bodyweight leg exercises
Fitness

18 Bodyweight Leg Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

People often think that you need to overload your legs with lots of weight to build muscle, tone, and sculpt your lower body. As a result, they head to the gym and pile on the poundage on the squat rack and leg press machine.

Yet, there are plenty of bodyweight leg exercises you can do with no resistance at all that will get you to your leg training goals.

In this article, I drill down on the 18 absolute best leg exercises you can do at home to maximally work your quadriceps, hamstrings glutes, and calves. 

1. Bodyweight Squats

Muscles worked

Quadriceps, glutes

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and your hands clasped in front of your body.
  2. From this standing position, descend down into a parallel squat so that your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  3. Push through your heels to return to the start position.
  4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Tips 

Maintain a neutral back position; look directly ahead throughout this movement. Keep your core tight.

2. Donkey Kick

Muscles worked

Gluteus maximus, gluteus medius

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Get down on the floor on your hands and knees, resting on your palms.
  2. Kick your right bent leg back and up to full extension.
  3. Lower and repeat.
  4. Perform 3 sets of 12 reps on each leg.

Tips 

Contract the glutes in the top position. Keep your core tight.

3. Lunges

Muscles worked

Quads, hamstrings

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms by your sides.
  2. Take a large step forward with your right foot.
  3. Lunge down to bring the left knee to the floor, stopping  a few inches short.
  4. Push through the front thigh to return to the start position.

Tips 

Do not round your back; keep looking directly head throughout; keep your core tight.

4. Reverse Lunge

Muscles worked

Hamstrings, quads

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Assume a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart and hands on hips.
  2. Take a large step backward with your right foot.
  3. Lunge down to bring the left knee to the floor, stopping  a few inches short.
  4. Push through the front thigh to return to the start position.
  5. Perform 3 sets of 12 reps on each leg.

Tips 

This exercise is more hamstring-focused than the front version of the lunge. Concentrate on contracting the hamstrings as you come out of the lunge. Maintain tightness through your core muscles.

5. Squat Jump

Muscles worked

Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings

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Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands at chest level.
  2. From his starting position, descend down into a parallel squat.
  3. Explode into the air as you come out of the squat to jump off the floor.
  4. Lower and repeat.
  5. Perform 3 sets of 12 reps.

Tips 

Land softly on your toes as you come down from the jump.

6. Glute Bridges

Muscles worked

Gluteus maximus

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on the floor  on your back with your legs bent and knees drawn up. Place your hands on the floor alongside your body.
  2. Thrust your hips into the air as high as you can.
  3. Squeeze your butt muscles in the top position.
  4. Lower and repeat.
  5. Perform 3 sets of 12 reps.

Tips 

Hold the contracted position for a couple of seconds to maximally activate the gluteus maximus.

7. Wide Squat

Muscles worked

Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Stand with feet wider than shoulder width, your toes turned slightly outward and your hands clasped in front of your body in the standard squat position.
  2. From this starting position, descend down into a parallel squat so that your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  3. Push through your heels to return to the start position.
  4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Tips 

Maintain a neutral spine position throughout this exercise.

8. Box Jumps

Muscles worked

Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves

Equipment used 

16 or 24-inch box

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Stand in front of a box with feet about shoulder width apart and your arms at your sides.
  2. Drop the hips and swing the arms back to load for the jump.
  3. Jump up onto the box to land with both feet together on top of it.
  4. Step back down to the floor.
  5. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.

Tips 

Box jumps are an excellent plyometric exercise. Move through your reps in a fluid, continuous manner to maximize the cardio benefits as well as keeping the intensity on your lower body muscles. When doing box jumps, be sure to land on both feet. 

9. Single Leg Glute Bridge

Muscles worked

Gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on the floor on your back with your arms by your sides.
  2. Bend your left knee and keep your right leg straight.
  3. Thrust your hips into the air. Hold for a second as you squeeze your right butt cheek.

Tips 

Perform this unilateral glute exercise slowly and deliberately, focusing on the contraction of the glute muscle. Move through a full range of motion.

10. Split Squats

Muscles worked

Quadriceps, hamstrings

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Stand in a staggered stance with your right foot forward in the standard lunge position.
  2. Descend down to bring the rear knee to a bout an inch above the floor.
  3. Push through the front thigh to return to the start position.

Tips 

Be sure to maintain an upright body position throughout the movement.

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11. Side Lunge

Muscles worked

Quads, hamstrings, adductor muscles

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Stand with your feet about a foot wider than shoulder width apart and your hands clasped at chest level.
  2. Move your weight to the left side as you bend the left knee  and straighten out the right leg.
  3. Lower down until your right leg is angled at about 30 degrees in the side lunge position.
  4. Return to the start position nd repeat on the other side.

