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Mass In Minutes Leg Workout: Gain 1” In Quad Muscle Mass in 6 Weeks (At Home)

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Note: this leg workout complements our upper body workout perfectly.

I’m a certified personal trainer and gym owner. And one of the most common excuses people give for not training (especially leg exercises) is “I don’t have the time.” 

They seem to think you need a couple of hours to get a great workout in.

It’s just not true.

I’m a very busy guy – I have a couple of businesses, a partner and two sons that play various sports. I have more demands on my time than most, so the idea of me getting a 2 hour window to train in is laughable!

To combat that I had to come up with a training plan that would be time efficient and effective. I set about designing something that ticked a lot of boxes and works well for me. It has become my go-to leg workout when I don’t have much time.

It’s a maximum of 45 minutes from start to finish, ticks the strength and muscle-building boxes, and affords me the time to get on with my day. 

By cutting out the fluff in your workout you’ll have more time to rest and recover after each session too. In this time-efficient leg workout, you’ll focus only on what is important and will discard what isn’t.

Mass in Minutes leg workout in 45 minutes – the development

In one of our regular calls, I told Mike (the owner of Strong Home Gym) how a calf injury seriously impacted my leg training. This hiatus from my leg work saw my leg strength and muscular development drop like a stone.

As my gym got busier, I had less time to rebuild that muscle and strength. It meant I had to get strategic.

I devised a plan that would help me achieve my goals in less time. It means I had to get right to the important points, cut out the fluff, and only include the essential movement patterns. I wanted to focus the maximum work on the legs in the shortest period of time.

It worked!

I’ve managed to rehab my calf injury and I’ve added an extra 60LB to my squat since I started back on this program 6 weeks ago. It’s only taking me 45 minutes, twice per week to achieve these results as well.

There’s not a single shred of evidence that equates time spent working out to strength and muscle gained. It begs the question then, why train for longer?

Here are the muscles we’ll target in this leg workout…

Leg Workout Muscles

Mass in Minutes Leg Workout: Increase your squat by 20%+ in 6 weeks

Why follow this approach, if there are others that work just as well? Here’s a few of the unique benefits to this approach over others…

Mass In Minutes Leg Workout benefits

1. Get bigger quads and lift more

The main benefit of this program is that it will put muscle mass onto your legs (if you are eating a surplus of calories) and help you to lift more. 

In 6 weeks of following this program I:

  • Could lift 60lbs more on my back squat
  • Increased my quad size by 1 inch

2. It’ll remove boredom from training

Leg workouts are the ones people skip most often. In many cases, this is because people find them boring. There’s similar movement patterns over and over again.

This approach doesn’t allow for boredom!

We have to include a lot of different leg exercises in the workout, so the rest periods and the exercise variety is key. If you want to achieve the excellent results offered in this program, you have to focus. The ever-changing exercise focus means you won’t have time to get bored!

3. It’ll challenge your fitness

Most people simply won’t be used to this amount of volume in such a short period of time and will find this workout a real challenge. I’ve built this workout to be as lazy-proof as possible, by adding time targets into the sessions as well as rep targets (more on this later).

Your legs will be hit from a volume, range of movement and strength angle, which will make them muscular, strong and able to cope with a huge workload. 

4. It’ll save you time

Arguably the most important one – the efficiency of the workout! The effectiveness of high intensity training has been known for decades. You don’t get paid for overtime in this game, so the idea is to get in, get busy and get out.

If you normally hit your legs for an hour and a half twice per week, I’ve just given you an extra 90 minutes back in your life. You’re welcome. 

Mass in Minutes Leg Workout: The meaty details

Let’s get into more detail about how this workout works, and what makes it different from the thousands of other leg workouts you can find online. In this section I’ll be outlining everything you need to do in order to make the workout effective for you. 

Pay attention to this section – it’s your how-to guide for the program.

