Barbell Leg Exercises for Strength and Power: A Complete Program

Looking to strengthen your lower body? Barbell leg workouts are a great way to build muscle, increase strength and power, and improve athletic performance.

Barbell leg exercises are a must-have in any fitness regimen because they can increase muscle size, boost power and athletic performance, and improve balance and stability.

But before you go to the gym, it’s important to know the leg muscle anatomy and proper form techniques.

In this blog, we’ll explore the following:

  • Anatomy of the leg muscles,
  • The benefits of barbell leg workouts,
  • Best Leg exercises with barbells
  • How to perform them with proper form and technique
  • Sample workout routine to get you started.

Leg Muscle Anatomy

The legs consist of dozens of muscles that flex, bend, extend, adduct, abduct, and rotate your legs and allow movement.

The leg is mainly divided into the upper leg (thigh) and lower leg (calf).

The upper leg consists of one bone, the femur, whereas the lower leg consists of two bones, the tibia (located on the big-toe side) and fibula (on the little toe side).


  • Located at the front of the thigh
  • Composed of four muscles: rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius
  • Responsible for extending the knee joint


  • Located at the back of the thigh
  • Composed of three muscles: biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus
  • Responsible for flexing the knee joint and extending the hip joint

Gluteus Maximus

  • Located at the buttocks
  • The largest muscle in the body
  • Responsible for extending the hip joint


  • Located on the inner thigh
  • Composed of several muscles, including the adductor longus, adductor magnus, and adductor brevis
  • Responsible for bringing the legs together and stabilizing the pelvis


  • Located at the outer thigh
  • Composed of several muscles, including the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus
  • Responsible for moving the legs away from the midline of the body and stabilizing the pelvis


  • Located at the back of the lower leg
  • Composed of two muscles: gastrocnemius and soleus
  • Responsible for plantar flexing the ankle joint (pushing toes down)
Leg Muscle Anatomy

Best Barbell Leg Exercises and Workout

This blog contains detailed descriptions of all major barbell leg exercises that focus on the quadriceps, hamstring, glutes, and Calf muscles.

The leg exercises with barbell are divided into squat exercises, barbell deadlift, barbell lunge, and calf raise exercises.

1. Barbell Squat

The barbell squat is the king of all exercises, the only challenger being the barbell deadlift. Nothing comes close to squats exercises to build muscle mass and tone the legs muscles.

Squat exercise is loved by men because it is great at strengthening the legs and core, shocking the body into releasing testosterone, and promoting the development of body-wide muscle and strength.

Barbell Squat

How To Do

  1. Step on the rack so that the barbell rests across the back of your shoulders.
  2. Raise the barbell and get away from the rack if you are doing with free weights.
  3. Bend your knees and lower yourself with your back straight and head up until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  4. Now raise yourself up using only the thigh power, keeping your back straight in a position with legs nearly locked out.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


  • Keep your back straight, torso upright, head up, and feet flat.
  • Start light and add weight gradually, allowing your legs and lower back to adapt.
  • Concentrate on the form.
  • If lifting heavy, have a spotter ready, or use a squat rack or power rack.

2. Front Squat

The barbell front squat is another great exercise for your leg workout, and it works the same target and synergistic muscles. However, it recruits more stabilizer muscles, including various back muscles, your shoulders, and your chest.

The barbell front squat is more advanced than the barbell squat. It helps to build entire thighs and focuses especially on the outer thigh region.

Front Squat

How To Do

  1. Step on a Smith machine and get the bar on your shoulders in front of you, grasping it with your crossed arms and lift it off the rack.
  2. Maintain the natural arch in your lower back and keep your head directed forward.
  3. Perform a squat, bending your knees and driving your hips back to lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  4. From this position push yourself back to the starting point.


  • Start light and add weight gradually, allowing your legs and lower back time to adapt.
  • If lifting heavy, have a spotter ready, or use a squat rack or power rack.

3. Deadlift

The deadlift is the King of all exercises. It is the best exercise for posterior chain muscle strengthening.

Barbell Deadlift works your whole body including the lower back, upper back, arms, legs, and buttocks. It is the biggest muscle builder, recruiting more muscle motor units than any other exercise.

Must add this exercise to your barbell leg workout to build stronger and bigger legs.


