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7 Ultimate Barbell Leg Workout Exercises: From Deadlifts to Hip Thrusts

barbell leg workout deadlift


Barbell leg workouts are exactly what you need if: 

- You’re looking to bulk up skinny legs…

- OR to lose some meat on those legs and replace it with pure, lean muscle. 

With lots of leg day exercise options–it can be difficult to choose which leg workout is right for you. 

One of the most classic, old-school, and highly successful methods of building thicker, stronger legs is by using none other than the barbell

So whether you want to bulk up or slim down…

…In either scenario, adding a barbell leg workout to your exercise routine will: 

- Load up your legs with muscle

- Help you gain stability in your legs

- AND get you lifting larger amounts of weight, leading to heftier muscle mass! 

Today, I’ll cover the top 7 barbell leg workout exercises: 

  1. Deadlift 
  2. Stiff Leg Deadlift 
  3. Barbell Alternating Lunge 
  4. Barbell Back Squat 
  5. Barbell Front Squat 
  6. Standing Calf Raise 
  7. Barbell Hip Thruster 
barbell leg exercise


And for each, I’ll dive in to: 

- Pro Tips 


- Muscles Worked 

Let’s build some legs. 

7 Ultimate Barbell Leg Workout Exercises 

There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to barbell leg workouts. So…which exercises are best? In my opinion, these 7 barbell leg workout exercises should make the top of your list. 

barbell leg workout

Barbell Leg Workout Exercise #1: Deadlift 

Let’s start with the classic: The deadlift. Deadlifts may not always be the first thing that comes to mind when people say leg workout, but this tried and true muscle-builder lights up your glutes and hamstrings. Here’s how to do it. 

How to Do This Barbell Leg Workout Exercise

1) Place a barbell on the ground, and load it up with plates, so you have it at your desired amount of weight. 

2) Approach the bar with your feet shoulder-width apart and just under the bar. 

3) Bend over to grab the bar without bending your knees. 

4) Grab the barbell with an overhand (pronated) grip–just on the outside of either shin. 

5) Push your knees forward, now allowing them to bend slightly. At the same time, hinge your hips back, and maintain a neutral spine with a puffed-out chest

6) Push your knees against your forearms. 

7) Now, use your glutes to propel your body into a standing position, keeping the barbell against your legs. 

8) Lower back down to the starting position, keeping the barbell against your legs also on the way down. 


barbell leg workout - deadlift

Deadlift Pro Tips 

Pro Tip #1: Some people like to try a mixed grip when it comes to their deadlifts. 

This means that one hand is palm-down and the other is palm-up. 

A mixed grip can allow the bar to stop rotating as you hold it. 

Pro Tip #2: If you’re a more advanced lifter, try a hook grip. This grip is where you start by wrapping your thumbs around the bar and then wrap the rest of your fingers around your thumb. 

While this grip tends to be uncomfortable, it can lead to an extra-strong grip. 

Pro Tip #3: Remember to keep your grip on the barbell JUST outside your shins. Bicep tears happen when you try to grip the barbell with too wide of a grip. 

Pro Tip #4: Since we’re looking at all of this within the framework of a leg workout with a barbell, here’s a form tip to really help bias those legs: Think of this exercise as a reverse leg press

When you remember this prompt, it’ll keep you pushing those heels into the floor and working those glutes and hamstrings. 

Pro Tip #5: Remember to keep that barbell dragging up against those shins throughout the entire motion both UP and DOWN. 

Muscles Worked in This Barbell Leg Exercise







Barbell Leg Workout Exercise #2: Stiff Leg Deadlift 

Similar to the regular deadlift–this one involves minimal knee flexion in comparison. 

How to Do This Barbell Leg Workout Exercise

1) Set up a barbell on the ground just like a regular deadlift. 

2) Place your feet just under the bar–shoulder-width apart or narrower if more comfortable. 

3) When you bend over to pick up the bar, hinge back at the hips–allowing your knees to bend slightly. 