1. Each set has a different focus outcome

When time is pushed you have to focus a lot of work in minimal time. We get around this by using every set for a purpose – there’s no indulgence here. Each leg exercise (with the exception of the two calf raise variations) has 3 different sets…

  1. The endurance set (60 seconds of continual reps)
  2. The hypertrophy set (8-12 reps)
  3. The strength set (5 reps maximum)

Each of these has an important job and they’re all to be done to your maximum ability. Here’s more information on each…

The endurance set…

Pick a light weight and perform the exercise for a whole minute, ideally without stopping.

The weight will be around 50% of your one rep max. For example in your back squat endurance set, if you can lift 100kg for a single, get 50kg on the bar and squat for a whole minute.

The hypertrophy set…

This is the one where we’re shooting for muscle growth.

This is a weight that will see you hit technical failure at around 10 reps, +/- 2. If you manage 12 reps without failure, up the weight – it’s too light. If you only manage 7 reps, it’s too heavy. Drop the weight. This is typically around 70-80% of your 1 rep max.

The strength set…

Here’s where we’re going for the big numbers.

You add more weight to the bar and I want you to be hitting technical failure at a maximum of 5 reps. If you manage more than that, it’s too light. Generally speaking, you’ll be at around 80-90% of your 1 rep max on this one. 

You have to hit failure on each set. We’re being time efficient with this leg workout. There’s no room for half-assing this. 

2. Perform the same workout twice per week

Simplicity and efficiency are the aim of the game here. We don’t have different workouts, we just follow the same program again and again for a minimum of 8 weeks. That helps to reduce time because you’re not having to set up a different workout or figure out new exercises every time you hit the gym.

Do the fundamentals well. Do them regularly. Enjoy the results.

There are only 7 leg exercises in the entire workout…

  1. Front squats
  2. Back squats
  3. Stiff leg deadlifts
  4. Split squats
  5. Glute bridges
  6. Seated calf raises
  7. Standing calf raises

Each of these exercises, with the exception of the calf raises, follow the same pattern of reps. An endurance set (60 seconds of continual reps), a hypertrophy set (8-12 reps) and a strength set (5 reps maximum).

This is designed to both be effective and efficient, because you keep adding weight to the bar each time. There’s no more adjustment than that. 

3. Warm up as part of the workout

If I haven’t labored the point enough already, the purpose of this workout is efficiency – we’re aiming to get an effective workout done and dusted within 45 minutes, tops. One way to do this is to incorporate the warm up into the workout. 

Simply start with an empty bar or very light weight for 10 reps to practice form and get the appropriate muscles and joints warm.

Mass In Minutes Leg Workout Warm Up

There’s no risk from warming up as part of the workout either – each leg exercise starts with a lighter load, where the injury risk is lower. By performing high-repetition exercises with a light load, you have a chance to work on movement patterns and technique without the load-associated risk. 

The beauty of this system is you’re not wasting time. 

You’re simply picking a weight you can lift easily and doing a lot of reps with. It’ll train you and warm you up at the same time.

Don’t worry about doing the cardio element first. Whilst it’s certainly very useful, it’s not absolutely necessary ahead of lifting. We’re getting much of the same benefit from light weight, high-repetition work as a first set (it will increase your heart rate and get the blood pumping!)

4. How to figure out your starting weights

With the sets being so vastly different in terms of their goals, you’ll be lifting different loads each time. In order to make this effective and progressive, without just resorting to guesswork you’ll need to know what weights you’ll be starting on. Here’s how you do this…

In my experience, the weight you can lift for a whole minute (which will usually be 15-20 reps) is around 50% of your 1 rep max. It may be more or less, but let’s go with this as a start. In order to know that, you’ll have to figure out your 1 rep max.

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you already have some lifting experience (if not, stop immediately and go and read The Beginner Weightlifting Routine), which means you’ll probably have an idea of what your numbers are.

If not, here’s how you do it…

How to figure out your 1 rep max

Perform a leg exercise with progressively heavier weights until you can only perform 1 good rep. 

Start with a weight you know is light and comfortable enough to perform 8+ good reps. Rest 60-90 seconds between sets. 

