When training the lower body, there are a few things to consider–whether you would like to add muscle mass or fat loss and definition (a.k.a. “toning”), how much time you have, and whether you want to do cardio separately or incorporate it into the strength workout. When I’ve already done some cardio on a particular day and I am training legs, I do the strength routine at a moderate pace, focus on controlled movements with holds at the peak of contraction, and resisting on the negative (eccentric) phase of the movement. I take a bit of rest between sets if I need it, since high calorie burn and fast pace isn’t my main concern. When I want to keep my heart rate high, I like to do a cardio exercise at the end of each set. For instance, I’ll drop down for 15 burpees, run two laps, 50 mountain climbers, or low jumping jacks. I take as little rest as possible and might choose a size down on the weights so that I don’t fatigue from heavy weights and fail to complete the number of reps I want to do. Or I like drop sets, so I may start with the amount of weight I do on heavier days and rep that out until I have to drop down a few pounds to finish the set.
Additionally, I typically start with compound, multi-joint exercises and then move on to isolation and machine exercises. Here’s a leg routine that I play with a lot, varying the equipment and stances.
Stiff leg deadlift
*the possibilities with squats are awesome; my favorites are goblet squats, barbell squats below parallel, flexing hard at the top and popping up and holding a calf raise for a second. Split squats and sumo squats, too. For walking lunges, I use a barbell, a 45lb plate held overhead with straight arms, or dumbbells. It helps to stand on a step when doing deadlifts and you can even try doing those on one leg!
*if you want to focus on the flutes, do the leg press with your feet toward the top of the platform and bring the knees very close to the chest. If you want more effort in the quads, your feet can be more middle to lower on the platform, and you can try to do these with less weight and one leg at a time for a change. Leg curls can be seated, lying, with a dumbbell between the feet, lying face-up and on a stability ball, OR what I’ve started doing as of late is glute-ham raise: http://youtu.be/tCsyyC5E7M8
Leg curl-different variation than last set
-finish with a cool down on a cardio machine, jog, or bike, maybe an ab circuit, and stretch