Leg and Ab Workout for Strength and Muscle Mass

In this article, you’ll find a highly effective leg and ab workout to build lower body and core strength and muscle mass. 

Your legs and core form the foundation for almost all physically demanding tasks in everyday activities. Muscular and strong legs and abs also enhance your entire physique and make you look fit and strong.

This is a premium workout for intermediate lifters and above, available in our workout tracker StrengthLog, which you can download for free for your device:

Can You Train Legs and Abs on the Same Day?

Absolutely! In fact, a leg and ab workout makes for a great combination. Your leg and core muscles complement each other.

While many leg exercises also activate your abdominal muscles, they won’t leave your core exhausted and unable to do crunches, leg lifts, and other exercises.

The only thing to keep in mind is to train your legs before your abs workout. Your core is heavily involved in lower-body work, like squats and lunges. If your abs are already tired, your stability in those movements might suffer.

Leg and Ab Anatomy and Function

Before we delve into the leg and ab workout, let’s look at how the involved muscles work.

If you want to skip the anatomy lesson, click here to jump straight to the workout.


The quadriceps femoris, also known as the quads, is a group of four muscles at the front of your thigh. They are the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. Together, the quadriceps are the largest and strongest muscles in your body, by a large amount:

The quads are responsible for extending the knee joint and flexing the thigh at the hip joint. That means they allow you to kick, run, jump, and walk, as well as squat and deadlift in the gym. The quadriceps muscles also help to stabilize the knee joint and keep the patella in place.


The hamstrings are three muscles on the back of your thigh: the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris.

Your hamstrings work together to flex your knee joint (bend your leg) and extend your hip joint (straighten your leg). They also help to stabilize your knee joint during movement.

They act in opposition to your quadriceps; when one set of muscles contracts, the other set relaxes.


The glutes are a group of three hip muscles in the buttock region: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus.

  • The gluteus maximus is the single largest and strongest muscle in the human body. It helps you kick your leg back and move it away from the midline of your body.
  • The gluteus medius and minimus are smaller muscles that work together to abduct and internally rotate the thigh. They also help to stabilize the pelvis and trunk when you walk.

Your glutes are something of a central power hub for your entire body: whenever you do any athletic task, they generate the force you need to perform it.

Abdominal Muscles

Your abdominal wall contains and protects your organs. It creates pressure inside your abdomen that stabilizes your trunk when you lift something and allows you to perform essential things like breathing, coughing, and even pooping.

In addition, it assists in moving your spine as needed and helps you maintain good posture.

The abdominal wall consists of five muscles: the rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique, transversus abdominis, and pyramidalis.

  • The rectus abdominis is your “six-pack” muscle. It is actually a single muscle divided by lines of connective tissue.
  • Your internal and external obliques help rotate your spine and bend from side to side.
  • The transversus abdominis stabilizes your trunk and lumbar spine and helps prevent low back pain and injury.

In addition, you might have a small triangular muscle in front of the lower part of the rectus abdominis called the pyramidalis muscle. “Might,” because not everyone has it. We’re not sure what it does, although it likely helps stabilize the linea alba (the thin band of connective tissue that runs down the front of your abdomen), and those who don’t have it do fine without it.

Leg and Ab Workout: The Exercises

This leg and ab workout consists of nine exercises: five for your legs (including your glutes) and four for your abs.

Leg Workout

  1. Squat 4 sets x 6–10 reps
  2. Bulgarian Split Squat 4 sets x 8–10 reps
  3. Leg Extension 4 set 10–12 reps
  4. Leg Curl 4 sets x 8–10 reps
  5. Romanian Deadlift 4 sets 6–8 reps

Ab Workout

  1. Ab Wheel Rollout 2 sets x max reps
  2. Hanging Knee Raise 2 sets x 10 reps
  3. Oblique Crunch 2 sets x 15 reps
  4. Plank 2 sets x max time

The leg workout leaves no muscle fibres in your quads, hamstrings, adductors, lower back, or glutes untouched with a great combination of compound exercises and isolation movements, heavier and lighter weights, and lower and higher reps.

