The answer is squat and the question is “how to build big legs.” There is no other exercise that even compares to the squat when it comes to building massive, muscular legs. They are known as the king of all exercises for good reason, because not too many other exercises offer as many benefits as the almighty barbell squat. Sure lunges, split squats, step ups and sled drags are great.
But when you are pressed for time and want to pack on as much size as possible in the shortest time frame you aren’t going to find anything to outperform the squat.
A good goal for a beginner is to squat double bodyweight. And I’m talking about real, full squats, at least to parallel. With proper training and nutrition you should be able achieve that goal within your first few years of training. After a good three or four months of squatting 2-3 times per week, consistently you won’t be asking how to build big legs anymore. The answer will be readily apparent when you start busting through your jeans.
Before we go any further let’s address perfect form on the squat. First, grab the bar with an even grip, approximately 6-12 inches wider than shoulder width. Be sure to squeeze it as hard as you can. Duck under it and jam your shoulder blades as far back as you can. The bar should sit on your traps, not the top of your spine or your neck. By keeping your hands in a little closer you can create a bigger shelf for the bar to sit on. And again, by close I mean 6-12 inches wider than shoulder width; closer than that will cause a lot of discomfort for many lifters and may lead to problems. If you have shoulder issues, this is not an option and you will need to grab the bar wider.
With your head up and back arched, unrack the weight and take two steps back. Before beginning your descent be sure to take a deep breath and fill your belly with air. Now brace your abs as if you are about to take a punch to the stomach from Muhammad Ali. With your chest up and back arched, you are now going to push out on the sides of your feet like you are trying to spread the floor.
To begin your descent, break at the hips by pushing your glutes back as far as you can and then squatting down as low as you can go without losing the arch in your back and allowing your butt to tuck under.
This may be to parallel or it may be all the way to the floor (known in some circles as “ass to the grass” or even worse, the acronym, “ATG.” If you use this terminology your manhood will be revoked in all 50 states for five years, minimum). On the way up, be sure to lead with your head, chest high, drive your elbows forward and under the bar and push your hips forward.
That is perfect squat form. Anything less is unacceptable.
Normal back squats should be your bread and butter but here is a list of other excellent squat variations that you could include in your workouts:
Beginners can squat three times per week. Intermediates will do better squatting once every five to seven days and advanced guys should squat once every seven to ten days.
So now you know how to build big legs. Now go start squatting!