Most folks don’t train legs.
And this is a big mistake. Doing leg exercises will greatly improve your health and enhance fat burning.
You will find a ton of upper body exercises but when it comes to bodyweight leg exercises, most people are only know squats and maybe lunges. And we all know doing the same exercise every time can be boring and doesn’t bring the best results. With this list you will get a variety of exercises to choose from.
And by the time you can do all these exercises your legs will be big and ripped. Don’t buy into the false argument that you can only build leg muscles by doing weighted exercises. Bodyweight leg exercises alone can give you strong and muscular legs.
Why is it important to train legs?
The lower body muscles are the most important to train. Here are several reasons why you should give leg muscles top priority.
- Leg muscles burn more calories than any other muscle group. Training them regularly will lower your body fat percentage faster.
- Leg muscles respond well to stress by growing larger. And this will build more muscle and speed up metabolism.
- Training legs triggers whole-body transforming hormones and these hormones benefit other muscle groups without even training them. Actually if you want to get leaner abs start doing leg exercises.
- Having strong legs improves athletic performance and cardiovascular health.
- Leg muscles are used in any task that requires balance and standing. Therefore it is important to have strong and stable legs.
Before I share these leg toning exercises, here a few tips you can use to attain your fitness goals.
The number of reps- number of reps is always confusing in bodyweight training. But I will make it simple.
Here is the thing about exercise…..the harder you work the better the results. If you 15 reps and the other person does 5 reps of the same exercise, you’ll definitely end up with better and quicker results.
Muscles and strength don’t come from doing easy exercises! So keep advancing. If you can do 15-20 reps of any leg exercise without compromising form. Move up to a harder variation or a different exercise.
Always keep advancing unless you are satisfied with the size and strength of your legs. In that case just do maintenance exercises.
Leg Training Goals
Your goal may be muscle and strength or muscular endurance (especially if you’re an athlete) or explosive power.
Training for muscle and strength: Execute the movements slowly and do full range motion. Take 2-3 minutes rests between reps.
Training for muscular endurance: Increase the intensity of your exercises and keep the rest between reps to 60-90secs or even shorter. You may also want to increase the number of reps, to 20-30 reps per exercise.
Training for explosive power: Do plyometric exercises and maintain a rest period of 2-3 minutes.
Now that everything is clear, let’s get down to business. Here is the list of the best bodyweight leg exercises you can do at home.
Important: Click on the image of each exercise for a demonstration video on how to do the exercise properly.
Beginner Bodyweight Leg Exercises
These are exercises for someone who hasn’t been training legs at all. They will tone the legs and keep the thighs firmer. Get a free copy of the 3-Day bodyweight beginner workout.
Air squats or rather body weight squats activate all the lower body muscles, from the glutes to the calf muscles. But primarily work the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.
The Alternating Lunges
So instead of doing all the different beginner lunges variations just do this one. This compound exercise works the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.
Some pointers for this exercise:
Bend over as far as you can (your waist should be the only thing that bends)
You should feel tension in the backs of your legs
Maintain an arch on your back and don’t slope the shoulders downward.
Do full range of motion for this exercise and it will help keep the pelvis and spine in their neutral position as you move.
Control your movement when doing this exercise and squeeze the glutes as you raise the hips
Standing Leg Curls
Squeeze your heel towards your butt as much as you can, then hold that position for 2-3 seconds.
This is a simple exercise so do 4 sets – each to failure.
While this exercise is common with women, men should also do it too. Once you have mastered it move up to a harder variation.
The muscles worked here are the quadriceps and the hamstrings.
Make sure all the foot is placed on the surface, don’t step on the surface with half of your foot.
Elevated Calf Raises
You will need a high platform which you can step on with your toes. You can also hold on to something if to maintain balance. You can also do them on a flat surface, like the explainer video.
To get the best out of this movement do it slowly and hold at the top for 2 seconds. Also don’t bend your knees.
The wall sits primarily activate the quadriceps.
You’ll feeling a nice burning sensation if you hold that position for long.
Intermediate Bodyweight Leg Exercises
These exercises are a little advanced will definitely build muscles and increase strength.
Alternating Jump Step Ups
Increase the height of the surface as you get better at this exercise.
One Leg Deadlift
The one leg deadlift works the hamstrings, glutes and the lower back.
A common mistake you want to avoid is curving your spine – keep your back straight.
Most people tend to ignore this exercise due to the pressure it exerts on the knees. You may want to avoid it if you have had knee joint complications before.
Go as depth as you are comfortable with. As you gain more strength you will be able to go deeper.
Close Stance Squat
Do full range of motion to get the most out of it.
You will have to place the back foot on a high surface.
Concentrate on the back foot rather than the front one – to work the quadriceps and the hip flexors. And the front foot will be working the hamstrings.
Alternating Jump Lunge
Keep your torso upright throughout the movement and jump high enough.
Side Lunge Squat
As you get more flexible start placing one foot (the straight one) on a high surface for a more rewarding workout.
Again, the height of the surface matters.
The height should be challenging and don’t get too caught up in jumping that you end up compromising form.
Single Leg Bridges
Single Leg Calf Raises
Just do it on a flat surface.
This exercise alone can build strong and toned calves if done regularly. Just do high reps and execute the movement slowly.
Elevated (shoulder and feet) Hip Thrusts
Advanced Bodyweight Leg Exercises
These are the best bodyweight leg exercise for building muscles and strength. You’ll notice most of them are single leg exercises – this is because it takes extraordinary strength to lift and control the body with one leg.
The pistol squats primarily work the quadriceps and the glutes, the secondary muscles worked are the hamstrings and the hips.
You can start doing the pistol squat by holding on to a pool and progress towards mastering it.
In fact many people who can perform a good number of pistol squats find it hard to execute a single shrimp squat.
Once you can do this, you have mastered the bodyweight leg training.
The Russian Leg Curl
But you can start doing it using hand assistance (see video). Try to use minimal force on your hands.
The eventually do it with no hand assistance
Single leg wall sits
This exercise mainly works the quads and the secondary muscles worked are the hamstrings and glutes.
By the time you can do this exercise for 2 minutes, your legs will be super strong.
Jumping Single Leg Box Squat
This exercise will increase your leg power and athletic performance.
Single Leg Elevated (feet and shoulder) Hip Thrust
Only start doing this exercise after you have mastered the elevated hip thrust.
Lack of variety shouldn’t be an excuse anymore. With this list you should train legs at least once a week.
But you can’t do it all, just pick 6 exercises and incorporate them in your routine. Then later advance to harder exercises.
Don’t believe anyone who tells you that it’s not possible to build muscular and strong legs with bodyweight exercises. So you don’t need to add weights to your exercises, unless your goal is to have a bodybuilder’s legs.
I would love to hear from you. Have you been training legs? And what are some of the challenges you are facing, if any.