The ab workout targets your entire core: your lower and upper abs, your internal and external obliques, plus all the smaller muscles below the visible six-pack.

How to Fit the Leg and Ab Workout into Your Training Program

Perform this ab and leg workout once every 4–6 days for best results. That gives you the ideal training volume and frequency to build muscle and strength. 

It also allows you to use it with almost any three- four- five- or six-day training split you prefer.

Here are some examples:

Three-Day Split

  • Day 1: Chest and back
  • Day 2: Legs and abs
  • Day 3: Shoulders and arms

Push/Pull/Legs Split

Push pull legs bodybuilding split
  • Day 1: Chest, shoulders, and triceps
  • Day 2: Back and biceps
  • Day 3: Legs and abs

Four-Day Split

  • Day 1: Chest and back
  • Day 2: Legs and abs
  • Day 3: Shoulders
  • Day 4: Arms

Five-Day Split

  • Day 1: Chest
  • Day 2: Back
  • Day 3: Legs and abs
  • Day 4: Shoulders
  • Day 5: Arms

Your imagination is the limit. This leg and ab workout is incredibly versatile, so feel free to include it in whatever way you split your major muscle groups.

Read more:

>> The 10 Best Bodybuilding Splits

Rest Times

There is no need to start a timer between sets to keep track of your rest intervals to the second. Both long and short rest times work well for muscle growth, although some studies suggest a benefit from resting at least 60 seconds.

In compound movements like the squat, in particular, resting for a few minutes allows you to lift heavier weights and do more reps.

These recommendations for rest intervals are perfect for most lifters:

Warming Up for the Leg and Ab Workout

Warming up before your leg and ab workout helps you safely perform your best.

A warm-up increases blood flow to your muscles, wakes up your nervous system, increases your core temperature, enhances your range of motion, and prepares you mentally for the hard work to come. 

A good warm-up includes a combination of dynamic stretches and a series of ramp-up sets of the first exercise of your workout.

Here is a sample legs workout warm-up:

Start with five minutes of light cardio, like walking or jogging on a treadmill, jumping jacks, or the stationary bike, to get your heart rate up and break a light sweat.

Follow up with dynamic stretches that involve all major muscles in your lower body:

  • Leg swings (front, back, and side swings)
  • Hip circles
  • Knee circles
  • Ankle circles
  • High knees
  • Butt kicks

Finally, do a series of ramp-up sets for the first exercise: the barbell squat.

  1. 10–15 reps with an empty barbell
  2. 6–8 reps with 50% of the weight you’ll use for your first working set
  3. 5–6 reps with 65%
  4. 3 reps with 80% 
  5. 1 rep with 90%

You should now be ready to hit the weights for your first real set and perform at peak capacity.

There is no need for a specific abdominal warm-up. Your core will be plenty warm when you get to the ab part of the workout.

Leg and Ab Workout Exericse #1: Squat

The barbell squat barely needs an introduction. It is a core lift for improving athletic performance in most sports and building muscle in the lower body. In addition, when you get stronger in the squat, that strength transfers to many everyday tasks, like lifting and carrying heavy things, making your life a little easier.

When performed correctly, few exercises are more effective than the barbell squat for building muscle. However, there is no universal “right” way to squat, and you might have to experiment with your foot position, bar placement, and even footwear to find the ideal way to squat for your body.

If it feels right, you’re likely on the right track. Don’t listen to those telling you you must squat a certain way. However, if you’re looking to emphasize your quads, you want to adopt a moderately narrow stance and place the bar on or slightly below your trapezius muscle.

Also, a full range of motion should be your goal for complete muscle development. Half squats have their place when training for specific sports and can help a powerlifter blast through sticking points, but full squats build more muscle. Also, if you stop short of at least parallel, you rob your glutes and hamstrings of important work.

How to Squat

  1. Place the bar on your upper back with your shoulders blades squeezed together. Inhale and brace your core slightly, and unrack the bar.
  2. Take two steps back, and adjust your foot position.
  3. Squat as deep as possible with proper form.
  4. With control, stop and reverse the movement, extending your hips and legs again.
  5. Exhale on the way up or exchange air in the top position.
  6. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

The dumbbell squat is a viable alternative to the barbell variant.

