Doing leg exercises at home is probably a lot easier than you realize. You don’t need a leg press machine or a stair climber or a squat bar to fire up those lower-body muscles. All you need is your bodyweight, maybe a chair, and the motivation to put some burn in your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and inner thighs. Oh, and this list of 13 no-equipment leg exercises that you can do anywhere, anytime.
It probably comes as no surprise that having strong legs can take you far. Even if you’re not training for a race or working toward any other specific athletic goal, you need legs that are strong enough to literally carry you through life. Everything from walking up a flight of stairs to lifting your heavy laundry bag is easier when you can put some leg muscle behind it. Luckily, effective leg exercises don’t have to be complicated and they don’t even require a gym membership. There are plenty of bodyweight leg exercises you can add to your workout routine to get stronger—and work toward any bigger strength and performance goals you may have too.
“Bodyweight exercises are realistic and functional, meaning that they help us strengthen our muscles that we use in our daily lives,” Jess Sims, a NASM-certified personal trainer at the Fhitting Room and Shadowbox in New York City, tells SELF. “For example, when we squat we are essentially sitting down into an imaginary chair, which will help improve our posture when we actually sit in a chair. When we stand up from a squat, we drive through our heels and brace our core—we are essentially building great habits that translate into our lives outside the gym.”
Bodyweight leg exercises are also valuable for learning proper form before you add weights to certain moves. “We shouldn’t be using weights until we’ve mastered basic lunge, hinge, and squat movements without weights,” Sims says. Another bonus of bodyweight moves? “You have your body all the time and it’s free to use, so you can do exercises anywhere and at anytime!” The best leg workouts are the ones you’ll actually do, right? So if you’ve got an arsenal of moves that you can literally do anywhere, there’s a better chance you’ll fit them into your routine.
The bodyweight leg exercises below will help you build strength while also prepping your body to do more complex moves with weights. Give them a try and embrace the burn.
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and slightly turned out with your weight in your heels.
- Hinge forward at your hips and sit your butt back into a squat. Bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Drive through your heels to stand back up straight. Squeeze your butt and keep your core tight as you stand.
Start standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
Step backwards with your left foot, landing on the ball of your foot and bending both knees to create two 90-degree angles.
Push through your right heel to return to standing. As you stand up, thrust your left knee toward your chest.
Repeat on the other side.
Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out, and hands on hips or in front of your chest.
Squat until your thighs are parallel to floor.
While staying in a squat, lift both heels off the ground and hold for two seconds.
Lower heels back down.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
Hinge forward at your hips and sit your butt back into a squat. Bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
Jump up into the air as high as you can and straighten out your legs. Swing your arms down by your sides for momentum, and keep your back straight and chest lifted.
Land back on the floor with soft knees. Go directly into another squat.
Stand facing a bench or box (or a chair if that’s all you have), hands on hips or by your sides.
Tap your left foot on the bench, then swap legs and tap your right foot, quickly alternating sides.
Keep your back straight and chest lifted the entire time.
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