he Pareto principle (aka the “80/20 rule”) states that, in a given area, roughly 80% of your results are accomplished by 20% of your efforts. If we were applying this to leg training, then squats, lunges, stepups, and deadlifts would fall into the 20% of exercises producing 80% of your lower-body gains (more or less). All those leg extensions and leg curls are fine, but they’re likely not your true thigh-developing linchpins.

What you’ll find here is a Pareto-inspired leg workout that provides a bit more bang for the buck than your standard leg day routine—variations of lunges, squats, stepups, and deadlifts, and nothing else. Consider this your 80/20 leg day. If you’ve got time later in the week (and aren’t crushed by this workout), then knock yourself out with leg presses, leg curls, and the inner-/outer-thigh machine.


Directions: Warm up with five to 10 minutes of low-intensity cardio followed by one to two sets of light leg extensions and one to two sets of light lunges.

  • Reverse Lunge: 3 sets, 10 reps per leg
  • Goblet Squat: 4 sets, 8 reps (Start light and increase weight on every set.)
  • Stepup: 3 sets, 10 reps per leg
  • Romanian Deadlift: 3 sets, 12 reps
1. Romanian Deadlift

Standard deadlifts can’t be beat when it comes to building strength. However, starting each rep from the floor takes the tension off your muscles for lackluster hypertrophy. The Romanian deadlift, in which you don’t set the bar down, is a better option for muscle-building purposes

2. Stepup

Perform stepups with either dumbbells or a barbell; when in doubt, go with dumbbells, since they’re a slightly safer option. Plant your foot on a bench or box, heel first, not the ball of the foot

3. Goblet Squat

Think of the goblet squat as a modified version of a front squat. Keep your torso upright and maintain a tight core, and keep the dumbbell up against your body so it doesn’t pull you forward.

4. Reverse Lunge

Performing reverse lunges with a loaded barbell on your back allows you to handle more weight than you could with, say, dumbbells or kettlebells. This translates to more weight lifted over time for bigger and stronger legs.