Leg and Ab Workout Exericse #2: Bulgarian Split Squat

Bulgarian Split Squat for leg and ab workout
Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is a fantastic exercise for your lower body – your quads, glutes, and adductors in particular. You can do it with a barbell or a pair of dumbbells.

The split squat is a unilateral movement, meaning you work one leg at a time. That means several unique benefits:

  • Since you’re on one leg, your body has to work hard to keep you stable, which helps improve your balance and coordination.
  • Your core muscles are engaged to help you stay upright: great for developing a stronger and more stable core.
  • The split squat automatically encourages an extended range of motion and is a fantastic exercise for flexibility and mobility you can use in other lower body movements (and in everyday life).
  • The unilateral nature of split squats helps you identify and fix potential muscle imbalances between the left and right side of your body.

Many lifters and bodybuilders have a love/hate-relationship with Bulgarian split squats. It’s a tremendous exercise for building leg muscle mass and strength, but it’s also quite challenging. When you’re done with one leg, you have the opposite side to go, and they can leave you winded and a sweaty mess.

Still, effective leg training is never easy, and there are few exercises more effective than the Bulgarian split squat.

How to Perform Bulgarian Split Squats

  1. Place a bar on your upper back or hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands.
  2. Stand with your back turned against a bench, which should be about knee height. Stand about one long step in front of the bench.
  3. Place your right foot on the bench behind you.
  4. Inhale, look forward, and squat down with control until right before the knee of the right leg touches the floor.
  5. Reverse the movement and extend your front leg again, while exhaling.
  6. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions, then switch side and repeat with your right leg forward and your left foot on the bench.

Leg and Ab Workout Exericse #3: Leg Extension

The squat might be the undisputed king of lower-body exercises, but the leg extension is the only exercise that fully isolates your quadriceps. In addition, it targets a part of your quads that squat-type movements aren’t very good at activating: the rectus femoris head in the middle of the front of your leg.

Research supports this theory, with studies showing superior muscle growth in the rectus femoris from the leg extension.

In other words, leg extensions complement squats perfectly. Together, they make the ultimate quad-building combo and a cornerstone of your leg workout.

To maximize the benefits of the leg extension, squeeze your leg muscles for a second at the top of the movement and lower the weight slowly and with full control to feel the burn and make your quads scream for mercy.

How to Perform Leg Extensions

  1. Adjust the machine so the pad is just above your feet, with a ∼90-degree angle between your upper and lower legs.
  2. Sit on the seat and place your ankles behind the pad, ensuring that they align with the pivot point of the machine.
  3. Grip the handles on the sides of the machine for stability.
  4. Engage your core and maintain an upright posture.
  5. Extend your legs, raising the weighted bars in a controlled manner. Focus on the quadriceps muscles as you move.
  6. Ensure that the motion is smooth and that you’re not using momentum or jerking the weight up.
  7. Extend your legs fully, hold this position for a moment, and squeeze your quads.
  8. Lower the weight back to the starting position with full control.
  9. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Leg and Ab Workout Exericse #4: Leg Curl

At this point, your quads should be ready to call it quits. That doesn’t mean the end of your leg and ab workout, though. Many bodybuilders neglect the back of their legs – the hamstrings – but “out of sight, out of mind” won’t cut it if you want complete lower body development.

The leg curl is the best way to isolate your hamstrings. You can do seated or lying leg curls depending on your preferences and what machines are available in your gym.

According to research, the seated leg curl is the best option for hamstring growth with ~1.5-fold greater muscle hypertrophy.1

  • If you have access to a seated leg curl, it’s a good idea to use it for the majority of your workouts and switch to the lying variant now and then for variety.
  • If you can only do lying leg curls, don’t worry. It’s still an excellent exercise for building your hammies, especially as part of this comprehensive leg workout routine.

How to Perform Leg Curls

  1. Adjust the machine so that you are correctly positioned. Your knees should be in line with the machine’s joint.
  2. Lift or push the weight down (depending on whether you chose the lying or seated leg curl) by bending your knees as far as possible.
  3. Slowly lower or let the weight back again.
  4. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Leg and Ab Workout Exericse #5: Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift is one of the very best compound exercises for building strength and muscle in the posterior chain (the back of your body). It is a variation of the traditional deadlift but places more emphasis on your hamstrings and glutes.