How To Do

  1. Place a barbell loaded with weights in front of you.
  2. Grab the barbell using an underhand grip with one hand and an overhand grip with the other hand.
  3. Now raise the bar from the ground using your hamstrings and glutes.
  4. The initial movement is to be provided by your heels and not toes or elbows.
  5. Raise it to the point where your body is erect.
  6. Do not hyperextend your body as the weight shifts to the lumbar spine.
  7. Hold the bar for a moment at the top of the lift and remember to lockouts.
  8. Now lower the bar slowly at a steady slow pace by bending at the hips first and then at the knees and let the weight touch the ground for a moment before you begin the next rep.


  • If performed deadlift incorrectly, it can cause more harm than good.
  • You should keep your legs slightly bent, back straight and head looking up.
  • Remember to keep your back as straight as possible and contract your back and hamstrings.
  • Lower back muscles take along to recuperate and hence once a week heavy deadlifts will do the job.
  • Go full range of motion and keep form correct. Avoid jerky movements and keep them controlled.

4. Stiff-Leg Barbell Deadlift

If you’re looking for a straightforward leg workout that you can do with a barbell to build mass and strength, then stiff leg barbell deadlift, is a great staple exercise to get you started.

It is a variation of the deadlift and an exercise used primarily to target the muscles of the hamstrings and gluteals.

The stiff-leg deadlift for hamstrings requires a lighter weight than that used during traditional powerlifting for strengthening the lower back.

Stiff-Leg Barbell Deadlift

How To Do

  1. Grasp a barbell using a shoulder-width pronated (overhand) grip or a mixed grip.
  2. Keeping your back straight, head up, and hips low, lift the barbell into a standing position.
  3. Flex your knees a little and push your hips backward and slowly lower the barbell down the front of your legs.
  4. Descend until you feel a mild stretch in your hamstrings.
  5. Exhale as you pull the barbell back up to the starting position by pushing your hips forward.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps.


  • Keep your knees stiff, your back and arms straight, and your head up.
  • Do not allow the bar to drift away from your body during the lift. Keep the barbell close to your body.
  • Keep soft knees and ensure the movement occurs primarily at your hips.

5. Barbell Lunges

When doing leg workout with barbell, them must do barbell lunge, as it is a brilliant exercise that helps you to strengthen your legs.

Barbell Lunges are a power move to build Quadriceps and butt muscles.

Use barbell lunges leg exercises to develop balance, coordination, and the unilateral (one-sided) functional strength of your legs, which is important for athletic performance and overall fitness.

Try another variation: barbell reverse lunges.

Barbell Lunges

How To Do

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a barbell across your upper back, just below the base of your neck.
  2. Step forward with one leg and lower your body until your back knee almost touches the ground.
  3. Make sure your front knee is bent at a 90-degree angle, and your back knee is hovering just above the ground.
  4. Push through your front foot to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat on the other side.


  • Bend as far and low as possible without losing form.
  • Keep your torso upright and your head facing forward.
  • If you suffer from balance problems, it is best either avoid it, or just use your own body weight while holding on to a steady object.

6. Zercher Squat

The Zercher squat’s set up is quite unique, as you wedge the barbell in your elbow creases and hold the weight up by bracing your core and arms.

The Zercher squat places a high amount of loading on the anterior legs, upper back and traps, and the biceps and elbows.

Zercher squat

How To Do

  1. Stand with a shoulder-width grip while holding a barbell at chest height in the crook of your crossed arms.
  2. Carefully step backward from the rack and stand with a wide stance, with your knees and feet pointing out diagonally in the same direction.
  3. Keeping your back straight and body upright, letting your glutes track backward to lower yourself until the bar touches your thighs.
  4. At the point where your thighs are parallel to the floor, reverse direction, driving up forcefully through your heels to the standing position.


  • Clasp fingers together while holding the barbell.
  • Do not round your back. Keep your back straight with a natural arch in your lower back.
  • Use elbows pads to decrease discomfort in your arms. Another option is to place two barbell pads on the bar for each arm.

7. Side Lunge

The barbell lateral lunge is the best variation of the side lunge that people typically perform when they want a little more glute involvement with the movement pattern.

The unilateral movement of side lunges can help you to improve muscular imbalances, increase strength in each leg, and benefit from a functional movement.

Barbell Side Lunge

How To Do

  1. Place a barbell on your traps and stand with your feet about shoulder width apart.
  2.  Step out to your right as far as you can with your right foot.
  3. The forefoot should be turned out slightly as you plant it on the floor.
  4. Squat, shifting your weight to the left until your left leg is about parallel with the floor.
  5. Extend your left leg back up to lift your body up.
  6. Repeat in the same manner with your left leg, and continue alternating legs each rep until all reps are completed.


