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The 10 Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises

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The Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises

What are the best bodyweight leg exercises?

It’s no surprise that having strong legs is a fundamental part of athletics, builds strength in your back and core, and helps professional athletes and gym rats alike to achieve their goals. 

It all comes back to leg day! The best bodyweight leg exercises are included in this post, and they can be completed nearly anywhere you have the room. 

Let’s get into it, so you can get back to building strength in your lower body.

 

The Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises

Our exercise lists are created by determining the best exercises for muscle growth, core strength, and overall health and well-being. 

Here’s our list of the 10 best bodyweight leg exercises:

 

10. Skaters

Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises - Skaters

Great for:

Working the legs unilaterally to force muscles to activate while promoting balance and core strength. 

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your knees slightly bent 
  2. Hop your left foot to the right, and land on your right foot 
  3. Hop from your right foot to the left, and land on your left foot
  4. Repeat as desired, and intensify the exercise by speeding up 

Why:

For a cardio-focused burner, look no further than skaters! 

Skaters are a popular cardiovascular exercise that wakes up the leg muscles and gets your heart rate up. 

Skaters require strength, balance, and coordination, so start incorporating skaters into your leg day ASAP if you’re lacking in those areas.

When:

Skaters are a great warm-up exercise or as an integral move in your leg day routine. 

It can take a few reps to get used to the movement, so make sure you have your form down before trying to speed up.

 

9. Step-Ups

Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises - Step-Ups

Great for:

A strength training and cardiovascular leg exercise that kicks up the intensity of any leg workout through a slow, intentional burn. 

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with a set of stairs or block in front of you 
  2. Place one foot on the surface of the step — this foot will remain anchored there while you work the other leg 
  3. Push through the front foot and stand up onto the surface of the step 
  4. Raise your opposite knee, so your thigh is parallel to the floor 
  5. Bring that knee and foot back down onto the floor (do not rest your foot on the step) 
  6. Repeat as desired, then switch your anchored feet and work the other leg 

Why:

What’s so hard about climbing up onto a stair and back down? Those are famous last words! 

Step-ups are sneaky because the motion itself is natural, so you start out thinking you can conquer this movement easily. 

Then, your energy starts to wean as you continue on one leg, every second burning more than the last. 

When:

All you need to complete step-ups is an elevated surface and your body. You can add weight if you want by grabbing a pair of dumbbells. 

We recommend getting used to the movement before adding weight; you’ll be surprised at how much your bodyweight challenges you.

The health benefits of working out with bodyweight alone are impressive — it’s an effective strength training workout that builds muscle mass, gets your heart rate up, and improves balance.

 

8. Fire Hydrants

Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises - Fire Hydrants

Great for:

Sculpting the glutes, improving lower back pain, and working the hip flexors.

How to do it:

  1. Get on your hands and knees with your shoulders above your hands and your core engaged
  2. Lift your right leg away from your body at a 45-degree angle, raising the knee until its adjacent to your elbow
  3. Lower the right leg back to the floor
  4. Repeat as desired, then switch to the left leg

Why:

First and foremost, fire hydrants work the butt. They also target three major hip movements — hip extension, hip abduction, and hip extension. 

These three hip movements are responsible for daily activities like climbing stairs, side-stepping, and getting out of a car. 

Adding fire hydrants to your workout regime will create strong, toned glutes, improve posture, and reduce lower back pain. 

When:

The beauty of fire hydrants, like so many of these bodyweight leg exercises, is they can be completed virtually anywhere.

Incorporate fire hydrants into your leg day workouts, and try to complete 15-20 reps on each side.

 

7. Skipping

Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises - Skipping

Great for:

Burning calories, getting your heart rate up, and general conditioning. 

How to do it:

  1. Grab a jump rope and hold a handle in each hand 
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keep your spine neutral and your shoulders down
  3. Flick the rope up and over your head, and perform a quick hop when it gets to the ground
  4. Repeat as desired 

Why:

Skipping requires a burst of energy and can leave you breathless in just a few rounds. 

If you’re on the hunt for a low-impact exercise that gets your metabolism spiked and your heart pumping, skipping is a great option. 

When:

Skipping can be completed as an effective warm-up to get your heart rate up. It’s easy enough to do in your home gym or any gym setting. 

