“How do I grow my legs?” I get this question a lot. Having big legs is cool. It makes you stand out. There’s something inherently impressive when you see a guy pull 400+ pounds from the ground. And it’s functional. Strong legs are useful. I just helped a friend move a 240lb gun-safe to his upstairs apartment. It’s just cool to be able to do things like this in your day-to-day without a second thought.
1. Squat and deadlift!
I find a combination of heavy 5 rep sets followed by lighter sets of 8-12 to be the sweet spot for growing my legs and it’s a good place to start for a beginner. Over time you’ll find what works best for you. Some people grow better with lots of high reps. Some people do better with low-reps. All depends on the distribution of your type 1 and type 2 fibers.
You’ll hate it in the beginning. I dreaded leg day for a year after I finally started getting serious about growing my legs. But over time that dread turned into a passion and now leg day is my favorite day. Stick with it. Once you start to see results you’ll be hooked.
2. Squat ATG!
ATG means ass to grass. You need to drop down and achieve a full range of motion in your squats. A quarter squat is useless. You’re only activating your quads and even then you’re barely activating them. If you’re going to spend the time to go to the gym and squat then do it right. A full range of motion squat activates not only your quads but your glutes and your hamstrings – which make up almost 2/3rds of the mass of your legs!
3. Squeeze your butt when you deadlift.
When you deadlift concentrate on squeezing your butt. The lift starts with your glutes. You should feel your glutes contract first to initiate the pull and it should feel like you’re pulling the bar up off the ground using your glutes.
Beginners always try to lift the bar off the ground with their lower-back. This can lead to injury and it is simply less efficient. You’ll pull less weight and your legs won’t grow as fast. The deadlift is primarily a glute and hamstring exercise. Not a lower-back exercise.
4. Incorporate time under tension techniques.
Here’s a in-depth article on time under tension if you want to learn more. In a nut-shell if you spend more time in the concentric and eccentric phases of your lifts then you will see more muscle growth. So to apply this to growing your legs you can add a few sets of slower squats and slower deadlifts. For example when I’m working out for mass I’ll add 1-2 sets of 12 rep squats to the end of my workout(usually after I’ve done a 5×5 or 5×3 set of squats). With these 12 rep squats I’ll lower the weight and slow down my temp. So instead of taking 3-4 seconds in the eccentric phase(down) and 1-2 seconds in the concentric phase(up) I will instead take roughly 5 seconds to go down and another 5 seconds to come back up. Also instead of locking out at the top of the squat and resting for 1-2 seconds I will immediately go into the next rep while maintaining tension in my legs. This turns the 12 reps into essentially one very long, very painful rep.
5. Eat big to get big.
If you’re doing all of the above and not seeing results then most likely you’re not eating enough. During my freshman year of college at the age of 18 I gained 15 pounds in a little over nine months. My bench press went from 200lbs to 250lbs and my squat went from a piddly 135lbs to 225lbs. In that time I stuffed my face at every opportunity. I would go to the dining hall four times a day and eat until I wanted to throw up.
Plan to get roughly 1g/lb of bodyweight in protein. So if you weighed 150lbs you’d want to get 150g of protein in a day. Then eat carbs until you can’t eat anymore. Don’t worry about fat – you’ll get plenty of fat from regular meals. Rice, lentils, pasta, and potatoes will be your go-to staples.