Increase the weight on each set, until you can only manage one good-quality rep. Make a note of this weight – it’s your 1 rep max.

Repeat this on every exercise in the program. You’ll only have to do it once in the entire program (make sure it’s at the start), but it’s worth the time investment early on, because it’ll save you a lot of time in the future and will improve the effectiveness of the workout.

Once you know your 1 rep max, you can adjust your weights accordingly. Here’s what I suggest…

Endurance set: 50% of your 1 rep max

Hypertrophy set: 70-80% of your 1 rep max

Strength set: 80-90% of your 1 rep max

5. Seek weekly strength progression

There are multiple ways to progress in your workouts, but the one we’re really looking for here is an increase in the weight you lift. We should be looking for a weekly increase of 2-5% across all of your leg exercises.

This is an inexact science – you may experience higher or lower improvements (especially after a few weeks on the program), but in the early days you should be expecting to add weight within the 2-5% range. If you feel like you can go higher, do so.

By the end of the 8 weeks, I’d expect you to be at least 25% stronger across both your front and back squat, and possibly your stiff legged deadlift.

Whilst you may not notice a dramatic increase in weight on the calf raises, this is less important – we’re after volume here. You’ll still increase the weight, but it may not be to the 25% level seen in the other lifts. The calf muscles are smaller so their capacity for strength increase is more limited than the quads, glutes and hamstrings.

6. Splitting the training week

Twice per week is all you need with this workout in order to achieve great results. To allow the muscles sufficient time to recover, I suggest you give your legs at least two days off the program. 

Here’s how I suggest you split your week…

Monday: Mass in Minutes Leg Workout

Tuesday: Mass in Minutes upper body workout

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Mass in Minutes Leg Workout

Friday: Mass in Minutes upper body workout

Weekend: Rest

This pattern allows you to train your legs well, give them time to recover and still manage to give your upper body the training time and attention it needs. It’s a solid way to split up your week, but do what suits you and your schedule.

My advice is to not do the Mass in Minutes Leg Workout on consecutive days.

Mass in Minutes Leg Workout – The Program

You might think 21 sets isn’t going to be enough to achieve anything major, but you’ll be surprised. Using myself as an example, here’s what I achieved in my first 6 weeks on the program…

  • I added 60LBS to my back squat
  • I put an inch on my quads

Now admittedly I was rehabbing my legs so I was going to build strength, but that amount in such a short space of time was great – it gave me confidence that the program was working well. It also meant I could be confident in sharing it with readers and clients.

The muscle increase was also a nice bonus. I was missing my old ‘weightlifter legs’ and it has helped me get to a point where they’re coming back! If I keep this program up for longer, I know it’ll happen for me. 

All of this was achieved in workouts that lasted 40-45 minutes, twice per week.

Steve performing back squats with a heavy barbell

The equipment list

To do this leg workout without adjusting the plan at all, here’s the equipment list. It’s all fairly standard home gym equipment…

This is all you need to maximize the effectiveness of the program. Nothing complicated, just simple exercises executed very well.

The leg workout

This is the entire time efficient leg workout, to be done twice per week. It’s simple, which means you have to go hard on each set. Rest for a maximum of 60 seconds between sets, which is enough time to increase the weight or set up the next exercise.

Stick strongly to this – it’ll keep your timings tight. There are 21 sets in the workout. With a minute between sets, that’s around 40 minutes for the entire workout, allowing for a little extra recovery time when you really need it.

Leg ExerciseEndurance SetHypertrophy SetStrength Set
1. Front squats60 seconds8-122-5
2. Back squats60 seconds8-122-5
3. Stiff legged deadlifts60 seconds8-122-5
4. Split squats30 seconds per leg8-12 per leg2-5
5. Glute bridges60 seconds8-122-5
6. Seated calf raises60 seconds60 seconds60 seconds
7. Standing calf raises60 seconds60 seconds60 seconds

Mass In Minutes Leg Workout Infographic part 1

1. Front Squats

The front squat is arguably the most functional and important leg exercise of them all. 