In the leg curl, you work your hamstrings by bending your knees, but with Romanian deadlifts, you do it through hip extension. Including both in your workout ensures complete hamstring development, with excellent glute activation to boot.

Get a nice stretch at the bottom of the movement, but be careful not to go too deep and round your back. Tucking your chin into your neck as if holding an egg under it helps keep your spine in a perfect position throughout the movement.

How to Perform Romanian Deadlifts

  1. Get into the starting position by deadlifting a barbell off the floor or by unracking it from a barbell rack. Stand feet hip-width, inhale, and brace your core slightly.
  2. Lean forward by hinging in your hips. Keep your knees almost completely extended.
  3. Lean forward as far as possible with good form (no rounding your back). You don’t have to touch the barbell to the floor, although it is OK if you do.
  4. Reverse the movement and return to the standing position. Exhale on the way up.
  5. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Note 1: You can stand on an elevation (for example a weight plate) if you want to extend the range of motion without hitting the floor.

Note 2: The dumbbell Romanian deadlift is a viable alternative to the barbell variant.

Leg and Ab Workout Exericse #6: Ab Wheel Rollout

Ab wheel rollouts are more demanding than most other abdominal exercises, which is why they are the first exercise of your leg and ab workout. If you haven’t done ab wheel rollouts before, be prepared for some muscle soreness tomorrow.

The effort is well worth it, though, as ab wheel rollouts are one of the best ab exercises, with extra emphasis on your lower abs.2

If you’re new to the ab wheel rollout, start by practicing with a partial range of motion. Roll out as far as you can without sacrificing your form. Then, gradually increase the range of motion as you get stronger.

The kneeling variant of this exercise is more than enough for most of us, but if you’re an ab wheel fitness enthusiast, try performing it with straight legs and standing on your toes. If you haven’t done them before, prepare yourself for being unable to do more than half a repetition: the eccentric part of the first rep.

If you don’t have an ab roller, you can use a regular barbell instead, although it can be more difficult as the barbell is significantly heavier.

How to Perform Ab Wheel Rollouts

  1. Start by kneeling on the floor with your hands on the ab wheel, placed directly in front of your knees.
  2. Engage your core and slowly roll the wheel forward until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your head.
  3. Be sure to keep your back straight and your core engaged throughout the entire movement.
  4. Reverse the movement, roll the ab wheel back towards your knees, and return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Leg and Ab Workout Exericse #7: Hanging Knee Raise

The hanging knee raise works both your abs and hip flexors, making it an excellent all-around exercise for a strong core. 

The most important things to keep in mind when doing hanging knee raises are to keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement and not swing your legs up. Keep the movement controlled and deliberate.

  • If you can’t lift your knees as high as in the animated gif above, that’s okay. Start by raising them as high as you can and gradually work your way up.
  • Conversely, if you find hanging knee raises too easy, you can do hanging leg raises instead. Keeping your legs straight makes the movement significantly more challenging.

How to Peform Hanging Knee Raises

  1. Grasp a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hang from the bar with your arms fully extended and your body in a straight line from your head to your heels.
  3. Engage your core and keep your back straight.
  4. Bend your knees and raise your legs towards your chest, as high as you can, keeping your back straight and your core engaged.
  5. Slowly lower your legs back down to the starting position.

Leg and Ab Workout Exericse #8: Oblique Crunch

Many ab programs focus on your rectus abdominis muscle only. Not so with this leg and ab workout, as the oblique crunch will take care of the muscles on the sides of your torso.

Unlike in the traditional crunch, you perform a twisting motion as you lift your upper body, forcing your obliques to do more of the work. If you can do more than 15 reps per side, grab a weight plate and hold it to your chest for added resistance.

How to Perform Oblique Crunches

  1. Lie on your back, with your hands on the side of your head and your knees bent to about 90 degrees.
  2. Contract your abs and lift your upper body diagonally while your lower back stays in touch with the floor. The elbow and shoulder on the right side of your body move towards the left leg knee, and vice versa.
  3. Bend as far as possible and then return to the starting position.