Tips 

Move slowly and deliberately. Hold the bottom position to feel the stretch through the adductors and quads. Move through a full range of motion.

12. Squat Pulses

Muscles worked

Quadriceps

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Stand with feet hip width apart and your hands clasped in front of your body. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  2. From this starting position, descend down into a parallel squat so that your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  3. Pulse up and down about 12 inches 3 times.
  4. Push through your heels to return to the start position.
  5. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Tips 

Perform the 3 pulses slowly and deliberately to maintain time under tension on your body’s largest muscles.

13. Fire Hydrant

Muscles worked

Hamstrings, adductor muscles

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Get down on the floor on all fours in a table top position with your palms on the floor under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips.
  2. Lift your bent right leg directly out to the side until the leg is parallel to the floor.
  3. Lower and repeat.
  4. Perform 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

Tips 

Hold the top position for a second as you contract the glutes.

14. Overhead Banded Squats

Muscles worked

Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus

Equipment used 

Resistance band

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Stand with feet hip width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. Loop a resistance band under your feet and hold the other end in your hands.
  2. Bring your arms up to full extension above your head. Keep your elbows locked in this position throughout the movement.
  3. Now hinge from the hips to descend into a parallel squat. Perform two pulses before extending out of the squat.

Tips 

Perform the exercise slowly and deliberately; maintain a neutral spine position.

15. Bodyweight Calf Raise

Muscles worked

Calves

Equipment used 

Calf raise block or three-inch platform

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Stand with your feet on a calf raise block and hold and upright for body support. The balls of your feet should be n the block with your heels hanging off it.
  2. Without bending your knees drop your heels down to full extension.
  3. Lift your heels as high as possible.
  4. Lower and repeat.
  5. Perform 3 sets of 15 reps.

Tips 

Hold the top extended position for a 2-second count. Be sure to go all the way down in the bottom position to get a full range of motion.

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16. Band Leg Extension

Muscles worked

Quadriceps

Equipment used 

Resistance band, ankle attachment

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Attach a resistance band to the bottom of a secure upright. Secure an ankle attachment to your right foot and hook the end of the band to it.
  2. Stand  few feet in front of the upright, facing away from it.
  3. Bend your right knee back about 45 degrees.
  4. Straighten your leg to full extension.
  5. Lower and repeat.
  6. Perform 3 sets of 15 reps on each leg.

Tips 

Adjust your position so that the band is taut throughout the entire movement.

17. Floor Hamstring Curl

Muscles worked

Hamstrings

Equipment used 

Towel, slick floor

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on a slick floor (such as polished wood) on your back with a folded towel under your heels. Your arms should be at your sides alongside you. Straighten out your legs.
  2. Lift your butt into the air as you pull your heels back toward your body.
  3. Once your knees are fully bent push back to the start position.
  4. Perform 3 sets of 15 reps.

Tips 

Squeeze the hamstrings tightly in the top contracted position.

18. Bulgarian Split Squat

Muscles worked

Quadriceps, glutes

Equipment used 

Bench

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Stand in front of a chair with your right foot resting on the chair. Place your hands on hips.
  2. Now descend down into a one legged squat until the right foot almost touches the floor.
  3. Push through the left heel to return to the start position. 
  4. Perform 12 reps on each leg.

Tips 

Keep your upper body upright and maintain a neutral spine position throughout the exercise.

Conclusion

There is more to training legs than heavy squats and leg presses. In fact, you can get an awesome lower body workout without picking up a weight at all.

In this article, I’ve provided you with 18 bodyweight moves to maximally work your quads, hamstrings, and calves at home with just your body as the resistance.

Create bodyweight leg workouts by combining 3 or 4 of the exercises for a total of 16 sets. Include exercises for the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves in each workout. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you build leg muscle with bodyweight exercises only?

Yes, you definitely can build leg muscle with bodyweight exercises only. Choose bodyweight leg exercises that isolate the leg muscle you want to build and combine them into bodyweight leg workouts of 4-6 sets to failure with a 30-second rest between sets.

How do you fix weak glutes?

You can fix weak glutes by doing glute-centric exercises such as the glute bridge or fire hydrant. Do 3-4 sets with reps between 15 and 20.

How do you build glutes without building legs?

You can build glutes without building legs by performing butt-building exercises that isolate the glutes without activating the quads. The best bodyweight training exercises to target the glutes are the glute bridge and the fire hydrant.

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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