It’s the squatting pattern that I feature most in my own training and that of my personal training clients. It is fantastic for building leg strength, has excellent athletic cross over and it spares the lower back more than back squats. And front squats may protect the knees slightly more than back squats… ideal when you’re doing a quad program!

Equipment needed for barbell front squats:

How to do a barbell front squat:

  • Hold the bar in the rack position – open hand grip, elbows up, chest up
  • Take a breath in and engage the core – this keeps the lower back safer
  • Keeping the chest up throughout, push your hips back and bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor
  • Drive feet into the floor and stand back to the start position
  • Repeat as many times as required.

REP PR-4000 Power Rack

REP-PR-4000 Power Rack
Read our best squat rack guide here

Looking for an affordable yet high quality power rack?

Look no further!

After comparing over 100 types of squat racks the PR-4000 came out on top.

You can add any attachment to it (including cables, dip bars and plate holders). You can even add additional uprights to back to make it even more of a beast!

The 1 inch westside hole spacing means you can position the spotter arms to the ideal height when you bench press. So you can safely drop the bar and have a full range of motion when you lift.

And the 3×3″ 11 gauge steel make this the best value rack we could find.

2. Back Squats

The back squat is arguably the most functional and important leg exercise of them all. It works the quads through a huge range, allows you to lift a lot of weight and is excellent for progression – you’ll add a lot of weight onto the bar quickly with this program. 

It’s also a pretty simple exercise to perform so it’s must for any leg workout.

Equipment needed for back squats:

How to do a back squat:

  • Place the bar across the upper back – not the neck
  • Take a breath in and engage the core – this keeps the lower back safer
  • Keeping the chest up throughout, push your hips back and bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor
  • Drive feet into the floor and stand back to the start position
  • Repeat as many times as required.

Rogue Ohio Cerakote Bar

Rogue Ohio Bar Cerakote
Read our best Olympic barbell guide here

This is the bar that we recommend for ‘most people’.

We have spent over 120 hours of research and tested over 100 barbells.

It is affordable but comes with some high specs. The Rogue Work Hardening and 190k PSI tensile strength mean the bar will last a lifetime in a home gym.

It is a multi-purpose bar with a 28.5mm diameter shaft and composite bushings in the sleeves. This means it’s balanced for heavy slow bench presses but you can also perform snatches and fast overhead lifts.

Note: check out our (back) squat alternatives for more ideas on how to develop the legs, glutes, and lower back.

3. Stiff legged deadlifts

The stiff legged deadlift is one of my favorite hamstring exercises because it combines the eccentric contraction of the hamstrings with a lot of weight. It means you can load the muscles well, whilst benefiting a lot of the other muscles around it. It’s also a simple and safe way to lift if you have a decent deadlift technique.

Equipment needed for stiff legged deadlifts:

How to do stiff legged deadlifts:

  • Hold the barbell with the grip of your choice (I prefer overhand)
  • Deadlift the bar into your starting position, which is where you’re holding the barbell with straight arms
  • Keeping your back and legs straight, tilt your hips back as your torso starts to point toward the floor
  • Keep pushing your hips back, with your legs straight as you lower the bar towards the floor
  • As you feel your hamstrings stretch fully, pause for a second and push the hips forward and lift the bar back to the starting position
  • At the top of the movement squeeze the glutes together
  • Repeat as many times as required

Rogue Fleck Bumper Plates

Rogue Fleck Bumper Plate
Read our best bumper plates guide here

Bumper plates are ideal for a home gym.

They can last a lifetime and allow you to do additional lifts which require you to drop the bar.

Our team has compared over 100 types and the Rogue Fleck plates came out on top.

They are great value, use color allowing you to quickly see how much you’re lifting and the pattern will give your home gym a unique look.

4. Split squats

The rear foot elevated split squats allow for great squat depth, plus the single-limb nature of the leg exercise reduces strength imbalances between limbs. It’s a great way to focus a lot of work on the glutes, taking weight off the lower back. This is a leg exercise that will really challenge you, so start lighter than you think you’ll need to and build up from there.

