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7 Bodyweight Leg Exercises That Require No Equipment

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7 Bodyweight Leg Exercises That Require No Equipment
Bodyweight Leg Exercises

When you think about it, even when it’s not leg day, you still use your lower body in pretty much every activity you do — from getting out of bed in the morning, to running for the bus! 

However, some parts of your routine, like sitting all day at a desk job, can lead to tight hips and your leg muscles to become weakened. This causes other muscles, like your lower back, to tighten and increase in soreness due to compensation and imbalances. Without any intervention or change, this may lead to injury, so you can see why it’s important to keep these muscles strong and active.

Bodyweight leg exercises can be done anywhere you have space to move, like inside your apartment or outdoors. Plus, these leg exercises are suitable for any experience level!

Our SWEAT Trainers demonstrate some of the most effective bodyweight leg exercises you can do at home and the muscle groups they work. The best part is that they require no equipment and you can easily modify them to suit your level of fitness.

The best bodyweight exercises for lower body strength

To get the most out of your leg workout, think about the different muscle groups you want to train and how strengthening those muscles can help you with the things you do every day, like walking or jumping.

You can better these movements by focusing on your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves in targeted leg exercises that can make up an effective lower body workout. When performed correctly, you might be struggling to walk the next day — but don’t worry, there are plenty of ways that you can  speed up your recovery and bounce back stronger than ever.

So that you can train your lower body confidently, here’s a breakdown of the best bodyweight exercises for beginners through to advanced.

Beginner leg exercises

If you’re just starting your fitness journey, it’s important to establish a good foundation first. Starting off with key functional movements to focus on control and technique in exercises like squats and lunges, is a good way to help you transition into more complex exercises.

Squat

Squats basically mimic the motion of sitting down and getting back up again. Practicing your squat with good form can help you to learn which muscles you should engage. Squatting correctly may also help to improve your posture if you sit a lot.

While you use multiple muscle groups during a squat, you predominantly work your glutes and quads. Your core is also used for stabilisation, as you power up through your heels to bring yourself back to the upright position.

To work on your squat depth and technique, you can try box squats. When you feel comfortable with your technique, remove the box and increase your range to make it harder. If you enjoy plyometrics (jumping), jump squats are a great squat progression. 

  1. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Looking straight ahead, bend at both the hips and knees, ensuring that your knees remain in line with your toes. Continue bending your knees until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. Ensure that your back remains within a 45- to 90- degree angle to your hips.
  3. Exhale. Push through your heels and extend your legs to return to the starting position. 
    Repeat.

Lunge

You use a split stance in a lunge, which provides a much narrower base of support. As a result, this exercise requires a lot of balance. It can be tricky at first, but when you master the lunge, you can improve your mobility, stability and strengthen your back, hips, and of course your legs — including the glutes, quads and hamstrings.

When you are confident with your form, you can do lunge progressions like alternating lunges, walking lunges and lunges with weights.

  1. Plant both feet on the floor in a split stance with your left leg forward and your right leg back, ensuring that your feet are shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Bend both knees to approximately 90 degrees. If done correctly, your front knee should be aligned with your ankle and your back knee should be hovering just off the floor.
  3. Exhale. Extend both knees to return to the starting position.
    Complete an equal number of repetitions on both sides.

Calf Raise

It’s easy to neglect the calves, but calf exercises are really important! If you find that you have weak ankles, doing calf raises can help to improve stability. Strong ankles and calves can also help to improve performance in activities such as running as well as to help to reduce injuries.

To get a deeper range of motion, step onto a low step or weight pate with your heels hanging off the edge. One at a time or together with both feet, relax them so that you lower your heels and come back up again. You can also hold onto weight for added resistance.

  1. Plant both feet on the floor, slightly further than shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Keeping your weight on the balls of your feet, raise your heels so that they are approximately [5cm] to [10cm] higher than the floor.
  3. Inhale. Lower your heels to return to the starting position.
    Repeat.

Intermediate leg exercises

When you’ve nailed your technique with basic bodyweight leg exercises, you can ramp up the intensity by adding complexity to the exercise.

