The 15 Most Powerful Barbell Leg Exercises

barbell leg exercises
Credit: Aaron Clark

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 barbell squat said to be the most beneficial for legs?

Well, one reason can be that always doing the same routine is a bit boring, isn’t? You can get your workout more challenging by using heavier weights, but it is still just squat. If you like me, I easily get bored with doing the same movements all the time.

Another, 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 muscles 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 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 really 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 an 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: Check out the best power racks here and the top Olympic weight sets here.

The Anatomy of Leg Muscles

Before showing you the various barbell leg exercise videos, it is important 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 strengthen and tone each of leg muscles less or more.



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 exercises, 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 Lunge


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 variations. Here you can find the ones that are better for your quadriceps.

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 workouts.

Good Morning


Deadlift with Straight Leg




Inverse Leg Curl (with barbell)


Barbell Exercises for Glutes

To shape your glutes, just do any of the exercises 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 routine. 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

I hope you enjoyed and found these tutorials useful, and you will use what you have learned to build strong and massive legs. If you have any advice or questions, feel free to ask below. Also, check out the best power racks if you want to train your legs at home.


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 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 king exercise for the lower body.

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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.