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One Leg Exercise to Rule Them All?

So I’ve been blessed with quite good legs genetics (and terrible arms…). Even when I was doing really minimal leg work or none at all, apart from playing football and cycling, my legs were bigger than some dudes’ working out theirs directly.

Now I am a lot more into training, so I am doing some targeted leg work, as one should do, but may legs begin to really outshine rest of my body parts and throw my proportions off considerably.

Ultimately I feel like I am literally wasting time and energy in the gym, training the section that I am more than happy with already. I am of course not this dumb to start skipping leg days now. But I think I should limit my targeted work for legs a bit.

So I’ve decided I’ll be going with one leg day in a week and only one complex excercise for some sets. Something like in 10x10 program, where you choose one complex excercise for every part of the body and focus on increasing load in it.

Therefore I am searching for this one excercise, that would hit entire legs most complex (apart from calves). Quads, hams and glutes to some extent at the same time, directly or indirectly. I don’t have a problem if the excercise hits mainly quad, as long as other muscles are involved as well.

Now the obvious answer is squat. Well - not possible. Long story short, my health doesn’t allow me to put enough load on my back to really overload the legs.

Leg presses? Extensions? Lunges? If you could be doing just one leg excercise, what you would go for?

Given your restrictions, I’d say Bulgarian split squats or walking lunges carrying some decent dumbbells or kettlebels

This way, you get rid of imbalances and they’re still both compound exercises. Trains your grip on the side too

Yeah, I was thinking about same excercises, as they not only hit entire legs, just like squats, but also similarly positively affect core, posture and balance. Basically they seem to be as close replacement to squats as possible.

And what about leg presses? The movement is almost the same as in squats and it’s very easy to overlad. The only difference seems to be back/core involvement, which is present in squats and disabled in leg presses. Isn’t it exactly the same excercise without a need to stabilize and involving back?

Not a bad choice either, but yeah, you lose all that core stabilization demand.

The cabled leg press machine is on top of my list for leg exercises with machines. But I usually do them single legged after BB squats just to bring to par the non dominant side and reduce imbalances.

Disclaimer though, I’m just a beginner who’s theoretical knowledge in lifting is probably more than the actual weight I lift if you get what I mean

I will probably end up doing some weighted walking lunges and leg presses, my initial idea was just these and I believe I won’t find a better replacement. Thank you!

It’s such a drag I can’t do squats with some real wieghts though. It’s really hard to find any other excercies that’d involve so many groups at the same time.

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Backwards sled drag

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Idea is nice, but very nonfunctional. In my gym there’s no place or equipment to perform such excercise.

Pics of these gifted legs.


Leg press doesn’t hit your glutes. When you’re legs are fully extended, your hip angle is like 70 degrees at best. Walking lunges, reverse lunges, lateral lunges, or rear foot elevated split squats (aka Bulgarian split squats) would be my choices.

Lastly, have you ever thought about belt squats? You hang the weight from your waist and squat that way - no spinal loading. If your gym doesn’t have the machine (and most don’t) then you can buy a belt and stand on two benches or boxes.

Mine either. It’s why I bought a prowler to do it outside my gym.

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If I had to pick just one, I’d go with:

Low Step ups for quads.

Higher step ups for hips.

Then some kind of bending over for hamstrings.

Band thru belt walks for glutes.

Why if I may ask? Could be something that can be fixed, you know

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93.7% of the time, when someone talks about their naturally gifted, super-advanced, genetically blessed bodyparts that are way too developed already so they need to be barely trained at all lest they explode into asymmetrical growth, they’re not talking about anything based in reality. When that bodypart is legs, it’s +6%. Just sayin’.

What health issue, specifically? Does it impact your training in any other ways?

Front squats, safety bar squats, goblet squats, and hip belt squats (like Maier said) should be options that are easier on the back.

If you’re really just looking keep the legs on maintenance mode, you can simply go in and do “whatever” exercise for your intended sets and reps. Pop into whatever station is available in the gym, hit it, and be done. Could be leg press one week, lunges the next, funky new hack squat machine the week after; or it could be leg press for three weeks and then start switching it up.

If you have room for walking lunges, then you have room for sled drags. Investing in something like Spud’s Magic Carpet (or making your own) would be a simple and effective solution.


I’ve had a surgery, not something connected to the training. The problem is I need time to recover and till then I cannot strain my back. Probably with perfect form I could even do sqauts, but I don’t trust my form enough to even try. Unnecessary risk. Few weeks and I will be able to squat again. That’s also the reason I don’t have a need to search for anything overly complicated, as I want to just be doing something till I can come back to my routine.

I specifically mentioned proportions.Not that my legs are huge, only that they are too big as for my liking compared to the rest of my body. I am short, and no, I am not a mass monster. At 174 cm I weigh 69 at approximately 7-8% BF… And I am proud of it. Als as I said, I am not gonna skip leg days. I just want them to grow slower, compared to the rest of my body, and wait till I can squat again.

That’s actually a good idea. I will try.

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Guess it’s just a matter of being patient enough to let it heal, and being disciplined enough to load the bar slowly. And of course how determined you are to get back into squatting. Anyway, good luck!

Goblet squats have been great to me. I was running a bastardized version of 5/3/1 Krypteia and all the goblet squats and SLDLs made my legs bigger and stronger overall

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Didn’t you have a problem with increasing weight? 30 kg dumbell was fine for my legs, but not so good for my arms and shoulders. Managable, but I was fatigued more from holding the weight than from squatting. 10 reps holding 30 kg used to put some toll on my arms.

I’ve done 20+ with the 130 pound (58.9 kg). It’s just like everything man, you just increase slow over time. It’s hard on the back and shoulders and that’s the point. It’s light enough for your legs too to where you can do them in between lower days and recover fine as well.

I genuinely think that if you were able to load a dumbbell efficiently or had access to dumbbells up to 200 (90kg) goblet squats could be one of the best things for general overall strength that you could progress forever. I’ve done rep records in the past with them, but after doing them in between sets of upper work, they’ve opened my eyes to actually being very useful for strength building.

How long ago was the procedure? What limitation did your physician set for you?

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I never mentioned anything about your legs being huge. I’m simply curious/hesitant about your claim of their superior development.

And “too big for your liking” is very different than “they’re genetically blessed and grow with minimal work”. My point remains: The majority of the time when we see someone talk about an overpowering bodypart, it’s just their self-filtered perception not an objective viewpoint, so drastic changes are almost always unnecessary. Training around an injury is a separate issue.

Case in point. That’s a fairly average height, not short. You might feel short, but objectively, you’re not.

Sounds like this should also affect your training for back and shoulders then. What changes are you making there?