If you're a bikini competitor, you'd best not be skipping your leg days—and you'd best be maximizing the work that you're doing on them! Having sculpted legs with decent musculature is a necessity if you're going to place well. And even if you're not a competitor, they make for a well-rounded figure! NPC Competitor and Evlution Nutrition athlete Emily Plajer is here to show you how to do it.
Don't be fooled by the simplicity of this routine—it's all about the intensity you put into it. Want the bangin' quads, glutes, and hamstrings of a bikini athlete? Use a weight that's challenging and go to near failure on your sets. Emily confirms that the journey to the stage takes a lot of discipline and a lot of hard work—also that the joke about women not training as hard as men is old (and fake) news!
Be sure to get in a proper warm-up beforehand. Do a few bodyweight lunges. Then grab a set of bands and warm up your hips and glutes with some monster walks and banded squats.
Walking Lunge: 3 sets of 24 reps
When performing walking lunges, make sure that you're pressing through the heel of your front foot on each step, Emily says. This will help target your glutes more. Note that the wider you step, the more glute activation you'll feel, as well. By the end of 3 sets, your quads should be burning!
Keep your torso upright and your core tight to help maintain balance and also train your core stability. Do these in a superset with jump squats.
Jump Squat: 3 sets of 10 reps
"Supersets are always tough, but it's times like those that are going to push us," Emily says.
Tough is right, with a high-intensity plyometric exercise like this to help burn out those quads right after lunges.
Jump squats require more skill than you might think, demanding stability, coordination, speed, and even a good amount of hip and ankle mobility. As you jump up, swing your arms back and explode as high as you can. Land with soft feet in a controlled manner and immediately squat down, bringing your hands in front of you. Then repeat!
If these are challenging for you to perform correctly, don't rush them. Get the form down first, then work on increasing the speed.
Dumbbell Stiff-Legged Deadlift: 4 sets of 10 reps
Now we you to target those hamstrings directly. Many people confuse stiff-legged deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts. The main difference here is the knee flexion during the movement. The stiff-legged deadlift assumes a fully extended knee, therefore targeting the hamstrings and lower back more than the Romanian deadlift.
This exercise also targets the glutes, core, and back, so make sure you're engaging your abs and keeping your back completely flat throughout the movement.
Bulgarian Split Squat: 3 sets of 15 reps, per leg
This is one of the more brutal lower-body exercises! Place one foot on a bench—or any raised object about a foot or so off the ground—and assume a lunge position. Make sure your knee and ankle remain stacked to maintain a 90-degree angle when you are in the bottom of the lunge.
Keep your core engaged and your shoulders pulled back—no slouching! While your glutes and quads will get the beating here, Bulgarian split squats will no doubt engage your entire body (and maybe have you questioning if it's worth it...but it is, don't worry).
As Emily mentions, you can use dumbbells or plates, but if you're a beginner, you may find that your body weight is challenging enough! Do 15 reps on each leg.
Goblet Squat: 4 sets of 15 reps
Your final exercise is goblet squats, which you can do with a dumbbell, as shown, or even a kettlebell. You'll see in the video that Emily has her heels raised on a plate with a narrower stance, which places more emphasis on the quads.
As with the other exercises discussed here, keep your abs engaged to maintain proper position. Try not to let the weight pull you forward. Your shoulders and upper back are going to have to do some work here, too. Make this a regular in your lower body routine, and you'll be well on your way to defined and shapely legs!
Need a set of killer abs to go along with your lower body? Try Emily's Best Abs Workout for a circuit that doesn't disappoint!