In our eyes those who love the squat are 100 percent correct, so we’ll save you the suspense: It’s No. 1 in this ranking. However, we contend that the nine other moves featured here are great in their own right. They’re all proven muscle builders and should be rotated through a proper leg-training program over the course of a training cycle to maximise your development.

Here, are our 10 favorite leg exercises of all time. Feel free to debate their merits, quibble over their placement and lament those we’ve forgotten. Just don’t argue that the squat is overrated, or you may be quickly overrun by the true believers. And trust us: If they’re avid squatters, their legs are huge, so that’s a stampede you want no part of.

What are you waiting for? Let’s train legs today!

1. Leg Press:

Main Areas Targeted:

  • Quadriceps (emphasized with feet lower on platform and closer together), glutes and hamstrings (emphasized with feet higher and wider on platform)

How-To:

  • Sit squarely in the leg press machine and place your feet shoulder-width apart on the sled.
  • Keeping your chest up and lower back pressed into the pad, carefully unlatch the sled from the safeties.
  • Bend your knees to lower the platform, stopping before your glutes lift off the pad.
  • From there, powerfully extend your knees to press the weight up (but don’t lock them out at the top).

2. Step-Up:

Main Areas Targeted:

  • Quadriceps, glutes

How-To:

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of a knee- to hip-high step, bench or platform.
  • Starting with your feet in a shoulder-width stance, step forward with one leg onto the platform and drive through that thigh to propel your body upward.
  • Bring your trailing leg up and stand atop the platform, then step back with either leg to return to the floor.
  • You can either repeat with the same leading leg for all reps and then switch or alternate your lead leg from step to step.

3. Pistol Squat:

Main Areas Targeted:

  • Quads, hamstrings, glutes

How-To:

  • Begin in a standing position.
  • Extend one leg straight out in front of you, balancing on your other foot.
  • From here, squat all the way down by lowering your hips and glutes straight toward the floor, bending your knee until your working thigh is below parallel.
  • At the bottom, your nonworking leg and arms will be out in front of you for balance with your planted foot flat on the floor.
  • Drive through that heel to return to a standing position, making sure to never let that heel come up as you rep.

4. Walking Lunge:

Main Areas Targeted:

  • Quads, hams, glutes

How-To:

  • Holding dumbbells in each hand, step forward with one foot.
  • Bend both knees to lower your torso toward the floor, making sure your front knee doesn’t pass your toes at the bottommost position.
  • Stop just short of your rear knee touching the floor, then drive through the heel of your front foot while bringing your rear leg forward until you return to a standing position.
  • Then step with the opposite leg into a lunge, repeating the pattern.
  • Continue alternating down the floor.

5. Bulgarian Split Squat:

Main Areas Targeted:

  • Quadriceps, glutes

How-To:

  • Holding a dumbbell in each hand, step forward with one foot and rest your rear foot on an elevated platform or bench, top of the foot facing down.
  • Bend your front knee to lower yourself, making sure that knee doesn’t track out ahead of your toes. (If it does, take a longer step out from the platform.)
  • When your knee joint forms at least a 90-degree angle, reverse the motion, driving through the heel of your forward foot to return to standing.
  • Do not forcefully lock out the knee.

6. Hack Squat:

Main Areas Targeted:

  • Quads and glutes primarily, hamstrings secondarily

How-To:

  • Step inside a hack squat machine, placing your shoulders and back against the pads.
  • Set your feet at mid-platform just inside shoulder width, keeping your feet flat throughout the exercise.
  • With your chest up and core tight, unhook the safeties and slowly lower yourself, stopping when your thighs are just past parallel to the platform.
  • From here, powerfully press upward to the start position, keeping your knees bent slightly at the top to protect them from hyperextension.

7. Romanian Deadlift:

Main Areas Targeted: 

  • Hamstrings

How-To: 

  • Stand upright holding a barbell in front of your upper thighs with an overhand grip.
  • Place your feet shoulder-width apart and slightly bend your knees.
  • With your chest up, arms straight and core tight to maintain the natural arch in your low back, lean forward from your hips, pushing them rearward until your torso is roughly parallel to the floor or until you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings.
  • At the bottom, keep your back flat and head neutral.
  • The bar should be very close to or in contact with your legs throughout.
  • Flex your hamstrings and glutes to reverse the motion, bringing the bar back to the start position.

8. Front Squat:

Main Areas Targeted:

  • Emphasis on quads, plus glutes, hamstrings, calves and core

How-To:

  • Set the pegs in a power rack just at or below mid-chest, and place the safety bars at a level between your hips and knees.
  • Step up to the bar, crossing your arms to build a shelf to cradle it at your front delts and upper chest.
  • Keep your chest up, lower back and abs tight, and eyes forward as you step back into a shoulder-width stance.
  • Bend your knees and hips as if sitting in a chair until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor, then reverse direction by driving through your heels and pressing your hips forward to return to standing.

9. Barbell Squat:

Main Areas Targeted:

  • Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, core

How-To:

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and hold a bar across your upper back.
  • Your knees should be slightly bent and your toes turned out slightly.
  • Keeping your head in a neutral position, abs tight and torso upright, bend at the knees and hips to slowly lower your body as if you were going to sit in a chair.
  • Go as deep as you can handle, ideally to a point where your thighs come parallel to the floor or below while maintaining your natural lower-back arch, then forcefully drive through your heels and extend your hips and knees to return to a standing position.