Equipment needed for rear foot elevated split squats:

How to do rear foot elevated split squats:

  • Place the back foot on the bench behind you and hop your front foot ahead
  • Hold the dumbbells at your sides and engage the core
  • Keeping the chest up throughout, bend your back knee towards the floor and lower the front thigh until it reaches parallel to the floor
  • Drive front foot into the floor and stand back to the start position
  • Repeat as many times as required.

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Adjustable Dumbbells

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Classic
Read our best adjustable dumbbell guide here

These are the dumbbells we recommend for ‘most people’.

We have spent over 50 hours of research and compared over 100 dumbbells. Adjustable dumbbells make sense for most home gyms as they save space.

The Nüobell dumbbells go all the way to 80lbs per hand. This means they are much more versatile than most 50lbs adjustable dumbbells. You can use these for heavy shrugs, squats and bench press etc.

The main reason they are the top pick is because of their shape. They actually feel like real dumbbells and are not awkward to lift like some others.

Mass In Minutes Leg Workout Infographic part 2

5. Hip thrust

The hip thrust is a great glute exercise, combining the purest elements of hip flexion and extension with the ability to increase weight significantly. It’s a direct glute exercise, easy to perform and doesn’t require much in the way of equipment or technique. As glute exercises go, it’s one of the very best.

Equipment needed for hip thrusts:

How to do hip thrusts:

  • With your back and shoulders on the bench and feet flat on the floor, place the barbell on your lap
  • Drive the barbell up using your glutes until you’ve reached full hip extension
  • Pause at the top, then slowly lower your hips down
  • Don’t let the glutes hit the floor – they should hover about an inch or two off the floor
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

REP AB-3000 Bench

REP AB-3000 Weight Bench
Read our best weight bench guide here

This is the weight bench we recommend for ‘most people’.

We compared over 70 benches against 12 criteria. This is our highest-ranked flat, incline & decline (FID) bench.

Some adjustable benches can be a bit wobbly when on the incline. But the AB-3000 is very sturdy.

With a height 18mm it’s comparable to benches that cost twice as much.

6. Seated calf raises

The seated calf raise became a mainstay of my calf training when the physio I used explained that my injuries were a result of a weak soleus muscle. I thought that my calf training was effective, but learned that standing calf raises only really target the gastrocnemius. Instead I needed to perform seated calf raises, which hits the soleus more. It means you need to do both seated and standing calf raises to hit the two main muscles in the calf. I like to use plates on my lap to add weight.

Equipment needed for seated calf raises:

  • Bench to sit on
  • Plates for weights
  • Plate to elevate the feet from the floor

How to do seated calf raises:

  • Place a thick plate (a heavy bumper is ideal), or couple of thinner plates on the floor – this is to elevate the heels and improve the range of movement and contractile range of the muscles
  • Pull a bench close to the plate(s) and sit on it. Place the balls of your feet on the plates, allowing you to move your heels up and down to train your calves
  • Place a weight plate on your knees (I prefer lying it flat for balance and comfort purposes)
  • Whilst remaining seated, lift your heels off the floor, elevating your foot into a tiptoe position
  • At the peak of the contraction, slowly lower it down and keep going until your heels nearly touch the floor
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Note: check out our seated calf raise alternatives if you want more exercise ideas on how to work your calves.

7. Standing calf raises

Where the seated calf raises hit the soleus more, the standing calf raises target the other muscle in the lower leg, the gastrocnemius. The two exercises work in partnership to ensure complete activation of the lower leg muscles. By performing these variations as well you also improve the health and strength of the Achilles tendon, which helps athletically. 

