How Can I Build My Legs To Match My Upper Body?

 Q: What can I do to bring up my legs? I admit that I’ve hardly trained them at all for the past three years. So my upper body is pretty big, but my legs are twigs. What would be the fastest way to get my legs in proportion to my upper body?

A: Yours is a common problem. Most guys want big arms and a big chest, but building impressive “wheels” isn’t usually high on the priority list. The problem is that the legs look even thinner than they actually are when compared to a muscular top half. That’s why the smart thing to do is include leg training from the very beginning.


At least you’re aware of your problem and are ready to correct the imbalance. I have to warn you, though, that leg training is the hardest workout you can do in the gym. The muscles in the legs are very large and potentially powerful. As a result, you have to train them with heavy weights and lots of reps to get them to grow. In other words, you’re going to have to go through some serious pain.


My first suggestion is to stick with the proven basic exercises. The regular barbell squat is the best exercise you can do for building up skinny quads. It’s also the most brutal exercise in existence. Squats involve your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hips and lower back. Once you get the form down, you can start to add some serious poundage and watch those legs grow.


Another proven exercise for building up the legs is the stiff-legged deadlift. It’s similar to the regular deadlift off the floor, but you keep your legs straight (but not locked), which stresses the hamstrings and strengthens the lower back. Because it’s also a basic exercise, the potential for using greater resistance and building more mass is definitely there.


I also like leg presses. Although the lower back is eliminated from the movement, you can use some very substantial weights by recruiting the power of the quadriceps, hamstrings and hips. The squat is still the king but the leg press is right behind in mass-building importance.


Here are two good beginning leg workouts to use on your road to physique balance:
Workout 1

Exercise: Sets Reps
Barbell squats 4 10, 8, 8, 6
Leg presses 3 12, 10, 8
Leg curls 3 10, 8, 8
Stiff-legged deadlifts 2-3 8-10

[half]Workout 2

Exercise: Sets Reps
Leg extensions 3 12, 10, 10
Squats 3 12, 10, 10
Dumbbell leg curls 3 10, 8, 6
Dumbbell stiff-legged deadlifts 2-3 8-10


You can use more moderate weights on squats in the second workout. That will enable you to go heavier at the first workout each week. The focus should be on performing each exercise in perfect form—with a full range of motion!—gradually increasing the resistance each week. By training your legs hard and consistently, you’ll eventually bring those wheels in proportion to your massive upper body.