This Hardcore Leg Workout Is Worthy of a World Cup Champion—and Will Leave Your Lower Body Burning

Photo: Getty Images/ THOMAS SAMSON
Real talk: Seeing team USA win the 2019 Women's World Cup was the biggest leg-day inspiration of all time. There's nothing like watching a group of badass females break a world record (they scored a casual 26 goals over the course of the tournament) to make you think "hmm, maybe those squats are worth it after all." Ready to hone your skills and feel strong enough to rival Alex Morgan? This workout has got you covered.

Here,  Gold’s Gym Certified Personal Trainer and GOLD’S AMP Coach Ally McKinney, shares her favorite leg moves that will turn you into a soccer superstar—or at least, leave your lower body on fire for two full days after you leave the gym.


Back squat

"Back squats are a fantastic way to increase overall leg strength because it really forces our quad group and glute group to work and recruit all the muscle fibers,"McKinney says. "Soccer players are known for their beautiful quads so adding in back squats are going to give you exactly that." Start by resting an empty squat bar between your traps so it isn't putting pressure on your spine. Bring your feet shoulder width apart with your feet slightly turned out, and squeeze your glutes while bracing your core. As you bend your knees, drop your hips toward your heels and keep your chest up—try to get so low so that your hip crease is level with your knees. Keep your feet flat, and exhale as you stand back up.


Bulgarian split squat

"This exercise is an imbalance destroyer," McKinney says. "We want both of our legs to be developed equally and adding [this move] is going to give you balance and stability between your two legs." This move can be done weighted or unweighted—but if it's your first time, you're probably better off starting out with body weight. Stand in front of a bench or box, place one foot behind you on top of the surface and the other far enough in front of you to do a lunge. Try to get the top part of your foot flat on the box, or just put your toes on top. Brace your core and bend your front leg, aiming to get your hip crease level with your knee without dropping your chest. Once your hip crease has gotten level with your knee, press into your front foot and extend your leg back to a standing position.



"Just as we talked about balance between legs, it's vital to have balance between our quads and hamstrings," McKinney says. "Any imbalances there can lead to injuries down the road." She says adding deadlifts to your workout helps you define the back of your legs, getting the "hanging hammy" look that you'll see on most soccer players." Grab a weight (start light if this is your first time at the deadlift rodeo) and stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and your grip on the bar slightly wider than shoulder width. Engage your lats by pretending you're holding pieces of paper in your armpits, and keep your feet flat as you push your hips back and hold the bar close to your body. Continue to descend until the bar reaches just past your knees—to keep your spine straight, fix your gaze about five feet in front of you. Then, squeeze your glutes, drive your feet into the ground, and stand tall.


Box step-ups

Box step ups are great for building balance between your legs and quadricep development. "These are also great in building explosive power, similar to what we would achieve with sprints," she says. Place your foot flat on top of a box, and brace your core as you shift your weight to that leg as your other leg lifts off the floor. Allow your working leg to fully extend by squeezing your glutes as hard as you can as you stand up. Keeping your chest tall, descend with control—try taking two seconds as you return your non-working leg to the ground. "The goal here is to make your working leg actually do all the work, so that means as little push off as possible from the non-working leg," McKinney adds.


Broad jumps

"Power is everything," McKinney says. "To continue building muscle, and therefore muscular thickness in our thighs, we need to continue layering explosive movements into our training regimen." With your feet shoulder width apart, raise your arms up overhead, then push your hips back, drive your arms down and explode forward in one quick successive movement. Be sure to land with your legs bent to absorb impact (and avoid hurting your knees). Let your momentum cary your forward, then reset and try to cover even more ground on your next jump.


Back-loaded calf raises

"Training your lower legs is just as important as training your upper legs." McKinney says.  "To complete the look and feel of those soccer player legs, we gotta make sure are calves are up to par." Place a squat bar across your back, the same way you would for a squat. In a shoulder-width stance, brace your core and raise your heels off the ground with control, squeezing your calves as much as you can, so that only the ball of your foot is touching the ground. Pause for one second at the top and then slowly return your heels to the ground.



Skaters are all about explosive, lateral movement— which means they require a lot of balance. They help define the medial and lateral stabilizers in our legs (read: the muscles that keep your knee in place) and burn out your outer hips—so basically, your whole lower body will be burning. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, a slight bend in your hips, and your weight on the balls of your feet. Lean into your left leg, and push off of your left leg to let your momentum carry you to land on your right leg. Repeat and head to the left. "The goal is to maintain this momentum and bounce back and forth while covering as much ground as you can with each hop," says McKinney.


10-yard sprints

"Soccer players are explosive and if you want to achieve this, you want to incorporate sprints into your workout," McKinney says. She says sprints give your lower body a muscular thickness, because they so many muscle fibers work to get your body moving. "This may slim your legs initially, but in the long term, as the muscles grow, you will notice some serious and great leg gains." Set up markers 10 yards apart, push off the balls of your feet from the starting point, and don't slow down until you're past the mark. Then, walk back to the starting point and repeat.


Circuit examples:

Circuit 1

Back squat x 15

Broad Jump x 10

Bulgarian Split Squat x 10 each leg

Calf Raise x 25

Complete three rounds and rest as needed.

Circuit 2

Deadlifts x 15

Box Step Ups x 10 each leg

Skaters x 20 each leg

Sprint 40 yards

Complete three rounds and rest as needed.


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