Equipment needed for calf raises:

  • Weights – can be bodyweight, barbell, dumbbells etc
  • Plate or bench to elevate the feet from the floor

How to do calf raises:

  • Place a thick plate (a heavy bumper is ideal), or couple of thinner plates on the floor – this is to elevate the heels and improve the range of movement and contractile range of the muscles
  • Place the balls of your feet on the plates, allowing you to move your heels up and down to train your calves
  • Whilst holding a weight, get your balance and lift your heels off the floor by standing in a tiptoe position
  • At the peak of the contraction, slowly lower it down
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Despite first glaces, the Mass in Minutes Leg Workout isn’t an easy one. You are maximizing your output on every set, so there’s no room for a back off set, or complacency. It’s absolutely possible to achieve great results in a limited time frame, but you can only manage it if you’re working hard every set.

Note: Consider our dumbbell lat exercises if you’re also looking for upper-body exercise ideas.

A lady working out with a barbell and a squat rack

Mass in Minutes Leg Workout – FAQs

Here are a few answers to common questions, and a couple of suggestions on how to incorporate the Mass in Minutes Leg Workout in an overall training strategy…

Can I do the workout more than twice per week?

Yes, if you feel sufficiently recovered to do it properly. When it comes to training, I’m a big believer in consistency and frequency as huge allies.

If you are recovered and feeling like you can do the workout again, go for it. I’d still urge you to leave at least a day between sessions though.

Is cardio a good idea on the program?

Personally, when following a leg training program I will be selective with my cardio – if it’s lower body heavy (cycling/running) I tend to avoid anything too strenuous. A walk or a very gentle bike ride is a better option.

If it’s upper-body heavy (ski erg, swimming) then I don’t see much of a problem. Ideally, do it on non-leg training days though.

What should I do for my upper body?

In this article I’ve suggested an upper body push day and upper body pull day workouts, but go with what suits you. We have plenty of great workout ideas on the website, so take your pick!

Just don’t be tempted to throw leg exercises in on your days off the program. We are using this time to allow them to rest and recover, so more leg weight training will interrupt that process as it’s going on.

If I’ve got longer available, can I do more in the workouts?

You can – I’d suggest adding an extra hypertrophy set into your workout. That will be the nice middle ground. It’d also add 7 further sets into your workout, seeing it extend by around 15 minutes (including rest and recovery periods).

What can I expect from the leg workouts?

At first, expect them to be brutal – really, really tough. It’s not common practice to mix all three types of sets (endurance, hypertrophy, and strength) in one workout, so it might shock your body.

Outside of the first week or two, you’ll get used to it. 

You’ll also notice a dramatic strength increase – don’t be surprised if you exceed the 2-5% weekly increase in weight lifted across the first 4-6 weeks. That rapid strength improvement won’t last forever, but it’ll certainly be present in the short term!

You’ll suffer from DOMS (who doesn’t on a new program?!), but they’ll settle after the first week.

How long can I run the program for?

I suggest 8 weeks for the first run, then take a 1-2 week break. At that point you might want to do another 8 weeks, or mix things up entirely by following one of our other programs. It’s how close you are to your goals that’s important!

When should I do my abs work?

Stick that in with your upper body day – you don’t want the hip flexor activation in ab training to impact the hip on a leg day, especially when we’re maxing out on each set!

Mass in Minutes Leg Workout – The Bottom Line

I wrote this program to give those people who lack much time to train something that works. It’s a unique program in the sense it demands a lot of you physically, but not logistically. Use it to your advantage.

You’ll learn that you don’t have to sacrifice your life in pursuit of real fitness progression. Follow the program properly and you’ll make serious progression on both the strength and muscle building fronts.

Keep the workout brief and intense. It focuses on the important elements and discard what’s not.

You’ve got the leg workout here, but for ideas and inspiration for exercises for other body parts, check out Strong Home Gym‘s workouts and alternative exercise sections.

You’ll find lots of programs, alternative exercises, and advice to improve your training.

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Steve Hoyles is a certified personal trainer and gym owner. Since graduating with his Sports Science degree in 2004 he's worked in the fitness industry, helping thousands of people reach their health and fitness goals. His writing has been read by millions of people in over 200 countries as he inspires to help as many people as possible live a healthy lifestyle.

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