Leg Muscles

Leg Muscles

In this lesson you will find information and exercise recommendations for the leg muscles. Even thought the exact definition for the leg is only the part between the knee and the ankle, in common usage we refer to the entire lower extremity, including the gluteus, thighs, calves and foot. Find leg exercises, training methods and information about other muscle groups at weight training main.


  • Front Side - Quadriceps Femoris or Quadriceps or simply Quads
    The quadriceps is located at the front side of your thigh and its function is to extend the knee.
    • Vastus Lateralis
      The Vastus Lateralis is the largest and strongest part of the quadriceps. It's located at the outside of the thigh.
    • Vastus Medialis
      The Vastus Medialis is the innermost quadriceps muscle. To work your Vastus Medials properly, you should always go through the full range of motion when you do leg exercises.
    • Rectus Femoris
      The Rectus Femoris is the muscle between Vastus Medialis and Vastus Lateralis. Its function is to help extend the knee, but the rectus femoris also acts as a hip flexor. Hip flexor => When you lift the knee in front of your stomach.
    • Sartorius
      The Sartorius is the long, thin muscle, that goes from the outside of the hip to the inside of the knee. It is the longest muscle in your body and its function is to assist in knee and hip flexion and hip rotation.
  • Back Side - Hamstrings or simply Hams
    The Hamstrings are the muscles at the back side of the upper leg and its function is to bend the leg.
    (Semitendinosus Muscle and Biceps Femoris)
    • Biceps Femoris & Semitendinosus Muscle
      Those two muscles bend the leg at the knee. When you do a fron stretchkick, you basically stretch these two muscles.
    • Gluteus Muscles - or simply Glutes
      Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus. The Gluteus muscles are the butt muscles and they are used when you stand up from a very low squat or when you kick you leg back or to the side. (butterfly kick or side kick) The Gluteus Maximus is the uppermost and biggest gluteus muscle.
  • Lower Legs - Calves
    • Gastrocnemius
      The Gastrocnemius is the powerful superficial muscle on the back side of the lower leg and has 2 heads. Extends the ankle. (most effective from half bent to fully extended)
    • Soleus
      The flat muscle underneath the Gastrocnemius. Also extends the ankle. (most effective from flexed to half bent)
    • Calcaneal
      Calcaneal => Achilles Tendon
      The word Calcaneal comes from Calcaneus, which is the heel bone (in latin). Carries the force from the calf muscles to the heel bone when you extend your ankle or jump on the balls of your feet. The Achilles Tendon is the strongest tendon in the human body.
    • Tibialis Anterior
      The thin muscle at the outside of the shin. Bends the ankle (when you pull your toes up).


  • The best exercise for overall strength is the barbell squat. The barbell squat does not only work your legs, but the entire body and therefore encourages testosterone production more than any other exercise. This again, leads to stronger arms, chest and back muscles.
  • Weak leg muscles are often the cause of knee problems.
  • Start with the heaviest leg exercise. You can warm up with leg extensions or another exercise, but the first exercise where you go to muscle failure should be the barbell squat or a leg press variation.
  • For strength, I recommend 5 sets of 5 repetitions. For volume do 3 or 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. And for endurance do 15 to 30 repetitions.
  • Stretch your leg muscles between sets and exercises. Even if you don't care about flexibility at all, you should stretch your 12 to 15 seconds after every set. For more information on leg stretches and stretching in general, please visit stretching main.