Leg day is a crucial part of making progress in your gym journey. But why is leg day so important, and what are the best leg workouts for beginners?
Commonly Asked Questions On Beginner Leg Workouts
Should I do leg day as a beginner?
Yes, you should definitely do leg workouts even if you’re right at the start of your strength training journey. If your goal is to get stronger, build muscle in your legs, or tone up then leg day workouts are a must. Even if the gym isn’t your main exercise, leg day will help you get faster at your chosen sport.
But that doesn’t answer important questions like how many leg days a week for beginners or what should my leg day look like. Let’s do a deep dive into leg day workouts so you feel confident about training legs.
How long should leg day be for beginners?
When we talk about how long a leg day workout should be, we’re really talking about workout duration. Workout duration should always be about quality, not quantity. There’s no point doing 100s of reps just for the sake of it (this is known as “junk volume”, aka training that doesn’t help you get stronger, but instead is a waste of energy).
The reason leg day workouts are often longer than other sessions like back or shoulder workouts is that the leg muscles are so big. So you need to cover enough different exercises to stimulate the muscles.
But that doesn’t mean your leg workouts should be 2 hours long! A decent leg workout for beginners can be achieved in 45-60 minutes, including warm up and cool down.
How often should a beginner train legs?
The latest research about exercise frequency (how often you train a muscle group) says the best gains come when you train a muscle every 72 hours or less. This means doing a leg workout – or training legs within another session – at least every 3 days.
If this sounds a lot, remember that you can train legs as part of a lower body session or even a full body workout. But if you’re doing dedicated leg workouts, try to do two a week. Is training legs two days a week enough? Yes, if you make good exercise choices and work hard enough. We’ll cover a good workout routine for legs further down the page.
You might be wondering is it OK to do leg day every day. We wouldn’t recommend this. It’s not a good idea to train any muscle group every day, but leg day is taxing (and can make you sore!) and you’ll need extra recovery.
Start by doing a really decent leg workout twice a week, do it with enough intensity, and recover well with sleep, hydration and nutrition. You will soon see results.
Beginner leg day gym routine
Alright, enough chat about how many leg days a week for beginners. Let’s talk about what leg day should look like. We’ve already mentioned there are lots of different muscle groups in the legs. The main ones to think about are the quadriceps (front of the thighs), hamstrings (back of the upper legs), calves, and glutes (bum muscles).
These are big, strong muscles that can take a lot of work. It’s important to use a range of exercises. And don’t forget that even the best-known leg exercises like squats have plenty of variations for you to try. There are 100s of combinations of different leg day exercises to do – you’ll never get bored!
Top 5 leg exercises for beginners
Here are the top five leg exercises for beginners in the gym. Is five exercises enough for leg day? These are a great place to start. As you get stronger and build muscle, you could expand your leg day workout by adding more sets and reps, more exercises, or different variations of the exercises below.
Squats are the ultimate leg exercise because they work every muscle in your legs from the calves up to the hips. You don’t have to do traditional barbell back squats if you’re not confident with the technique yet. Use the options below whilst you learn how to back squat and front squat with the help of an expert.
Beginner squat variations
- Bodyweight squats or air squats
- Kettlebell goblet squats
- Smith machine squats
Lunges make it onto our list of best leg day exercises for beginners because they put more of the work through one leg. True single-leg exercises aren’t very beginner friendly, but lunges are a good way to introduce this style of training.
Beginner lunges variations
- Goblet lunges
- Bodyweight walking lunges
- Smith machine static lunges
Step ups bring another element into your leg training by requiring power to step up onto a different level. There are lots of ways to make step ups harder or easier as you progress.
Beginner step up variations
- Change the height of the box
- Use bodyweight only
- Hold one or two dumbbells
The leg press is a similar movement to the squat but works your legs differently because the weight is above or in front of you. Switch up your leg press exercises by moving your feet wider or narrower. What about leg press weight for beginners? Go as heavy as you can for 10-12 reps.
Beginner leg press variations
- Wide stance leg press
- Narrow stance leg press
- Tempo leg press (slow down, fast up)
Romanian deadlift (RDL)
It’s really important to work the back of your legs as well as the quadriceps. There are lots of machines and exercises that work the hamstrings but we’ve chosen the RDL because you can do it anywhere. Ask an expert to show you proper technique.
Beginner Romanian deadlift variations
- Barbell RDL
- Dumbbell RDL
Can cardio replace leg day?
Cardio is a great addition to your fitness routine but it’s not the same as leg exercises. You still need leg day if you run or walk miles a day. Think about cardio as being good for your heart, health, and mental wellbeing. Strength training is the way to build muscle and tone.
How long does it take to tone legs?
Now you’re fired up to tackle leg day, you’re probably wondering when you’ll see results. We get that you want to tone your legs ASAP, but be patient. Stick to two leg days a week, work hard, and don’t throw in junk volume for the sake of it. You will soon notice your legs toning up and you’ll feel great!