4) Grab the bar with an overhand grip–palms just outside the shins. 

5) Bring the bar up and hold it at your thighs. This is the starting position. 

6) Lower the barbell slowly, hinging back at the hips and keeping your knees in a fixed position. 

7) Now, use your glutes to thrust your hips forward, propelling the bar back up and placing your body back into a standing position. 

Stiff Leg Deadlift Pro Tips 

Pro Tip #1: The number one mistake people make with this barbell leg workout exercise is HOW FAR they bring down the barbell. 

Bringing the barbell further down your legs isn't necessarily better because if you round your back during this movement, you take the emphasis OFF your hamstring muscles and ON your lower back. 

Not great. 

So, only bring the bar AS LOW as you can go while still keeping a neutral spine. You should feel a good stretch in your hamstrings at the bottom. 

Pro Tip #2: You can choose to lock out your knees or keep a slight bend to them–but either way, your knees need to remain in a fixed position–NOT moving or bending throughout the exercise. 

Muscles Worked in This Barbell Leg Exercise 






Barbell Leg Workout Exercise #3: Barbell Alternating Lunge 

This barbell leg workout exercise is great if you want to slow down your roll to focus on JUST ONE SIDE at a time. When you do this, you can help iron out any muscular imbalances between both legs. 

How to Do This Barbell Leg Workout Exercise

1) At a barbell station, load up a high-set barbell with plates. 

2) Unrack the barbell, loading it up on your traps–so the barbell rests across your neck and shoulders. Use your hands on either side to support the barbell. 

3) Bring your left leg out in front of you in a long stride motion–bending at the knee. 

4) While you do this, your right knee will bend down and touch the ground. 

5) Pressing into your left heel, drive your body back up. 

6) Now, alternate legs on the next rep, bringing your right foot forward into the lunge. 

Alternating Barbell Lunge Pro Tips 

Pro Tip #1: This exercise is especially ideal for athletes because unilateral movement is involved in so many athletic motions in a sport. 

Pro Tip #2: As you go down into this lunge, your knee should be just ABOVE your ankle–NOT IN FRONT of your ankle. So be sure to check your form! 

Pro Tip #3: Check to be sure you keep a tight core and a neutral spine during this barbell leg workout exercise. 

Muscles Worked in This Barbell Leg Exercise






Barbell Leg Workout Exercise #4: Barbell Back Squat  

The barbell back squat is similar to the last barbell leg workout exercise because you’ll keep the barbell resting on your shoulder/back for the entirety of the exercise. 

In fact, where you place the bar on your back actually helps determine which muscles get worked. Higher placement on your traps is believed to enhance quad activation while setting the barbell a bit lower on your delts tends to bias the glutes and hamstrings a bit more. 

How to Do This Barbell Leg Workout Exercise

1) Load up a high-set barbell. 

2) Now, unrack the barbell–placing it across your shoulders and neck. 

3) Take about two steps back, slightly pointing out your knees and toes. 

4) As you slowly lower into a squat, drive your hips back into a hinge and bend your knees. 

5) Keep a puffed-up chest and a neutral spine. 

6) Now, drive your feet into the floor to lift the barbell back up. 

Barbell Back Squat Pro Tip

Pro Tip: Like the deadlift, it helps to think of this barbell leg workout exercise as a reverse leg press–pushing the floor away with your feet. 

Really drive those feet into the floor and feel it in your glutes and hamstrings as you press your body up. 

Muscles Worked in This Barbell Leg Exercise




Barbell Leg Workout Exercise #5: Barbell Front Squat  

Front squats can feel a bit more awkward than a back squat, but this barbell leg workout exercise can be clutch when you get the form right! 

How to Do This Barbell Leg Workout Exercise

1) Set a loaded barbell to about neck height. 

2) Then, facing the barbell, approach it with arms stretched out in front of you, bringing your neck up to the bar. 

