The 5 Best Barbell Exercises for Legs

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Building impressive legs takes a lot of time and effort. If you’re looking to avoid the proverbial “chicken legs” and take your legs to another level, then you will almost certainly need a barbell to perform a few key exercises.

But if you’re still wondering which leg exercises you can do with barbells, fear not – we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll show you the best barbell exercises for legs to help you build strong legs.

Note: We’ll show you which exercises you can perform with the barbell for legs, but we won’t tell you exactly how much weight you need to add to the barbell. That depends completely on your strength level – if you’re a beginner, try performing some exercises with the barbell only.


Squats are arguably the best exercise you can do with the barbell for your legs. It’s a massive quad builder, but it activates all of your lower body to some extent.

You should feel most of the activation in your quadriceps muscles. However, you will also notice some strain in your calves, glutes, and hamstrings, as well as your abs. It’s a very useful movement that will help you transfer the strength you gain to your real-life activities, especially sports.

To perform squats, you will need to master the technique to perfection first and then start progressively overloading the movement. It’s better to start with little to no weight (barbell only) and get the hang of the exercise first.

The key with squats is to keep your back as straight as possible during the movement and keep your legs wide apart. Your knees should not go over your toes at any point during the movement. The knees should also be facing your toes during squats.

Here’s a great video showing you some of the most common mistakes while performing squats and how to avoid them.


In addition to squats, deadlifts are the best exercise for building your legs and also your lower back. While squats will put more focus on the front of your legs, deadlifts are perfect for building your hamstrings, glutes, and your posterior chain. It also focuses your abs and upper back, as you can see here:

However, deadlifts are technically slightly more complicated than squats. It’s even more important to learn how to perform them properly before you start putting any weight to the barbell in order to avoid potential injuries.

Seasoned gym veterans will tell you the deadlift is one of the key compound movements of bodybuilding as it focuses on multiple muscles at the same time. And using a barbell for deadlifts is practical because you can easily add more weight and progress over time.

The key with deadlifts is to perform them with a good form. It’s important to keep your back straight and really focus that you’re pushing with your legs and not lifting with your lower back (this can lead to painful back injuries). You should also avoid excessive swaying at the top of the movement, and also focus on how you go down.

If you’ve never done deadlifts and you need some guidance, then this video will show you how you can perfect the potential errors that many beginners do when performing the exercise.

Trap Bar Deadlift

Conventional deadlifts and trap bar deadlifts are fairly similar in what muscles they target; perhaps there is a small difference in leg activation – trap bar deadlifts focus on quads more, while conventional deadlifts are better for hamstrings and lower back.

Trap bar deadlifts have long been believed to be better for beginners. That’s because they don’t force you to strain as much and move your knees as forward as you do with conventional deadlifts. That’s why trap bar deadlifts are better for overloading the movement.

Some argue that the hinge movement with normal deadlifts is more apparent than with trap bar deadlifts, which makes the trap bar deadlift a mixture between squats and deadlifts. Still, it’s a great exercise to do for your legs, especially for your lower back and quads.

It still takes a good technique when doing the exercise, though. You’ll need to master it to perfection, but it’s slightly friendlier for beginners because it’s more controlled. This video shows you the basics of trap bar deadlifts.

Good Mornings

The main mechanism behind good mornings is the hinge movement, which is similar to deadlifts. If done correctly, good mornings can be one of the best exercises for the posterior chain, especially for hamstrings, glutes, and the lower back.

However, you have to be very careful with this movement because if done incorrectly, it can cause niggling and long-term back injuries.

Again, the key to this exercise is to use the hinge movement to its maximum potential and keep your back as straight as possible. Many people also make the mistake that they go too deep with the movement; instead, make sure you don’t go parallel with your body – stop at around 15 degrees and then move your body upwards again.

Start with a lower weight if you’ve never done this exercise before – you can even start with no weight and only the barbell. Watch this helpful video that will give you some tips and tricks.

Hip Thrusts

The hip thrust is one of the best, if not the best, exercises for your glutes. It can be a bit uncomfortable for you at first with this exercise, but once you get used to it, it’s an excellent exercise for your glutes.

You will need a bench or an equivalent to lean your body against in order to perform this movement. Then, put the barbell onto your abs and start performing the hip thrust. You start at a low position, and the goal is to bring your back to a level position.

This exercise is very popular because it allows you to overload the movement easily by adding more weight to the bar. Watch this video that will show you how to perform the exercise easily.

Final Thoughts

So, which one of these barbell exercises for legs will you incorporate into your training routine? We believe that all are worth trying, as there is a great variety of these exercises.

These can be more than enough for a good workout, as they allow you to add more weight to the movement progressively.

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