Here it is, the best 5 leg exercises to use to become a better athlete; faster, stronger and more powerful. In no particular order here we go....
Bulgarian Split Squats
My personal favourite! This movement trains one leg at a time and trains the leg extensors extremely well. Its great for improving acceleration and has a good transfer to the squat itself so could be the best assistance exercise around for building up the squat. It also has the added benefit of reducing the amount of weight going through the abs and low back ('core' as many like to call it) due to training one leg at a time, so the resistance used for each leg can be increased and the legs will give out before the 'core', giving excellent training efficiency.
Many coaches advocate the front squat over the back squat as it is supposedly more sports specific, not too sure what they mean by this but it does train the quadriceps to a greater degree than the back squat (actually activates more of the core musculature when compared to the back squat according to recent research from the University of Salford), and as we know the quads are one of the main muscles used when accelerating over short distances it makes sense to use exercises that improve the quads, so giving an athlete better 5 and 10m sprint times. As speed kills the opposition in any sport this could be what the 'sport specific' coaches are on about!
As if I would leave this out! Whilst the front squat is a great exercise and improves leg strength in a 'sport specific' way, you can't lift as much as when back squatting. The back squat is an exceptional way of loading the entire body with a hell of a lot of weight! Building muscle and strength in the entire leg, lower back, abs and upper back. Also can dramatically increase body weight so great for anyone in contact sports.
Onto the posterior chain then! Building up the posterior chain is a priority in any sport that requires the athlete to use the lower body (so most sports), and improves maximum sprint speed, lower body power (vertical jump height, for example), increases bodyweight (as there's a lot of muscle on the back side of you!) and will help you put weight onto any squat exercise you're doing. Also is great for injury prevention as the hamstrings are one of the most commonly torn muscles in sports.
Olympic Pull from Mid-Thigh
Really need to get some pics up of this exercise but it's very simple. Grab a bar, stand up straight with the bar hanging at your waist, bend your knees as if about to jump, then jump with the bar! Easy to learn, easy to teach, enables a lot of weight to be used to develop lower body power when compared with a more complex olympic exercise such as the clean or snatch. As athletes need to practice their sport rather than the full olympic lifts, this simple lift is a great way of training power with a heavy weight on the bar, or speed with a lighter weight on the bar. It wraps up all the strength and muscle gains you will get with the previous four exercises I've mentioned here, and gives you speed and power, i.e. something you can use on the field/track/ring or wherever you compete.
Pick a few of these exercises and start destroying the opposition.