Leg and Ab Workout Exericse #9: Plank

The last exercise of the leg and ab workout is the plank, an excellent bodyweight exercise for your abs.

Research shows that planks activate your abdominal muscles, and indeed your entire core, more effectively than isolation exercises like crunches.3 When your body leans forward in the plank position, you force all muscle fibers in your midsection to work together to hold your spine in a stable position.

That also means strength gains that carry over to exercises like the squat and the deadlift, where you benefit from maintaining intra-abdominal pressure.

How to Perform the Plank

  1. Stand on your elbows and feet.
  2. Brace your abs and try to form and hold a straight line from your head to feet.

For additional benefits, focus on contracting your glutes while you hold the plank position and move your elbows up close to your head, like this:

These two small changes make the exercise five times more effective for activating your abs than the traditional plank.4

Can You Superset the Leg and Ab Workout?

Yes, you can superset parts of the leg and ab workout.

Supersets are a training method where you perform two exercises back-to-back with little or no rest in between. You can use any two exercises for a superset, but the original concept uses opposing muscle groups, like quads and hamstrings.

The ideal superset for this workout is leg extensions + leg curls. While you blast your quads in the leg extension machine, your hamstrings rest, and vice versa.

You can also make an ab circuit of the four abdominal exercises, meaning you perform them one after the other without resting. Once you’ve done one such circuit, rest as normal, then do another.

Four exercises in a row is called a giant set. They give you a great burn and really save time.

How to Get Your Abs to Show

You can have the greatest abs in the world, but if they are covered by fat, no one will know.

No workout will burn the fat off your midsection. Instead, you have to go on a cut if you want your abs to be visible.

A cut means reducing – cutting – your body fat by eating fewer calories than you burn while you continue to lift weights. That makes your body tap into its fat reserves for energy, and your abs will slowly but surely emerge as you get leaner.

Check out these great resources for easy-to-understand guides to cutting:

>> How to Cut: Lose Fat and Keep Your Muscle Mass

>> How to Cut for Bodybuilding: Top 15 Tips for Success

Track the Bodybuilding Leg And Ab Workout in the StrengthLog App 

There you have it! A complete leg and ab workout routine to help you build muscular legs and a strong core!

If you want to grow bigger and stronger, the key to fast and consistent gains in strength and muscle is to increase the weight you use in your training or to do more reps. 

A great way to keep track of your progress is with a workout log. Our app StrengthLog is 100% free to download and use as a workout tracker and general strength training app. All the basic functionality is free – forever.

You’ll also find a bunch of training programs and workouts in our workout log app. Many are free, but our more advanced programs and workouts (such as this one) are for premium users only.

Want to give premium a shot? We offer all new users a free 14-day trial of premium, which you can activate in the app.

Download StrengthLog for free with the buttons below:

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>> Click here to return to our list of training programs and workouts.

For more stand-alone bodybuilding workouts like this, check out these great resources:

Good luck with your training!


  1. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 53(4):p 825-837, April 2021. Greater Hamstrings Muscle Hypertrophy but Similar Damage Protection after Training at Long versus Short Muscle Lengths.
  2. Physical Therapy, Volume 86, Issue 5, 1 May 2006, Pages 656–671. Electromyographic Analysis of Traditional and Nontraditional Abdominal Exercises: Implications for Rehabilitation and Training.
  3. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 27(3):p 590-596, March 2013. Integration Core Exercises Elicit Greater Muscle Activation Than Isolation Exercises.
  4. Sports Biomechanics, Volume 13, 2014 – Issue 3. An electromyographic comparison of a modified version of the plank with a long lever and posterior tilt versus the traditional plank exercise.
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Andreas Abelsson

Andreas is a certified nutrition coach and bodybuilding specialist with over three decades of training experience. He has followed and reported on the research fields of exercise, nutrition, and health for almost as long and is a specialist in metabolic health and nutrition coaching for athletes. Read more about Andreas and StrengthLog by clicking here.