  • Do not lean the torso forward as you rise out of the bottom of the lunge.
  • Always push through your heels to protect your knees.

8. Jefferson Squat

If you’re looking for a way to get more creative with your barbell leg workout, why not try Jefferson squats?

It is an old technique that you just don’t see many people utilizing anymore, but it truly is an excellent workout because of the way that it tests and works your lower body.

It requires kind of a balancing act (Asymmetrical movement), there’s an element of building up coordination and stabilization to keep the bar centered, which also helps to avoid injuries.

Jefferson Squat

How To Do

  1. Straddle a loaded barbell placed on the floor and running sideways between your feet.
  2. Squat down to pick up the bar, grabbing it with one and facing palm backward and one hand facing palm forward.
  3. Hold the bar as you stand with a grip that’s wider than shoulder-width.
  4. Bend at the knees and hips, letting your glutes track backward to lower yourself.
  5. At the point where your thighs are parallel to the floor or the bar touches the floor, reverse direction, driving up forcefully through your heels to a standing position.


  • Keep your feet flat, your chest up, your back straight, and your shoulders back.
  • Ensure that the weight is evenly distributed between your two legs.
  • The lower you squat, the better the results will be, use smaller weight plates, so you can squat down further.

9. Box Squat

The box squat is a compound exercise that uses a barbell and a plyometric box to work for muscle groups throughout your body.

The posture of box squats puts slightly less pressure on your knee joints when compared to front squats or back squats.

This is a great exercise for learning how to squat because it reinforces the sitting-back portion of the squat. It is the best option for beginner who is doing barbell leg workout.

Box Squat
Box Squat

How To Do

  1. Place a box or bench that is about knee height behind you in the power rack or squat rack.
  2. Unrack the bar and move back so that you are several inches in front of the box or bench.
  3. Your posture should be tall, with your feet wider than hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  4. Your shoulders should be directly over your hips, with your head and neck in a neutral position.
  5. Squat back and down until your glutes make contact with the box, and immediately explode back up by pressing through your heels until you’re back in the standing position. Do not “plop” or fully sit down on the box.


  • As you stand, keep your chest high and squeeze your glutes
  • The goal is to squat down slowly and softly on the box and then immediately explode up.
  • Do not sit on the box and rock backwards, as this leads to compression of the spine; just pause and immediately raise.

10. Good Morning

Good Morning is a compound exercise that primarily targets the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.

It is named after the gesture of greeting someone by bending forward from the waist.

The erector spinae muscles of the lower back work isometrically to keep the spine in an extended position, while the hamstrings and gluteus maximus work isotonically to perform hip extension.

Good Morning Exercise

How To Do

  1. Stand holding a barbell (or Weight) on the back of your shoulders, grasping the barbell at each side. Can also perform the exercise as in the bodyweight version.
  2. Keeping your knees slightly flexed and your back and neck neutral, inhale as you flex your hips to lower your torso until it is close to or fully horizontal.
  3. Exhale as you raise your torso back up to the starting position by extending your hips.
  4. Complete the desired number of repetitions.


  • Keep your back and neck neutral throughout the exercise.
  • It is recommended that the lifter avoid rounding (flexing) or rotation (twisting) at any point during the movement.
  • Keep the movement slow, the form strict, and the weight light.
  • Make sure to hinge at the hips and not the waist.

10. Barbell Step Up

The barbell step-up is a great exercise for building lower-body strength and power. This exercise targets the quadriceps and also involves calves and glutes & hip flexors.

The step-up is a great all-round exercise that is perfect for all, since it can be modified to create a challenging workout for anyone, whether you have just started exercising or have been training for years.

It has a low risk of injury and, with a few adjustments, offers a good cardio and strength workout.

Barbell Step-Up

How To Do

  1. Place a knee-high box or bench in front of you and grasp a barbell supported on the back in each hand.
  2. Stand with your feet in a comfortable hip-width stance.
  3. Step forward with one leg onto the step and drive through that thigh to bring your body upward.
  4. Bring the trailing leg to the top of the step and stand on the box.
  5. Then step back with the opposite leg to the floor and lower yourself.
  6. Alternate legs with each rep. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


  • Control the movement, using your muscles to slowly lift and lower yourself.
  • Be sure to keep your low back in its natural arch and your upper body upright throughout the whole movement.
  • Keep your body upright and your feet and knees pointing in the same direction.

