. But, do not forget, the squat is the best exercise for the lower body.


    James Wright

    James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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