Are Squats Necessary for Big Legs? [Benefits Plus Alternatives]

So, you want big legs? You’re at the right place.

But are squats necessary for bigger legs or can they be substituted for something else?

We will keep it short and get straight to the point. Squats are the holy grail of adding lean muscle mass to your legs. There’s nothing better for your quads!

Doing leg presses, extensions and hamstring curls are great movements and will help increase your leg size. However, squats are a compound movement that works all major lower body muscles better than anything else out there.

This article will answer some of the most asked questions about squats and describe a few benefits, plus the proper squatting method. 

If you are suffering from an injury that does not allow you to squat, do not worry. We have also compiled a few exercises that you can do to keep those leg gains coming.

What Are The Benefits of Squatting?

Squat workouts are a stable of strength training but they aren’t just for powerlifters and strongmen. You can perform them as a part of your regular fitness program to build a pair of big, muscular legs.

The major benefit of squats is that all major leg muscles are targetted while engaging your core and abdominals too. Specifically, your quadriceps are hit and the muscles activated in a major way. With the quads being the biggest muscles in your legs, this is why squats are ideal for building big legs.

Squatting reduces risk of knee injury and helps develop and strengthen your muscles, ligaments and joints that surround the leg muscles.It alleviates strain on the knees and ankles and provides you with better flexibility.

ben heavy squat in gym

Additionally, squats can help increase your bone density, resulting in stronger bones. It reinforces your skeleton, particularly vertebrae and lower limbs.

Squats can improve your overall health and body composition. If you squat regularly, you will build your quads and glutes primarily, but also work your hamstrings and hip flexors.

Your stance and stability will improve as your glutes get firm and your core becomes strong. You’ll be walking around with authority and confidence.

How to Squat Properly for Big Legs?

The barbell squat is an excellent advancement of the basic bodyweight squats. In our view, it’s essential to build big legs.

Many perform squats with weighlifting shoes which have a raised heel for better posture and stability.

Here’s how to do it properly to build the legs you dream of.

Start Squatting Correctly

  • Properly load the barbell onto your shoulders and ensure that you position it centrally at the top of your back.
  • With your legs at a shoulder-width distance with toes slightly outwards, tighten your core, prime and activate your quads, and keep your chest upwards.
  • Before you begin to drop into the range of motion, ensure that you keep your pelvis backward and knees slightly bent.
  • As you descend, imagine you are lowering straight down. Ensure that your knees are pointing slightly outward and not inwards. 
  • Reach the bottom of the movement when your quadriceps reach parallel to the floor or slightly below.
  • To return back to the top, press from the heels in your feet to return to your starting position.

If your bodyweight squat looks like a gollum imitation, forget squatting with weights and start with bodyweight squats. 

It’s possible to squat on the smith machine or hack squat too, but we’d always recommend training barbell squats without any weight. Once you master the technique and movement, you’ll be able to add the plates on eventually. Go with technique first!

Even if you’re a novice gym trainer, try and incorporate squats into your plan as you strengthen your legs.

Can You Substitute Other Exercises for Squats?

Suppose you don’t have the anatomy to back squat deep and securely while working the quadriceps. In that case, it’s time to reconsider your approach.

If you have an injury or cannot squat due to poor joint mobility, try to substitute it with other lower body exercises.

The idea is to look for movements that allow you to work out with heavier weights while keeping pressure on the contraction.

1. Leg Press

The leg press is an excellent exercise to build more giant legs without squats.

It is critical to complete the leg press in the broadest range of motion possible while keeping a flat lower back. This squatting technique is necessary to optimize benefits and prevent undue stress on the knees and lower spine.

You can perform this exercise by positioning the feet towards the sled’s bottom end and correctly loading the quadriceps by regulating the descending phase.

2. Walking Lunges

woman doing a bodyweight lunge

Lunges are a dynamic lower-body exercise that works the quads, buttocks, and hamstrings.

They are an excellent workout for not just developing more giant legs but also for lifters wishing to increase strength and mind-muscle coordination. With little to no setup, you can perform this movement with dumbbells, barbells, or just your bodyweight.

To isolate the quadriceps more, take shorter steps and slowly increase the extent of knee flexion with each step.

When you take more extensive steps, you can increase the amount of knee extension and hip flexion to involve more of your hamstrings and glutes.

3. Leg Extension

Single joint leg workouts can be an excellent technique to increase leg growth without causing excessive systemic fatigue. 

By including leg extensions into a workout regimen, you may promote hypertrophy by performing higher rep sets with shorter rest times.

It is crucial to realize that doing a lot of single-joint workouts may not be the best idea for most individuals. Use the leg extension for warm-up movement or moderate training sessions instead.

4. Hack Squats

This exercise is a fantastic alternative for anyone who does not have access to a barbell to perform back or front-loaded squats.

The hack squat equipment targets the quads in particular. Unlike the back squat, the hack squat equipment places the lifter in a posture that encourages more knee extension than regular back squats.

This range of motion isolates the quads to a greater extent while also reducing stress on the pelvis and lower spine.

So hack squats are the way to go if you want to grow big quads but cannot do so due to certain physical limitations.

5. Split Squats

The split squat is a complex leg exercise that stimulates various muscle groups in the lower body, such as the hip flexors, hamstring, quads, and buttocks.

Split squat, when performed correctly, may help build leg strength and flexibility. They are done by putting one leg in front of another and descending your body slowly while keeping constant tension on your butts and hamstrings.

A mention for hamstring curls for big legs

No, hamstring curls will not directly increase the size of your quads, but they will help the size of your overall upper leg. 

The hamstring curls are a great way to isolate your hamstrings, as well as strengthening your glutes.

When your hamstrings and glutes are strong, your quads and squats are going to benefit. Stronger hamstrings can endure the stress of exercise and contribute to the stabilisation of the knee by taking unnecessary pressure off your joints.

Additionally, hamstring curls stretch your quadriceps, which can alleviate quad stiffness and even back discomfort.

Wrap up on squats for big legs

Suppose you really can squat efficiently and adequately. In that case, you can be confident that you will be squatting strong, deep, and often!

Lack of mobility, bad posture, injury problems, and structural abnormalities (giant femurs and small torsos) indicate that placing a bar on your shoulders isn’t worth the risk/reward.

However, if you can, there’s nothing better for big legs than squats! Stay optimistic and select the workouts that are best for you.