Build leg muscle and burn fat with these five resistance moves

Use this strength session to challenge your leg muscles and build muscle in your quads, glutes and hamstrings

Woman performing a split squat
(Image credit: Getty)

If you train a lot but aren't noticing the muscle growth you want, or expect, to see then it might be time to switch out some of your cardio for a total strength-building session. This five-move lower body workout uses different types of weight to stimulate muscle growth and increase definition in your legs.

While you can certainly build some serious muscle at home with a set of the best adjustable dumbbells to hand, this lower body workout requires some extra equipment. All you will need in addition to some dumbbells is access to the leg press and leg extension machines, both of which are staple pieces of equipment in most gyms.

Once you've sussed out the right equipment, you can borrow this five-move session from Krissy Cela (opens in new tab), personal trainer, and co-founder of the EvolveYou workout app. The routine leans on isolation exercises such as the leg press to target specific muscles, like the quads, and compound exercises to work multiple muscles at once.

It's an intense routine and will challenge your legs but you can choose what load you work with per exercise. So it's ok to lower the weight or reduce the number of repetitions as you move through the routine.

 Just make sure you are performing each exercise with proper form and use Cela's demonstrations as a reference point. Good form is better for stimulating muscle growth and it will help prevent injury. 

Watch Krissy Cela's Five-Move Leg Building Workout

A post shared by Krissy Cela (@krissycela) (opens in new tab)

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Anyone who is newer to resistance training with weights might it useful to spend some time reading up on these beginner strength training tips to help you select the right load for this leg session. You can learn the ideal number of reps and sets required to work on your hypertrophy there. Hypertrophy is when you increase your lean muscle mass via exercise and lifting weights is the most popular way to do so.

Alternatively, Cela recommends in her workout how many repetitions and sets to do of each exercise so you might prefer just to follow her lower body session exactly as it is. You will find a full outline of her routine below:

  • Romanian deadlift: 10-12 reps, 4 sets
  • Hip thrusts: 8-10 reps, 5 sets
  • Split squats: 12 reps, 4 sets each leg
  • Leg press: 10-12 reps, 4 sets
  • Leg extensions: 12 reps, 3 sets

You aren't alone if you have a few wobbles during this leg-building session, Cela said herself, "That first session back after two weeks of inconsistent training is INTENSE". However, if you include this in your regular training regime you can level up your muscle growth by using heavier weights as you progress. This is called progressive overload, where you increase the load to continue your muscle gains and help you reach your strength goals.

Strength sessions can be time-consuming, and the rest periods between sets and repetitions may bore some people who enjoy circuit training. If this is you, you can still build muscle and strength by doing a bit of both. It's a good idea to create a workout split in your training and don't forget workout styles like high-intensity resistance training blend strength and cardio-based exercise into one. 

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

Jessica is Staff Writer at Fit&Well. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 


When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.