Squat pulse with resistance band

When you have mastered your squat form, try a squat progression by adding a small pulse at the bottom of the movement. This creates more time under tension on your muscles as the pulse is performed at the bottom of the range. 

With a resistance band just above your knees, you can also focus on engaging your glutes by pressing your knees out against the band. This helps you to activate your glutes if you tend to feel the muscles more in your quads or hips.

  1. With a resistance band looped around your lower thighs, plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. Gently draw your pubic bone to your belly button (engage pelvic floor). This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Looking straight ahead, bend at both the hips and knees, ensuring that your knees remain in line with your toes. Continue bending your knees until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. Ensure that your back remains within a 45- to 90-degree angle to your hips. This is called full squat position.
  3. Exhale. Push through your heels and extend your legs slightly.
  4. Bend your knees again to return to full squat position.
    Continue this pulse action, inhaling for two pulses and exhaling for two pulses.

Reverse lunge and knee-up

Reverse lunges can be wobbly if you haven’t built up your core strength yet, but are a great way to get deeper into your lunge to work the glutes, hamstrings and quads. 

Practicing alternating lunges before attempting a side lunge variation can help you to get comfortable with the forwards and backwards motion. Adding a knee-up develops and improves strength and stability in your legs — if you want to increase the difficulty, add some weight with dumbbells or a barbell!

  1. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Carefully take a big step backwards with your right foot. As you plant your foot on the floor, bend both knees to approximately 90 degrees, ensuring that your weight is evenly distributed between both legs. If done correctly, your front knee should be aligned with your ankle and your back knee should be hovering just off the floor.
  3. Exhale. Extend both knees and transfer your weight onto your left foot. At the same time, elevate your right foot to bring your knee into your chest.
  4. Inhale. Lower your right leg to return to the starting position, but without resting your foot on the mat.
    Complete an equal number of repetitions on both sides.

Advanced leg exercises

If you’re up for a challenge, try to incorporate more unilateral movements into your routine to focus and engage one side of your body at a time. This requires more stability and can help to correct any muscular imbalances across your body.

Bulgarian split squat

In this squat variation, you’ll train one leg at a time. Although it sounds scary, the Bulgarian split squat is actually really easy to learn. 

Training unilaterally can help increase strength and stability. Strengthening one side of your lower body at a time can also help you get more out of bilateral exercises (exercises that use both sides of the body). In this exercise, you’ll work your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves and if you’re feeling game, add some weight using dumbbells.

  1. Position a bench horizontally behind you.
    Plant both feet on the floor shoulder width apart. Carefully step your right foot backwards, allowing the ball of your foot to rest on top of the bench. Carefully shuffle your left foot forward, if needed.
  2. Bend both knees to approximately 90 degrees. This is called a lunge position.
    If done correctly, your front knee should be aligned with your ankle and your back knee should be hovering just off of the floor. 
  3. Push through the heel of your left foot and toe of your right foot to extend both legs. Complete an equal number of repetitions on both sides.

Single leg Romanian deadlift

The single leg Romanian deadlift, often referred to when bodyweighted as the single leg arabesque, helps to improve muscular strength and stability in the glutes. It’s also a great way to activate and train your hamstrings

This exercise requires balance and stability from your core and can help to increase movement patterns for hinging movements like conventional deadlifts

  1. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Bend your left knee slightly and set this as a fixed angle. Without changing the angle of your left knee, hinge forwards from your hips until your torso is parallel to the floor, extending your right leg behind you. At the same time, extend your arms towards the floor. Ensure that you keep your hips level, maintain a proud chest and that your head is an extension of your spine. You should feel tension in your left hamstring (back of your leg).
  3. Exhale. Push through your left heel and, using your glute and hamstrings, extend your hips to return to the starting position. 
    Complete an equal number of repetitions on each side.

You can still get a lower body pump at home with bodyweight exercises

Include some of these bodyweight leg exercises in your next workout to target the different muscle groups in your lower body. You’ll be amazed at the benefits they can have in how you feel every day!

You can use glute activation exercises to wake up tired glutes before leg day. As you progress, introducing home gym equipment or resistance bands to your workout can help you to increase your strength as you work towards your fitness goals

Are there other areas you want to learn how to train at home? Tell us in the comments!

* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.

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