12 Barbell Hip Thrust

The barbell hip thrust is a popular exercise which is used to target the glutes and hamstrings for muscle and strength-building purposes.

Now, a lot of people are afraid to perform this movement or just not interested since it requires a little setup, and may even look a little funny.

Barbell Hip Thrust

How To Do

  1. Place a loaded barbell next to, and parallel to, a bench.
  2. Slide your legs under the barbell and sit on the floor with your back against the side of a bench. The barbell should be over your hips.
  3. Grasp the barbell on each side. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, approximately shoulder-width apart.
  4. Keeping your torso rigid, exhale as you raise the barbell by extending your hips until they are fully extended.
  5. Hold for a count of two and squeeze your glutes.
  6. Inhale as you lower the barbell by flexing your hips. Do not allow the barbell to touch the floor.


  • To prevent the bench from tipping over, place it against a wall.
  • If the barbell hurts your pelvis, use padding.
  • Keep your torso rigid. Your back shouldn’t arch, and your pelvis shouldn’t tilt.
  • All the movement should occur in your hips.

13. Barbell Hip Bridge

When you spend the majority of your day sitting, your glute muscles can get weaker, while the hip flexors in the front of your thighs can shorten, making them feel tight.

But when you practice glute bridges regularly you are targeting your glutes, hamstring and your lower back muscles, those muscles that are meant to hold your body upright will get stronger.

Barbell Hip Bridge

How To Do

  1. Lie supine (on your back) under a loaded barbell and position the bar so that it is over your hips.
  2. Grip the barbell to keep it in place, and flex both knees to plant both feet flat on the floor.
  3. Exhale as you raise the barbell off the floor by fully extending your hips.
  4. At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes and hold for a count of two.
  5. Inhale as you slowly lower the barbell back to the floor.
  6. Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions


  • Do not push with your arms.
  • Don’t overextend your back during the exercises, this may cause lower back pain.

14. Barbell Standing Calf Raise

The barbell standing calf raise is a machine-based exercise targeting the muscles of the calves, particularly the gastrocnemius or upper calf muscle.

It is usually performed for moderate to high reps, such as 12–20 reps per set or more, as part of the lower body portion of a workout.

Barbell Standing Calf Raise

How To Do

  1. Stand upright with a barbell supported on your upper back.
  2.  Hold the barbell with both hands facing forward.
  3. Push off the balls of your feet to raise your heels as high as possible.
  4. Make sure to flex your calf at the top of the contraction. Hold the contracted position for a second.
  5. Breathe in as you return to the starting position by lowering your heels.  
  6. Repeat the desired the repetitions.


  • Your knees should remain extended.
  • Don’t let your heels touch the floor throughout the set.
  • Use the maximum range of motion by allowing your heels to drop as far as possible and then raising them as high as possible.
Related Post: 12 Best Calf Exercises And Workout For Building Bigger Calves

15. Barbell Seated Calf Raise

Finally, if you’re looking for one more effective leg workout, try the barbell seated calf raise.

The barbell seated calf raise is a one of the best strength-gaining exercises that targets your calf muscles and accelerates their growth.

It specifically activates and stresses the soleus calf muscle, and so the exercise is best performed by maintaining an angle of 90 degrees at the knees.

Barbell Seated Calf Raise

How To Do

  1. Sit on the end of a bench, chair, or anything similar and place the barbell on the end of your thighs near your knee but not on your knee, of course. 
  2. Sit up straight and place the top half of your feet or balls of your feet on the elevated object so that your heels are hanging off. 
  3. Lower your heels just until you feel a decent stretch in your calves, and then flex your calf muscle to lift your heels as high as you can. Squeeze and hold for a second. 
  4. Lower your heels back down and repeat. 


  • Do the reps in a controlled way and limit momentum at the top of the movement.
  • Use the maximum range of motion by allowing your heels to drop as far as possible and then raising them as high as possible.
Know More: 7 Dumbbell Calf Exercises & Workouts For Bigger Calves

Set and Reps For Barbell Leg Training

Of course, the number of sets and reps will be determined based on your fitness journey, but here is a great starting point:

No. Of Sets:

  • Beginners: ~10 sets per week
  • Intermediate: ~15 sets per week.
  • Advanced: ~20 sets per week.

