Fitness
bodyweight leg exercises

A Complete List Of Bodyweight Leg Exercises [Beginner to Advanced]

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.

In this article you will discover the best bodyweight leg exercises #bodyweight #leg #exercises #flabfix

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 Squat

Air-Squat--Leg-exercisesIf you are new to bodyweight leg exercises: squats are where you should start.

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

Alternating-Lunges--Bodyweight-leg-exercisesWhile there are different variations of the lunges, most of them impact the same muscles.

So instead of doing all the different beginner lunges variations just do this one. This compound exercise works the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.

Good Mornings

Good-mornings--bodyweight-leg-exercisesThe good mornings work the hamstrings, glutes and the lower back.

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.

Donkey Kicks

Donkey-kicks--Bodyweight-Leg-ExercisesA great glute and hamstring exercise. Doing this exercise regularly will stabilize the erector spinae.

Do full range of motion for this exercise and it will help keep the pelvis and spine in their neutral position as you move.

Bridges

glute-bridgesJust like the donkey kicks, this exercise activates the glutes and hamstrings. It is also recommended for someone with lower back pain or complications.

Control your movement when doing this exercise and squeeze the glutes as you raise the hips

Standing Leg Curls

Standing-Leg-curls-bodyweight-leg-exercisesYou should take advantage of any exercise that works the hamstrings. Because most of the exercises target the quadriceps and movement naturally favors them.

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.

Frog Jumps

Frog-jumps-Bodyweight-leg-exercisesThis plyometric exercise will increase the strength and explosive power of your legs.

While this exercise is common with women, men should also do it too. Once you have mastered it move up to a harder variation.

Step Ups

Step-ups-Bodyweight-leg-exercisesYou will need a high surface that you can step on. Use a step box or high stair cases – something that’s your knee height. The lower the surface the easier the exercise will be.

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

Elevated-calf-raise--Bodyweight-leg-exercisesA leg workout is not complete without working the calf muscles.

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.

Wall Sits

Wall-Sits--Bodyweight-leg-exercisesJust lean on the wall and sit on the air, with your knees bend at a 90 degree angle. Then hold that position for as long as you can.

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

Alternating-jump-lunges--Bodyweight-leg-exercisesThis is a variation of the beginner step ups and great for power and explosiveness.

Increase the height of the surface as you get better at this exercise.

One Leg Deadlift

One-leg-deadliftThis could as well be a beginner exercise. I only put it here because it requires balance, flexibility and stability which most beginners don’t have.

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.

Sissy Squat

Sissy-SquatNot popular but a great exercise for building the quadriceps.

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

Close-Stance-squat--Bodyweight-leg-exercisesThis squat variation works the same muscles as the air squat. It also helps build more stability and balance.

Do full range of motion to get the most out of it.

Split Squat

Split-squat--bodyweight-leg-exerciseAlso called the elevated lunge squat or the Bulgarian split squat.

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

Alternating-jump-lunge--bodyweight-leg-exerciseOnce you have mastered the alternating lunges advance to this.

Keep your torso upright throughout the movement and jump high enough.

Side Lunge Squat

Side-lunge-squat-Bodyweight-leg-exercisesAnother hamstring exercise you should have in your routine. This exercise also improves flexibility and stretches the hamstrings.

As you get more flexible start placing one foot (the straight one) on a high surface for a more rewarding workout.

Box Jumps

Box-jumbs--bodyweight-leg-exercisesThis jump exercise will work all your leg muscles and also increase explosive power.

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-bridge--Bodyweight-leg-exercisesWhen the 2 leg bridges become easy start doing this. This exercise is more demanding because it requires you to support the body with one leg.

Single Leg Calf Raises

single-leg-calf-raisesAfter you master the elevated calf raises (with both legs). Advance to the 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

Hip-thrust-Bodyweight-leg-exercisesBoth your feet and shoulders should be on a high surface. This exercise is better than bridges since it allows more range of motion. Therefore it hits the glutes and hamstrings more.

 

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.

Pistol Squat

Pistol-squat-boddyweight-leg-exercisesThe one leg squat is one of the most challenging bodyweight leg exercises. It requires a lot of flexibility, stability, balance and quadriceps strength.

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.

Shrimp Squat

Shrimp-squat-bodyweight-leg-exercisesThis is a harder exercise than the pistol squat, since it requires more balance, strength and stability.

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

Russian-leg-curls-bodyweight-leg-exercisesYou definitely don’t want to jump straight from the standing leg curls to this. This exercise requires a lot of hamstring strength.

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

single-leg-wall-sit-bodyweight-leg-exercisesWhile the single leg wall sits may not be as hard as the above exercises, doing it for 60secs is no easy challenge.

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

Jumping-box-one-leg-squatOne of the best leg exercises for power and explosiveness. To avoid injury, master the pistol squat before you start jumping on one foot.

This exercise will increase your leg power and athletic performance.

Single Leg Elevated (feet and shoulder) Hip Thrust

Single-leg-hip-thrust--bodyweight-leg-exercisesThis exercise requires a lot of hip strength and stability. It may seem easy but you need very strong hips to do it properly.

Only start doing this exercise after you have mastered the elevated hip thrust.

 

Final Word

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.


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6 Comments


  1. leanDan

    April 22, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Thanks for the variety of exercises Brian. I will never be bored doing the same exercises anymore.

    • Brian Syuki

      April 23, 2015 at 4:35 am

      I bet it’ll be hard to skip leg day now.

  2. coach selby

    April 22, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    This is a great article full of wonderful exercises for legs. Can’t wait to see what your next bog is going to be.

    • Brian Syuki

      April 23, 2015 at 4:29 am

      Thanks Coach, look out for more lists like this one.

  3. Mary Jaksch |WritetoDone

    April 28, 2015 at 6:44 am

    Fantastic post! Very good resource. I’m just included gym training as I’ve been invited to go for my 5th Degree Blackbelt in Karate. It’s going to be in December so I’m building up my strength and fitness.

    I’ve bookmarked this post.

    Thanks!

    • Brian Syuki

      April 28, 2015 at 8:56 am

      Thanks Mary,
      You can definitely combine gym training and bodyweight training, and get great results. Congrats on the 5th Degree, that’s great.
      Keep training.