Travel Workouts

Hardest Leg Workout Ever

TLDR: If you’re looking for a shock to the system, then here is two of the hardest leg workouts we have ever done. One is a sweat fest with minimal gym equipment, the other involves the usual bells and whistles. When you’re done hating us, challenge your mates.

Leg Workouts To Die For

While doing our write up for the best bodybuilding gyms in San Diego, Lee told me about a workout he had begun doing lately, as he moved into a cutting season. We had both spent the winter doing reps of 5, (you can read our 5 Day PPL guide here) and knew it was time we cut back on the carbs and started making our workouts a little sweatier. 

His solution involved forced reps of up to 20 with multiple mid set failures. Up for a challenge, I suggested we do the Leg version of this. The session turned into one of the hardest leg workouts ever and insane DOMS that truly lasted 6 days. Now you can do it too.

Save Workout To My Phone trx leg workout

To the point

Listen Instead

hardest leg workout
The Inventor of this evil leg workout - Lee

A hard workout for one person could be easy for another if you just go through the motions. This workout involves a little thinking the first time you run through it, to ensure you are working with weights you know will challenge you before the end of the rep range. 

For me, doing this workout required a spotter early on in the squatting exercise and I failed multiple times each set. This took me to neuromuscular exhaustion and the inability to walk much in the following days, told me that this had pushed my lower body to the limits. 

On top of the constant desire to quit the workout, lower the rep range, not complete full reps and fear doing it again the following week, while breathless and dripping in sweat (may have been the summer heat) – tells me this was a hard workout. If you use the right weight for you, complete the reps cleanly and in a controlled way, I’ve no doubt it will be hard for you too. High rep ranges at mid rep range weights, is always going to slam you.

Mutha-fu%%in gains yo!

But more seriously, this pushes you out of your comfort zone. I didn’t love doing the workout, but I loved how I felt after. It took me from doing slow and heavy sets in my strength training phase into a summer fat burning mindset. Don’t get me wrong, this workout isn’t a ‘Fat Burning workout’ per se, but you’re going to smash through the calories and your body is going to want a lot of nutrition to recover after.  I think that’s one of the advantages of training like this. You need that wake up call, that says, “hey mate, it’s time to freshen up your workouts”.

And while for me I liked the sweaty component to the workout, I liked that shock factor. Training the same way for long periods of time with little deviation in weight and sometimes motivation can cause you to get stuck in a rut. Shocking your body and your mind can give you that psychological as well as physiological jump start. 

Source: Workout Plateaus


I’ve included a second workout in this ‘hardest leg workout ever’ guide, to cater to more than one type of gym goer. But I would say whether you go for the minimal equipment option (more calisthenics and plyo) or the traditional resistance version; you want to have been in the gym for a while. Both will push your anaerobic capacity, test your endurance and will require a fair few movements that are potentially safer for a medium to advanced gym goer.

Sure, try it if you’re  a beginner to the gym, but don’t beat yourself up if it’s a bit much. 

I’ve trained for 20 years, I’m an advanced lifter with a pretty good lung capacity and these workouts give me anxiety too. 

For Evil Workout 1:

  • Squat Rack
  • Hack Squat – or – Leg Press (If neither do Front Squats)
  • Leg Extension Machine
  • Leg Curl Machine
  • Calf Raise

For Evil Workout 2 (Hotel friendly as less weights):

  • Dumbbells (5kg to 12.5kg range)
  • Step-up Box – or – Plyo Box
  • Kettlebell (10-25kg range)
  • Barbell (15-30kg range) – or- Some kind of weight to hold in front to do a Front Squat. Weighted bags or power bags can work here nicely.
As you can see, the second workout, doesn’t require much more equipment than you would find in a gym training studio, or hotel gym. The top workout, is more resistance machine focused, heavier weights and a bit less aerobic or explosive. But could still be done in many hotel gyms that have the standard leg press, smith machine, leg extension/curl options.

Done correctly, the resistance workout – Workout 1 – is something you aren’t going to want to do more than once a week. 

I found I was still sore 6 days after and couldn’t have put in a good next version of this before then. If you feel sore but want to hit another part of legs like glutes and hamstrings, then that would be the option I suggest. Perhaps a light maintenance day for those muscle groups. 

Workout 2, is still something you will see DOMS on most likely, but I found I was good to go about 3-4 days later.

