Epic leg workout, no barbell squats needed

Not everyone can, nor does they have the inclination to barbell squat as part of their daily leg workouts. After all, sometimes it’s pretty easy to skip workout legs altogether. But some like discomfort during exercise, and we’re not just talking about the quad burn. Whatever your reason for training your legs, there are many ways you can achieve lower body muscle building without putting yourself under the barbell.

Moonlight firefighter and One LDN personal trainer by day, Wole Adesemoye of Precision Performance Coaching, shares his epic daily leg session complete with all the compound and isolation moves needed to blast every muscle in the butt lower body until complete exhaustion. Yes, including calves.

“The workout is specifically for those who are already hitting the gym and aren’t seeing progress with their training, especially lower body work,” says Adesemoye.

The elite-level coach shares his best insights and tips for every move to ensure you complete the program with flawless execution and avoid common pitfalls. Not for the faint of heart, this session could leave you limping out of the gym, you’ve been warned.


30 seconds each exercise, 2 rounds

stretching and mobility static stretching

Knee rolls

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet planted on the floor. Keep your legs closed and drop your knees out to the side so you feel a stretch in your lower back. Reverse the movement on the other side and repeat.

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Bird Dogs x hold for 5 seconds per side

Start on all fours with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Keeping his torso completely still, he simultaneously brings his opposite hand and foot together. Hold the stretched position for 5 seconds.

Bodyweight reverse lunge

Lunges on foot

Stand upright and keep your chest up. Take a long step forward with one leg, bending the front knee until the back knee touches the ground. Explosively stand up, stop and repeat with the other leg, moving forward.

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While standing, keep your chest up and lower your hips back before bending your knees to drop your thighs until they are at least parallel to the floor. Push through your heels, come back to standing.

The workout

leg extension

Leg extensions

12-15 reps, 3-4 sets

Set up the leg extension machine with your knees at 90 degrees and the pad above your shins near your ankles. Make sure you adjust the seat to suit your needs. Grasp the handles on the sides of the seat. With your core engaged, extend your legs so the padded roller lifts and your legs are completely straight. Squeeze your quads and pause. Slowly bend your legs, resisting the weight as you lower it. Repeat and don’t let the plates rattle between each repetition.

Adesemoye recommends: Go very light on your first set. We start with an isolation movement for better muscle stability by activating the stabilizer muscles before any compound exercises. It’s also less taxing on the body.

leg press

Leg press

12-15 reps, 3-5 sets

You can complete the exercise on the seated leg press or the 45-degree leg press. Start with your feet planted in the center of the footrest, about shoulder-width apart with your back flat against the seat. Control your weight and bend your knees so the footplate moves toward you without your lower back losing contact with the seat. Pull the plate away from you, ready to repeat.

Adesemoye recommends: When it comes to foot placement, where you place your legs will determine the area of ​​your body you’re going to hit. You want them about shoulder-width apart, toes a little out. You want to be in a position where you can achieve a decent range of motion. Each person’s range of motion will be different based on their hip flexibility and range of motion. Place your feet not too high, around the midsection. Focus on real glute activation, don’t lock your knees.’

landmine hacking squats

Landmine Hack Squat / Hack Squat Machine

8-12 reps, 3-4 sets

If you have availability at your gym, use a hack squat machine. If not, you can complete the anti-personnel squat. To do this, lift the loaded end of the barbell to your shoulder, then turn around, resting your back against the weight plate while holding the barbell firmly to your shoulder. Step your feet forward until your body is at an almost symmetrical angle to the barbell behind you. Bend your knees and push your hips back, lowering into a deep squat. Press your back into the plate as you explosively stand up. Pause and repeat. Switch shoulders each set.

Adesemoye recommends: “Imagine pushing your butt into your heels as you descend into that concentric range of motion.” Think about “how far can I really go down” with it and the placement of your feet. Setting up an exercise is one of the most important [things] because that will make a difference to how the exercise is performed and what area you are hitting. Put your feet in a position where you can actually open your feet to one and then push those knees out over the second and third toes. Again, the range of motion will be different for each person.’

hamstring curls

Seated or lying hamstring curl

12-15 reps, 3-4 sets

Start with the correct setup on the hamstring machine, with your legs straight and your back against the seat. Make sure the upper pad is placed firmly against the tops of your thighs so they are held in place and the lower roller is under your calves. Curl your legs under you and squeeze your hamstrings, hold for one beat and slowly release, repeat under control. Don’t let the plates clatter between each repetition.

hip thrusters

Barbell hip thrust

12-15, 3-4 Sep

Start sitting on the floor with the bench behind your back and the barbell in front of your feet. Roll the barbell over your hips, bend your knees so your feet are planted on the floor, and make sure the edge of the bench is over your shoulder blades. Push through your heels so your hips are extended at right angles to your knees. Your heels should be below your knees, your chin tucked in and your ribcage pinned up. Reverse the movement so your hips sink into the floor and keep your torso locked to avoid any back movement.

Adesemoye recommends: “Think about tucking your chin, rather than throwing your head back with each rep.” When you get into that concentric phase of pushing, you want to make sure you’re looking straight ahead, rather than looking up, a lot of people make that mistake.’

side step

Lateral step-ups

12 per side, 3-4 sets

Start standing on a bench, with dumbbells in each hand. He raises his leg on the bench and pushes through the foot so he’s standing on it. Slowly reverse the movement while resisting the weight so your foot touches the floor again, ready to repeat.

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Romanian deadlift

8-12 reps at slow tempo, 3-4 sets

Standing with your feet under your hips, hold the weight (dumbbells or barbell) in front of your thighs. Bring your hips behind your heels with your back flat as if you were “closing a car door” with your butt. Keep your knees directly over your heels and shins vertical to the floor. As you lower the weight, keep your shoulder blades pulled in towards each other and your head in line. Feel a stretch in your hamstrings. When the weight is under your knees, bring your hips forward to return to the starting position.

Adesemoye recommends: “You want to make sure your feet aren’t too far apart.” There is a difference between a focus on the hamstrings and a focus on the glutes. [For glutes] imagine that someone is pulling your buttocks back. As you come back up, you want to try and bend your knee slightly and then squeeze. If you’re targeting your hamstrings, you want a soft knee, don’t lock your knees completely.’

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Single leg curl

12-15 per side, 3-4 sets

Start with the correct setup on the hamstring curling machine, with one leg above the roller. Curl your leg under you and squeeze the hamstring of the working leg. Hold for one beat and slowly release repeat under control. Don’t let the plates rattle between each rep, and swap sides when you’re done with reps.

leg workouts at home, leg exercises at home

Standing or seated calf raises

15-20 reps, 3-4 sets

Stand with your toes on a small block or bumper plate with dumbbells in each hand or a barbell. Drop your heels and then push through your toes into a high position. Repeat.

Adesemoye recommends: ‘Slow down the eccentric. Slow down [and] engage your core, engage your glutes, lower yourself for better range of motion.’

After your workout, complete a 10-minute cool-down walk.

Headshot of Kate Neudecker

Kate is a fitness writer for Men’s Health in the UK where she contributes regular workouts, training tips and nutrition guides. She has a postgraduate diploma in Sports Performance Nutrition and prior to joining Mens Health she was a nutritionist, fitness writer and personal trainer with over 5,000 hours of coaching in the gym. Kate has a keen interest in volunteering for animal shelters and when she’s not lifting weights in her backyard, she can be found walking her rescue dog.

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