3) Now, grab the bar with palms facing forward. Then, swing your wrists and elbows up to unrack and lift the barbell. 

4) Once unracked, keep the barbell resting on the front of your shoulders, supported by your fingers, and keep your elbows high. 

5) Take a wider stance with your legs than a regular squat. 

6) Slowly lower down into the squat position, keeping your hips stacked under your chest–rather than pushing them out.  

7) Now, lift the weight back up to the starting position. 

Barbell Front Squat Pro Tips

Pro Tip #1: Lots of people like to bend their torso slightly forward for this barbell leg workout exercise–which is what you'd want to do for a barbell BACK squat. 

But for the FRONT squat, you’re gonna want to keep your torso as vertical as possible, so the barbell doesn’t roll off your shoulders. 

Pro Tip #2: Widening your knees at the bottom of the squat could help in keeping your chest and hips stacked and your hips in close rather than straight out. 

Muscles Worked in This Barbell Leg Exercise





Barbell Leg Workout Exercise #6: Standing Calf Raise 

Tired of all the glute, quad, and hamstring work? 

Let’s take a break and focus on your calves. This barbell leg workout exercise is perfect for firing up those calves and getting them nice and chiseled. 

How to Do This Barbell Leg Workout Exercise

1) Load up a barbell and let it rest on your traps. 

2) Stand with your toes on a plate to elevate them just slightly. 

3) Now, push through the balls of your feet, lifting your heels up off the ground. 

4) Control the descent, and pause for at least 2 seconds at the bottom. 

Standing Calf Raise Pro Tip

Pro Tip: Keep a nice steady tempo for this one. At least 3 seconds on the descent. And a 2-second pause at the bottom will really get you feeling it in those calves! 

Muscles Worked in This Barbell Leg Exercise

Calves (ya guessed it!) 

Barbell Leg Workout Exercise #7: Barbell Hip Thruster

barbell leg workout: hip thruster


This one feels different than most of the other exercises in this article, so I saved it for last. Since you’re not on your feet for this one, you’ll really need to depend on those glutes to fire up and thrust your hips. 

How to Do This Barbell Leg Workout Exercise

1) With a box or gym bench behind you, lean back, so your shoulders and upper back rest against the box. 

2) Now, roll a barbell up over your leg until it comes just over your hips. 

3) Bend your knees, and put your feet flat on the floor. 

4) Lift your hips slightly, so the crease of your hips comes up to the barbell. 

5) Now, squeeze those glutes, and use your hips to drive the barbell up.

6) Pause at the top, and slowly lower back down. 

Barbell Hip Thruster Pro Tips 

Pro Tip #1: Definitely use a barbell pad with this one, so the barbell doesn’t cut into your hips. 

Pro Tip #2: This barbell leg workout exercise can take some getting used to, but once you get into a rhythm, you’ll really feel those glutes working! 

Muscles Worked in This Barbell Leg Exercise






Barbell Leg Workout Resources

If you found this article interesting, check out our other great resources on leg workouts with a barbell that you can add in to your routine today! 

“Heavy Kas Glute Bridge - What it is and why you should do it” 

“How to Do Barbell RDLs: Pro Tips, Form, & Muscles Worked”

“With These Powerful 6 Barbell Back Exercises, You Can’t Help but Get a Chiseled Back!”

Barbell Leg Workout FAQs

What leg exercises can I do with a barbell?

You can do lots of leg exercises with a barbell–there’s tons of variety! Check out the 7 barbell leg workout exercises in this article to see which ones stand out to you. 

How can I bulk up my skinny legs fast?

To bulk up skinny legs, barbell leg workouts are a great option because you can really load up the weight on those barbells. Of course, you want to make sure the weight is appropriate for you. And you also want to continue building on the weight from your last workout. 

Is barbell squat the best leg exercise?

The barbell squat is certainly one of the best leg exercises. But there are lots of great options for good barbell leg workout exercises. Check out the other options in this article! 






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