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The Best Bodyweight Exercises For Legs

November 10, 2021 5 min read

If you want a workout that both builds muscle and annihilates fat, then look no further than the exercises below that target your legs. Whether you're a seasoned gym-goer or complete beginner with a low fitness ability level, a controlled lower bodyweight workout routine will challenge you, build a tight core, and help enormously when building strength. Especially when incorporated into a full-body workout.

Your leg muscles make up effectively half of the muscle mass of your entire body (and some of the largest muscles), including many of the primary muscles and secondary muscles, which means your increased metabolic rate and calorie burn will last for hours after your workout. And the best thing is that you don't have to leave the comfort of your own home (a great time saver) to perform a leg workout. Very little gym equipment is needed and no gym membership is required.
And if you are a finely tuned athlete with a high fitness level that gets up in the morning to push their body to the limit, then you can add some box jumps or a squat jump to the exercises below to challenge your leg muscle strength. And bear in mind that each movement is a compound movement.

When to do lower body bodyweight exercises?

There's never a bad time to do a leg workout, and it's one of those things that's hard to overdo, really. For example, Olympic weightlifting athletes will train their lower body a number of times per week because their legs need to go through the entire range of motion. But assuming you're not an Olympic standard athlete, I recommend adding a bodyweight leg workout into your routine 2-3 times per week.

Can I do my leg workout from home?

Yes, and with time pressures on our daily lives, in my opinion, there's never been a better time to invest in some personal gym equipment for home, such as a weighted vest or plyometric box to improve your fitness levels and physical performance, whilst fitting in your other favorite activities.

How to choose the best bodyweight leg exercises

When it comes to bodyweight leg exercises many people go straight for the barbell squat. And whilst there's nothing wrong with that, I want to give you some ideas that will not only mix things up a little but also let you train at home without spending hundreds of pounds on various bits of kit.

The aim of this article is to keep it simple.

So without further ado, let's get into our top body-weight leg exercises that not only create muscle fatigue and challenge you but set out an effective exercise routine that will promote building muscle and aid your everyday movements.

Exercise #1 Air squats

From the outside, air squats look easy. And to be fair, if you're only doing 2 or 3, they are. But where's the fun or challenge in that? You're doing bodyweight leg workouts to improve your athletic activity, therefore, your heart rate will barely change unless your aerobic fitness is pushed past the comfort zone. So we recommend that this squat exercise is a high rep movement that comes close to your max heart rate (source).

Start with your head in a fixed position and your feet hip-width apart. With your body upright, slowly go down into the squat position with your right and left knee pivoting as you sit, then, keeping your core tight, and in a controlled movement, go back up to the standing position. 

You might find that as your leg strength increases you need to go into a deep squat, or to make your leg muscles really burn, increase the time under tension when you're at the bottom of the rep (thighs parallel at 90-degree angle), go down past 90-degrees to a 45-degree angle so your thighs go past parallel to the floor, or add a weight vest to add external resistance and overall misery.

And if you really enjoy the suck and want some explosive movements, try adding a jump to each rep and test your athletic performance. 

Exercise #2 Lunges

On to lunges. If you're new to them, I recommend the basic lunge, which is simply starting and finishing in the same position, however, we don't want basic! So I recommend the walking lunge or even the jumping lunge or duck lunge to really push the major muscles in your legs.

But first, your technique. With this exercise type, start with your feet together then go into the lunge position, brace your core, then squeeze your bum (effectively working your gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, and gluteus medius) as you as you go back up to the start position. 

You must maintain a fluid motion and be sure to begin each lunge with your knees starting the body movements because as you perform the exercise your leg muscles will fatigue quickly as you go through your set. It's a move that will test your range of motion, but make sure you keep your right and left foot flat when starting and finishing each repetition to ensure you have the correct balance.

And if you're an experienced trainer and want to test yourself, try the jump lunge or reverse lunge.

Exercise #3 Stair Climber

Now although it's clear from the video that there's some expensive equipment in use, I've added this in because you can substitute it with either the/some stairs or use a plyometric box. 

You could argue that the stair climber changes things because it's moving, but I've left it in because it gives you an idea of what can be done both in and out of the gym. 

They're effectively just fancy step-ups that greatly aid your general health & fitness.

So start with hands on hips, then slowly step up, making sure that you have a braced core and your knees are pointing forwards as you climb for optimal movement. Failing to keep your knees in the right position can lead to discomfort or injury. 


How to increase resistance with bodyweight leg exercises

As you can see, these are simple exercises that tone your entire lower body, however, some of you might be thinking, yeah that's great, but I like my workouts a little challenging. And if that's the case then why not add resistance to each workout by grabbing a weight vest and some additional plates and push your lower body muscles to the extreme.

Can you build leg muscle without weights?

Yes, you don't need heavy weights to build leg muscles. However, bodyweight leg exercises are about building lean muscle mass are additional exercises that aid bodyweight movements and increase your aerobic fitness levels, up your metabolic rate and increase your joint range.

A 45-minute vigorous exercise bout of lunge patterns, general bodyweight training, or speed exercises will greatly increase your muscle recovery and overall quality of life. Even if it's just a simple 10-minute home toning workout.

Alex Nicholas
Alex Nicholas

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