Lower Body Workout to Get Bigger - FTM Fitness

Feel free to download and share this workout!

Feel free to download and share this workout!


This workout is a serious size and strength builder. For my second 12 week bulk of 2018, I used this workout to help increase the strength of my legs and improve the appearance of my lower body. This workout puts emphasis on two major compound movements, the squat and the leg press, to make you go heavy. It hits the quads, hamstrings, and glutes in a big way. This workout is best done twice a week as part of a 2 body part split. Using this workout twice a week for 12 weeks, I was able to put 20lbs on my squat and also increase my max weight on the squat by 30 lbs. I also saw noticeable differences in the definition of my upper and lower legs. In 12 weeks, I put a whole inch on my quads and 1.5 inches on my butt. It's a muscle builder!

Tip: Use flat bottom shoes while working legs. This is especially helpful for sturdy squats, deadlifts, and leg press movements. 

The workout is built around Arnold Schwarzenegger's Intermediate Training Plan in The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. I slightly modified the workout to fit any big box gym where you do not have free barbells or olympic training style equipment/space. I did have trouble sticking to the 6 days a week schedule. If you find that 6 days a week is too much, switch off week to week which split you only do once and you should be fine with even muscle building.

Lower Body progress, June 2018

Lower Body progress, June 2018

Quads progress, July 2018

Quads progress, July 2018


  • Barbell Squat: Form is so important on the squat in order to actually hit the correct muscles. Please take time to develop your personal squat form before tackling a lot of weight on the bar. The one thing I see so often is people using their back to lift the bar. They will tilt forward and then push the bar up by straightening their back on the way up. That is not using your legs and glutes... it misses the point. To get my form in the right place, I like to really focus on sending my glutes back and out while keeping my back as upright as possible. This puts the major stress of the movement on the quads, glutes, and calves. Try out different foot positions and different placements under the bar until you find what's right for you. Start with 2 warm up sets, one of 15 reps and another of 12. Move to a heavy weight and push for 1-4 reps. To finish, do 3 working set weights of 6-8 reps.

  • Straight Leg Barbell Deadlift: This movement is incredible for building up your hamstrings and also stability for heavy lifting. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, feet facing forward. The bar should be on the floor. Step up so that your shins graze the bar. Bend at the hips, sending your butt back, hinging the hips, and keeping the back straight and parallel with the ground. Grip the bar tight and stiffen your core. Bring the barbell up in a straight smooth upright movement. Stop once you are straight up, do not bend back. Slowly bring the bar back down to starting position while keeping your back and core stiff. Feel free to pause at the bottom. Do 3 sets of a weight that you can lift for 8-10 reps.

  • Seated Calf Raise: I am not a fan of most calf machines. This method is much better at activating the calves with a heavy weight. Place a barbell in a rack at about knee height. Grab a bench and place parallel to the bar. Grab a 45lb plate and place under the bar. Sit on the bench to get lined everything lined up. When seated, the top of your knees should be under the bar and half the front of your foot should be on the edge of the plate. Load the bar and grab two 5lb plates. Go into the seated position and slide the 5lb plates between your knees and the bar. It's a tight squeeze but wiggle your feet onto the plate. Once in the right spot, unpack the bar by lifting up using your calves. Stop at the top of the movement and then slowly come back down so that your heels tap the floor. Do 3 sets of a weight that you can lift for 15-20 reps.

  • Calf Raise Off Platform: These are best performed as a superset with the previous movement. Do your seated calf raises and then find something that you can do a body weight calf raise off of. I use the plate holding rod on the smith rack. You could also use the edge of the bench. Lightly hold onto something for balance, hang your heels off the back edge, and do tall calf raises. On the way down, let your heels drop below the edge. Do 20+ reps for each of the 3 sets.

  • Leg Press: The leg press often gets a bad rap due to the pressure it puts on the lower back. I find that as long as you find a position that doesn't cause tension on the lower back, you're fine. There is no other exercise that has built my quads more than the leg press. Once seated in the machine, try to keep your upper back flat against the backrest. Place your feet 12in or less apart. Depending on how tall you are, find a position where when you come down... your quads should come close to your chest. Go slowly on the movement and make sure that you go as far to your chest as you can. Too often, people over weight the movement and only do a small range of motion. The leg press needs to be a full press. Start with a warm up set of 12 reps, then another of 10 reps. Do a super heavy set, very slowly for 1-4 reps. Finish up with 3 working sets of 6-8 reps.

  • Lying Leg Curls: A hamstring blaster! This is done on the the Lying Leg Curl machine. You could do this lying face down on a bench with a dumbbell in your feet but I've always had access to the machine. As another alternative, you could do 3 lighter weight sets of the straight leg deadlift. If you have access to the machine, pick a weight that you can curl for 12 reps for 3 sets.

  • Leg Extension: Another machine that I'm a fan of. This particularly works the muscles right around the knee which is important in keepings your knee joints and tendons from getting injured. If you have access to the machine, do 3 sets of a weight you can do 10-12 reps of. If you do not have this machine, try goblet squats with a dumbbell to fire up the quads.

  • Leg Curl: This is the last leg machine exercise. I like to do these using a slow controlled motion with a focus on squeezing the muscle. I find that they work the hamstrings, calves, and quads making them a nice finisher. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps. If you do not have access to this machine, try a body weight or lightweight dumbbell lunge.

  • Abs: Finish off this training session by training your core. Pick 2-3 ab exercises and aim for a total of 3 sets for each exercise. See an example ab routine here

Try this workout as part of a two body part split. I guarantee you this workout will build up your lower body in a big way. Each week push yourself to go up in weight on at least one exercise. If you can't do that, then go up in reps or the weight you push on those first heavy Bench Press sets. This workout can be done for all levels of lifters by modifying the weight accordingly but it is best reserved for lifters that have built up some stamina and are looking for a challenge.

If you are unfamiliar with any of the moves, check out the database on bodybuilding.com. Every exercise can be found by searching for it by name. 

*I am not a certified personal trainer. My experience is limited to myself. If you are new to lifting, please seek out resources online and the help of a trainer or experienced friend before embarking on a new fitness regime.

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