Muscles Our Hardest Leg Workout Activates

Rumour has it, he is still standing like this

Lee tends to mix up this workout with back squats one week, and front squats the next. Just to keep it spicy, but it does have a more anterior focus than posterior, so you may want to try out our posterior chain workout on another day if the soreness dips.

Muscles worked

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings 
  • Glutes  
  • Calves 
  • Core (Abs/Lumbar)
  • Forehead and neck veins….okay we get it, we know they aren’t muscles. 

Music For The Hardest Leg Workout

Resistance - Hard Leg Workout 1

Hardest leg workout sample routine

As with any workout, try to do a few of the compound moves first to get you in the zone, getting your muscles ready (braced) for resistance etc. I tend to start a leg workout with some bodyweight squats, then work my way up to the working weight. You’re going to aim here to use your 10RM weight for these exercises. 

You’ll see why that is going to hurt shortly.

Rest periods: 
– Between sets – 90 seconds

Barbell Back Squats

Muscles: Quads (Primary) – Hamstrings – Glutes – Core

5 Sets x 20 Reps – Use your 10RM weight.
Pause and re-rack only as long as is needed during a set if you’re failing. Get back to the set as quick as you can and complete the set of 20 reps.

Then rest for 90seconds.

Hack Squats

Muscles: Quads (Primary) – Hamstrings – Glutes

5 sets x 15 Reps – Use your 10RM weight
Pause if required briefly

Leg Extension

Muscles: Quads (Primary) 

5 sets x 15 Reps – Use your 10RM weight
Pause if required briefly

Leg Curls (Seated or Lying is fine)

Muscles: Hamstrings (Primary) 

5 sets x 15 Reps – Use your 10RM weight
Pause if required briefly

Calf Raise (Any type)

Muscles: Calves (Primary) 

5 sets x 15 Reps – Use your 10RM weight
Pause if required briefly

Done… might look tame, but if you pick the right weight, you will be in pieces by the time you get to the leg curl and extension. 

Fat Blaster - Hard Leg Workout 2

I hate calling any workout a ‘Fat Blaster’, but it just helps annotate the difference here between these two evil leg workouts. There is more of an aerobic element to this one, a fair bit of explosive plyometric which is anaerobic, it’s just a sweat party and it’s perfect for those who aren’t into their weights so much.

Enjoy! Muhahahhahahaha

One more thing – this workout isn’t my own invention, it came from an ex PT in the gym I used to use in Essex, UK. She deserves the credit, her name is Rosey, and she posted this horrendous workout some years back, which I made part of my weight loss training periods.

Rest periods: 
Between sets – 45 seconds between each superset NOT during the exercise transition. Eg: A superset of front squats followed by box jumps, sees 45 seconds rest AFTER a complete set of each.

No cheating.

Screenshot the Workout….

hardest leg workout

Superset 1

Exercises: Barbell Front Squat / Box Jump Squat

4 Sets x 20 Reps – 45 seconds rest between each superset duo.

Use an empty bar, a kettlebell or whatever works to add some weight. For the box jump, jump with both feet and land soft knees onto a step up or plyo box. Then step back down.

Superset 2

Exercises: Reverse Lunges / Plyo Explosive Alternating Lunges

You can use dumbbells if you want on the first exercise but you may not need them. (See below why) The second move sees you switch from leg to leg in an explosive fashion.

4 Sets x 20 Reps – 45 seconds rest between each superset duo.

And yes….20 reps EACH LEG

Superset 3

Exercises: Dumbbell Step-ups / Jumping Squats

4 Sets x 20 Reps – 45 seconds rest between each superset duo.

Use a light dumbbell if you want, but don’t feel ashamed to go empty handed. It’s 20 reps each leg. The jumping squats are bodyweight only. Squat down, explode up, catch yourself with soft knees and lower…..repeat

Superset 4

Exercises: Kettlebell Plie Squat / Kettlebell Swing

4 Sets x 20 Reps – 45 seconds rest between each superset duo.

Plie Squats, are like sumo squats but the toes point out wider. Like a ballet ‘Plie’. You should feel the strain on the inside of the leg as you push back up. Kettlebell swing, is a kettlebell swing. 

Done…..if you want to remember this second workout, screenshot below, or just bookmark the page. 

Outro & Closing Tips

If you’ve tried these workouts, you’ll know why we call them the hardest leg workouts ever. If you haven’t, today seems like a great day to try.

Thanks for reading and if there is anything you’re unsure about in this guide, drop us a message and we can help you out. If you do the workout, tag us in on Instagram @barbellsabroad.

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