Who says you need a gym membership to build a strong lower body? From squats to lunges, many of the most popular weighted leg exercises can be performed at home using nothing more than your bodyweight and some simple everyday items.
In this guide, you’ll learn 10 bodyweight leg exercises that you can perform at home to build stronger, fitter and firmer legs. Pick five exercises and perform them twice a week to develop an athletic lower body in as little as three months.
Do you want more bodyweight exercises for your upper body, abdominals, back and more? Join our No Equipment, No Excuses Home Workout course to learn quick and simple exercises that you can perform at home to train your entire body.
Ask any seasoned weightlifted for their favorite lower body exercise and you’ll hear one answer: squats. Although they’re most commonly performed in the gym using a barbell, squats can be performed at home using your bodyweight for resistance.
Place your feet shoulder width apart and stick your butt out, as if you’re about to sit down in a large chair. Look straight ahead and keep your back straight as you squat until your thighs are parallel with the ground.
Bodyweight squats target your quadriceps – the large muscles on the front of your thigh – as well as your hamstrings and glutes. This makes them an excellent choice for the first exercise in your home leg workout.
Frog jumps are plyometric exercises that train your muscles and your heart. Unlike squats, which develop slow, controlled strength, frog jumps are all about explosive power and endurance.
Start with your legs slightly further apart than shoulder width, and bring your hands down to touch the ground between your feet. Push up using your thighs and leap up into the air. As you peak, lift your hands above your head to strengthen your core.
Frog jumps are a compound exercises, meaning they target more than one muscle group. Two to three sets of eight to ten frog jumps will work out your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes to give you a stronger, more explosive lower body.
Hip thrusts might look a little silly, but they’re one of the most effective bodyweight exercises for your glutes. Lie flat on the ground and lift your knees until your legs sit at a 90 degree angle. Lift your butt using and hold it in the air for five to 10 seconds.
Hip thrusts target your glutes – the muscle group that makes up your buttocks. This exercise develops both static strength, since you’re holding your entire body using your buttock muscles, and explosive strength in your glutes and hamstrings.
Since your glutes play a major role in other exercises, it’s best to perform hip thrusts towards the end of your home workout. Do you bodyweight squats first, then follow up with two or three sets of eight to ten bodyweight hip thrusts.
Box step-ups put your quadriceps and hamstrings to work in the same way a lengthy walk up stairs would.
Stack one or two workout boxes in front of you or find a ledge that’s between 10 and 12 inches high. Stand in front of the ledge and step up using one leg at a time. Switch legs and repeat for 10 to 15 reps or until you feel too fatigued to continue.
Box step-ups develop explosive strength in your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, making them an excellent complement to squats and lunges. Perform two or three sets per workout, preferably after you’ve finished your other exercises.
Lunges are one of the most effective lower body exercises, and they’re perfect for performing at home without any additional weight. Stand with your legs split, like you’re about to run, and gently lower your weight onto your front leg.
Make sure your front knee doesn’t extend beyond your toes, as this can result in a variety of nasty injuries. Keep your weight balanced and push up using your front thigh, leaving your rear leg still for balance and support.
Switch legs and perform the same movement. Bodyweight lunges strengthen your quads, hamstrings and glutes for a firmer, stronger lower body. Focus on keeping your technique strict and perform two or three sets of eight to ten reps per leg.
The best workouts develop three different types of strength: slow, controlled and deliberate strength, which is developed with power movements like squats; quick and explosive strength, which is developed using jumps and fast movements, and static strength, which is built by holding your body in a challenging position.
Static wall-sits are great exercises for building static strength in your quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings. Place your body up against a wall, supporting your upper body using the wall itself. Gradually lower your upper body until your thighs are positioned at a right angle to the wall, supporting your entire bodyweight.
Try and hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. After you’ve finished your first wall sit, take a one-minute break and try another. Wall-sits are a difficult exercises that can challenge even elite weightlifters and bodybuilders.
Are bodyweight squats too easy for you? Once your legs start to strengthen, even a long set of 20 or more bodyweight squats can become too simple. Give your lower body a new challenge by performing bodyweight squats using one leg at a time.
Hold your arms in front of your body for support and lift one of your legs until it’s parallel with the ground. Balance carefully and lower your weight using your one remaining leg for balance and support.
One-legged squats are challenging exercises, and they’ll develop both your strength and your balance. Perform slow, controlled sets of between five and eight reps while you master the technique, then increase your rep range once you get stronger.
Bodyweight Calf Raises
There’s no need to go to the gym to train your calves. Find a ledge that’s about six to eight inches tall (or, if you life in a two-story home, use your bottom stair) and train your calves at home.
Hold a railing for balance and put all of your bodyweight on one leg. Keep your leg completely straight and slowly lift yourself up until you’re standing on tiptoes. Let yourself down slowly and repeat eight to twelve times with each leg.
Switch legs and perform another set of calf raises. Remember to keep your upper leg completely straight – no moving your knee joint – to target your calves without any help from your quadriceps and hamstrings.
Do you want to improve your vertical leap? Box jumps target your quadriceps and glutes to give your lower body more explosive power. A favorite of basketball and football players, these simple exercises are easy to perform in your yard.
If you have a deck or terrace behind your home, practice leaping from a squatting position onto the deck. If you have nothing to leap onto, use a stack of platforms – available at your nearest fitness store – and stack them to your target height.
Start small and increase the height of your vertical box jump as you become more comfortable leaping into the air.
Bodyweight Leg Curls
There are plenty of bodyweight leg exercises that target your quadriceps, but far fewer that isolate and train your hamstrings. Bodyweight leg curls are one of the most effective home exercises for strengthening your hamstrings.
Stand up straight and lift one of your legs off the ground. Keep your thigh straight and gradually bend your knee to lift your foot up to your buttocks. Slowly lower it and repeat for eight to twelve reps before switching legs.
Although bodyweight leg curls aren’t particularly difficult, they’re a great exercise for building slow, controlled leg strength. Perform two to four sets near the end of your leg workout for an extra burn in your hamstrings and glutes.
Nutrition for Athletes
Bodyweight exercises can help you strengthen your legs, but without the right diet you’ll make very slow progress. Combine your bodyweight leg training routine with a high-protein, complex carbohydrate focused diet for serious strength gains.
Learn more about leg training
Your legs and lower back contain the largest, strongest muscles in your body, yet all too often they’re neglected in fitness workouts.