Lower body and leg strengthening should be a critical and prioritized component of your workout and fitness routine. Your legs are the foundation of your body, they connect you to the ground, move you, and help you generate power. Your legs are used constantly throughout the day, so it’s crucial that you keep them strong and flexible. And just because you have no or limited access to a gym or weights, doesn’t mean that you can’t obtain an explosive and efficient leg workout. In fact, there are dozens of exercises you can perform that utilize just your bodyweight – and they’re extremely effective.
Here are 8 of the best exercises for a no-equipment, killer leg workout.
Squat jumps are insanely effective both for strengthening as well as for building cardiovascular endurance. You’ll utilize maximum effort during every single repetition.
Start with your feet hip-width apart and squat down until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Driving your heels through the ground, using as much force as possible, jump as high as you can. As you land, allow your knees to bend around 45 degrees then resume your deep squat. Pause in the squat and repeat for the desired amount of reps.
Target your glutes in this simple but intense exercise. Be sure to emphasize pushing through your heels while performing this move.
Start with your legs shoulder-width apart and step one leg back, bending the knee to a 90-degree angle, your front thigh parallel to the floor. Drive through your front leg using the heel, returning back to the standing position. Either continue to repeat on the same side for the desired amount of reps or alternate legs.
Scissor box jump
This exercise is wonderful for strength-building as well as cardio. You will need to have access to a bench or a box for this exercise – a public park is a great option if you don’t have these at home.
Start with one leg on the box or bench with the other leg on the floor. In one fluid movement, power through the leg on the box, jump up, and switch leg positions in mid-air. Pause at the bottom and repeat for the desired amount of reps.
Calves are often neglected during lower body and leg workouts. Even though the calves are usually worked during other exercises, it’s important to give them some undivided attention. If you find that you have weaker angles, calf raises can help improve strength and stability, helping reduce injuries. To get a deeper range of motion in this move, stand on a low step or ledge, with your heels hanging off the edge.
With both feet on the floor at shoulder-width apart, keep your weight on the balls of your feet. Push through the balls of your feet, lifting your heels and contracting your calf muscles at the top of the movement. Slowly lower your heels back down and repeat for the desired amount of reps.
Pistol squats are notorious for being challenging and downright difficult – but, by that same token, they are one of the most powerful and effective no-equipment exercises you can do for your lower body. They are difficult to perform and practice makes perfect. If pistol squats are new to you, feel free to use a chair for stability until you build up the strength to do it without any stability assistance.
Stand with hip-width apart and kick one leg out to a 90-degree angle. Squeezing knee-to-knee and activating your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, push your hips back and lower down as much as possible into a sitting position with one leg. Drive through the bottom leg and push back up to standing position. Perform the desired amount of reps on the same leg before switching to the opposite leg.
Single-leg hip raises
Glute strength is important for so many of life’s daily functions. From squatting down, to lifting yourself out of a chair, or running – your glutes are the power force behind those movements. This move targets all three gluteal muscles — the maximus, medius, and minimus.
Lie down on the floor face-up with arms to your sides at a 45-degree angle. Bend your knees bringing your heels about 6 inches from your butt. Reach one leg out straight, keep the other leg bent and on the floor. Activate your glutes and push up through the bottom leg, elevating your lower back, keeping your shoulders on the ground. Lift your hips as high as possible and slowly come back down. Repeat for the desired amount of reps then switch to the other leg.
Lateral lunges will have you fully-loading your weight onto each leg and will force maximum activation in your glutes and quads.
Stand with hip-width apart and step out to one side, bending that leg at a 90-degree angle, keeping the other leg completely straight. Sink your weight down then power through and push back up to center. Repeat for the desired amount of reps then move to the other side.
Single leg Romanian deadlift
A great exercise for improving leg strength, especially in the glutes, is the single leg Romanian deadlift. This exercise will also help train and activate your hamstrings. This exercise will require stability and balance using core strength.
Standing shoulder-width apart, this is your starting position. Bend one knee slightly, hinge forward from your hips, keeping your other leg straight and lifting it off the floor as you bend down. Hinge until your torso is parallel with the floor and extend your arms down, touching the floor or your toes. Push through your standing heel, powering through your glute and hamstring, and extend your hips, returning to starting position. Perform an equal number of reps on each side.
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