Check out this mean but effective leg workout from bodybuilding pro Klaus Myren Riis.
Leg day. We all know we need it, but too often we make an excuse and jump over to the bench press. It’s easy to spot who in the gym has skipped a leg day (or two), and for those of us who take pride in working out our legs, sometimes we find ourselves struggling for diversity. Some people argue the basics work best and that going back to fundamental movements and exercises will increase muscle growth. Others preach more complex workouts to target many muscles at once to promote big gains. But which one is best?
Professional bodybuilder Klaus Myren Riis says that the basics are just as effective as anything else. As a coach, fitness instructor, and personal trainer, Riis has helped so many people find their niche and see those big gains they thought would never come. Starting out as a fitness model and partaking in fitness competitions, Riis became known for his generosity and knowledge by those looking for guidance when it came to their own health and fitness. As Denmark’s first professional bodybuilder, he has competed in many different competitions and amassed a large following.
His work as a coach and personal trainer has done wonders for so many looking to progress in their own lives. He has helped so many competitors on the national and international level as coach of Team Riis Physiques take home the top prize and his 18 years of experience has given him great clout amongst fitness enthusiasts and athletes seeking a healthier lifestyle.
As a spokesmodel for health and fitness, he loves traveling the world and meeting fans from his massive social media following. For Riis, “Being fit, working out, and living a healthy lifestyle is what I love and live for. It has gotten me to experience different, exciting and challenging jobs and activities all around the world.”
This basic but effective leg day workout is a great way to improve your overall performance and see huge muscle growth. Give this routine a try and take advice from one of the best in the business.
Leg extensions are great for targeting the quads and are considered an open chain kinetic exercise, meaning the chain of movement is open and your legs are free to move. A strong quad can have great benefits to strengthen key attachments at the knee joint (1).
How to: Place your hands on the bar and your knees will be on the pad at 90 degrees. Lift your legs until they are extended straight, but do not lock them out. As you lower your legs, exhale to the starting position.
Total: 4 set of 15 reps each. On the last set, do 10 reps, drop the weight, do 10 more reps, drop the weight again, and do 10 more reps plus 10 partial reps.
Seated Leg Curls
Seated leg curls are a great hamstring exercise that move the weight through the knee. At the starting position, your hamstrings are relatively stretched, but as the weight starts to move, they contract to move the weight. The longer the muscle length, the more resistance can be applied to the muscle.
How to: Your back will be against the pad and your thighs under the leg pad. Your legs will be fully extended out in front of you and parallel to the starting position. Bending your knee, begin to lower your legs to a 90-degree angle. After a slight pause, raise your legs to the starting position.
Total: 4 sets of 10 reps. With each set, do 10 reps leaning forward off the back pad and 10 reps leaning back.
Good Old Squats
The squat is a great leg exercise that many of us already incorporate into our leg day. Squats can strengthen your core which provides benefits to posture and can increase balance. By strengthening the muscle of your lower body, squats will allow for better execution of full body movements to reduce the risk of injury (2).
How to: Place the bar just below shoulder height and rest it on the top of your back. Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Lower so your hips are below your knees and on the way up, drive through your feet and push your hips back to the starting position.
Total: 10 sets of 10 reps pyramiding up in weight on each set.
Sissy Squats are an underutilized exercise and a great way to supplement a quad exercise because they don’t put excessive pressure on your joints. These are great for those with a bulge in the back of the thighs because they work out your quads without any involvement from the glutes or hamstrings.
How to: With your feet slightly closer than shoulder-width apart, maintain a flat back and tight core and sit back as if a chair was under you. Maintain a constant breathe and stay moving at a gradual speed.
Total: 4 sets of 15 reps.
Lunges are great quad builders with the added benefits of strengthening your knees and increasing high leg muscle activity (3) while toning your glutes. They can also increase hip flexibility, core strength, and improve balance.
How to: Maintaining a tight core, step one foot forward slightly off center and bend to the ground. Alternate each leg and do so in a continuous movement.
Total: 4 sets of 30 reps.
Tips From Riis
Too often does Riis see people in the gym not pushing themselves, either by texting or talking on the phone and not going back to the BASICS. A lot of influencers on social media will try and make money by inventing new, complex ways to work out, but all you need are the basics to see big gains. If you push yourself to your limit, your legs will be trembling and burning and you will feel the effect of this monster leg workout.
Instead of relying on hashtags like beastmode, nodaysoff, or workhard to get you there, use correct form to maximize intensity and these basic workouts will prove to be more than effective. Riis says, “You can’t sculpt something if there’s no clay on there to begin with”, and he could not be more right. Rely on the basics for foundational strength and let your hard work show by the effort you put in.
Instead of excuses year after year, build muscle faster and more efficient by pushing your limits and having fun doing so. Try this monster leg workout for big gains and take advantage of this amazing advice from an all-time pro and champion coach in Klaus Myren Riis.
*Images courtesy of Klaus Myren Rys Instagram
- Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (2014). “Knee Pain: Safely Strengthening Your Thigh Muscles“. (source)
- Case, Marcus J.; Downey, Darcy L.; Knudson, Duane V. (2020). “Barbell Squat Relative Strength as an Identifier for Lower Extremity Injury in Collegiate Athletes”. (source)
- Jakobsen, Markus D.; Sundstrup, Emil; Andersen, Christoffer H.; Aagaard, Per; Andersen, Lars L. (2012). “Muscle activity during leg strengthening exercise using free weights and elastic resistance: Effects of ballistic vs controlled contractions”. (source)