When a certain amount of volume stops being effective and your progress stalls, you can add sets to increase volume and use that as a driver of renewed progress. 

No. Of Reps:

The best rep ranges and loads to work with.

  • 6-8 reps with heavy load
  • 8-15 reps with moderate load
  • 15-20+ with light load

The load should bring you to or near failure within the given rep ranges to be effective. 

Training Plan As Per Your Goal

  1. For muscle endurance: Aim for 3–4 sets of 12-15 reps, with a moderate amount of resistance.
  2. For muscle strength: Aim for 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps, with a heavier amount of resistance.
  3. For muscle hypertrophy (increased muscle size): Aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, with a moderate to heavy amount of resistance.

It is always best to start with a lower number of reps and sets, and then gradually increase as your strength improves.

Furthermore, it is important to allow for adequate rest between sets, typically 60-90 seconds.

Barbell Leg Workout Samples

Leg Barbell Workout Plan For Beginner

ExerciseSetsRepsRest Time
Barbell Squat3-48-1060-90 sec
Barbell Deadlift36-860-90 sec
Walking Lunges3-48-1060-90 sec
Calf Raises412-1560-90 sec


It’s a good idea to add a variety of exercises to your leg workout routine to target the muscle from different angles and provide overall muscle growth.

Be smart: don’t limit yourself to barbell leg exercises. Get the benefits they offer and use other leg exercises to supplement them when needed.

A barbell workout can be easily incorporated into any training program and can be particularly effective when used alongside dumbbells, bodyweight, machines, and cables to build the biggest, strongest legs possible.

Benefits of barbell leg exercises

1. Increased muscle activation

More muscles are activated with barbell leg exercises than with machine-based exercises because barbell leg exercises require a lot of stabilization and coordination.

This can lead to greater muscle growth and improved overall strength.

2. Improved strength and power

Leg exercises generally involve using heavier weights, which can enhance your overall strength and power.

Physical ability can have practical applications in various aspects of your life, including sports and daily tasks.

3. Better balance and stability

Since barbell leg exercises require a lot of coordination and stabilization, they can help improve your balance and stability.

This can be particularly helpful for older adults or those with mobility issues.

4. Center of Gravity

The primary benefit of using a barbell compared to other free weight equipment is its capacity to follow a linear path directly over your center of gravity.

This makes it possible to increase the weight on basic human movements such as squats, hinges, and presses gradually, resulting in greater strength and muscle size.

5. Greater variety of exercises

Barbell-based leg exercises offer a greater variety of exercises than machine-based exercises, which can help prevent boredom and maintain an engaging workout.

This can also help you target different muscle groups and prevent injuries from being too hard on them.

6. Progressive Overload

Barbells are the best tool for progressive overload because they can hold smaller weight increments and higher maximum loads than other gym equipment like dumbbells and kettlebells.

Unlike these other free weights, barbells do not have weight limitations, and you can adjust the load as you get stronger.

Moreover, you can use both hands to hold the barbell, which is especially useful for exercises like squats that require you to stabilize heavy weights.


How many reps and sets should I do for barbell leg exercises?

For most people, 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps are a good starting point. As you get stronger, you can increase weight and reps to keep challenging yourself and growing your muscles.

How many exercises per leg workout

The workout should consist of 3-5 exercises that target the major muscle groups in the legs.

It is important to prioritize exercises that work multiple muscle groups and to vary your exercises in order to avoid boredom and target different muscle groups.

How do you train your legs with a barbell?

To train your legs with a barbell, choose 3-5 exercises that target the major muscle groups in the legs, such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, step-ups, leg presses, and hamstrings.

Can I train my legs every day?

No, It is not recommended to train your legs every day because they need enough rest and recovery time to build and repair muscle.

Overtraining can lead to injury, muscle fatigue, and decreased performance.

Does leg day increase testosterone?

Yes, research has shown that doing leg exercises, especially heavy compound exercises like squats and deadlifts, can increase testosterone levels.

Testosterone is a hormone that is important for muscle growth and development, and leg exercises have been shown to be particularly effective at increasing testosterone production.


If you’re a beginner or need to strengthen your legs, use the barbell without any weights.  As you improve, or if you’re already advanced, add additional weight, so you can increase the intensity. 

These barbell leg exercises and Workouts are hard to beat!  A strong lower body is important for your overall health and fitness, so be sure to never skip a leg day! 

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