Mass building comes with a set of rules. That means starting your leg workout with the most challenging exercises and heaviest loads, hitting your thighs from a variety of angles, keeping the volume (number of total sets and reps) high, and training to muscle failure.

Altering your foot placement on the leg press allows you to recruit leg musculature in slightly different ways. Putting your feet up higher on the sled shifts some of the emphasis from the quads to the hams and glutes because a greater degree of hip flexion/extension is taking place. Also, don't shortchange the depth of your knee bend—which should reach 90 degrees—by going too heavy, limiting glute and hamstrings activation. Unless you're following a pre-exhaust routine, save the single-joint movements for last.

This workout follows a reverse-pyramid protocol, which allows you to take more total sets to muscle failure. As the rep target goes up, be sure to lighten the weight proportionally. The workouts target four muscle groups: quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. To shorten the workout, you could eliminate exercises for calves, hamstrings, or both; if so, hit calves and hammies on a different training day.


  • Do as many warmup reps as you need, but never take them to muscle failure.
  • Choose a weight that allows you to reach muscle failure by the target rep listed.
  • If you have a spotter, do a few forced reps on your 1-2 heaviest sets of each exercise.
Mass-Building Routine
Barbell Squat
4 sets, 6-8, 6-8, 8-10, 8-10 reps (Lighten the weight after your first 2 sets.)
Leg Press
4 sets, 8-10, 8-10, 10-12, 10-12 reps (Alternate 2 different foot positions.)
Dumbbell Walking Lunge
3 sets, 10, 12, 14 steps per side
Leg Extensions
3 sets, 10 reps (Do a single dropset on each set.)
Romanian Deadlift
3 sets, 8, 10, 12 reps
Lying Leg Curls
3 sets, 8, 10, 12 reps
Standing Calf Raises
4 sets, 12, 12, 20, 20 reps

About the Author

Bill Geiger

Bill Geiger

Bill Geiger, MA, has served as a senior content editor for and group editorial director with MuscleMag and Reps magazines.

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Workout Legs