If you’re new to this workout, get a rhythm going and see how long you can go before you are breathless and losing stamina. Then, try to go for a minute longer each time.

 

6. Quadruped Hip Extensions

Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises - Quadruped Hip Extensions

Great for:

Isolating the glute muscles, building core strength, and working each side of the body independently. 

How to do it:

  1. Get down on all fours on a mat, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart
  2. Keep your back straight and your neck long, eyes looking down at the floor 
  3. Raise your left leg toward the ceiling, with your knee bent at 90 degrees 
  4. Fully extend your hip and straighten your left leg, then bend the knee again 
  5. Lower your left leg down, stopping before it touches the floor
  6. Repeat as desired, then perform the same movement on the opposite leg 

Why:

Also known as the glute kickback, quadruped hip extensions force the glute muscles to work unilaterally (right leg, left leg).

These isolation bodyweight leg exercises are beneficial for strength training because they force the targeted muscle to work hard — you will feel the burn early in the reps of this move. 

When:

Incorporating hip extensions as a warm-up is a great place to start. You can get more familiar with the feeling of your hip extending and isolating both legs to build strength.

 

5. Single Leg Deadlifts

Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises - Single-Leg Deadlifts

Great for:

Improving balance and hip strength while training the hamstrings. 

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart
  2. Lean your hips forward, shifting your weight onto one anchored leg while the other slowly extends straight behind you 
  3. Lift the extended leg and lean your torso forward until your body forms a T shape
  4. Hang your arms down in front of you and keep your anchored leg slightly bent 
  5. Bring the extended leg back to starting position 
  6. Repeat as desired, and then complete on the opposite leg 

Why:

The hip-hinge movement involved in a single leg deadlift helps strengthen the back, core, and legs. 

Both the standing leg and the lifted leg are putting work in, and the core is engaged to support the movement, improving balance as you work.

Single deadlifts are beneficial because they can be modified for various fitness levels and goals. 

When:

Practice single leg deadlifts frequently to become more familiar and comfortable with the movement and what it demands from your core. 

You will feel off balance and have to correct yourself with the extended leg; that’s normal! These are meant to be challenging as they are targeting multiple muscle groups at once.

 

4. Glute Bridges

Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises - Glute Bridges

Great for:

Enhancing hip extension, strengthening the glutes, and improving other movements like squats, deadlifts, and jumping. 

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the floor on your back, with your knees bent at 90 degrees 
  2. Engage your core, push up through your heels, and drive your hips and lower back up off the floor until your knees, hips, and shoulders make a straight line
  3. Squeeze the glutes and hamstrings while keeping the abs drawn in 
  4. Hold for a few seconds while squeezing, then lower to the floor 
  5. Repeat as desired  

Why:

Activating the glutes can be a challenge unto itself — but the bridge gets it done. 

If improving your hip extension is a focus, adding glute bridges to your warm-ups will help you achieve that. 

Glute bridges also shine when it comes to alleviating back and knee pain, common with heavy lifters from overuse and strain. 

Strong glutes reduce stress on the spine and train full hip extension. Like so many exercises on this list, bridges can be done with zero equipment and in any location.

When:

Add glute bridges to any warm-up routine or as a part of your strength training program. 

They are low-impact enough to be done as part of a stretching routine or paired with a full-body workout.

 

3. Calf Raises

Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises - Calf Raises

Great for:

Strengthening the calf muscles while preventing future injury or strain. 

How to do it:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet flat on the floor 
  2. Push through the balls of your feet and raise your heels until you are on your tiptoes 
  3. Slowly lower back down to the ground
  4. Repeat as desired

Why:

 While it’s a simple exercise, it sure is effective! 

Calf raises can be done anywhere and can help you achieve the sculpted legs you’re looking for. 

There are great variations of the calf raise where you can add weight, or stand on a raised surface, to increase the intensity of the movement. 

When:

Thanks to their simplicity and effectiveness, calf raises can be done every day if you want to. They are a popular stretching and warm-up exercise for runners and athletes alike.  

If you’re using bodyweight, these can be done while you’re doing basic daily tasks.

 

2. Lunges

Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises - Lunges

Great for:

Improves balance and stability while targeting the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and hip stabilizers. 

How to do it:

  1. From standing, step one leg backward and bend both knees to 90-degrees
  2. The shin on your front leg should be vertical, and your knee should not pass your toes when bent 
  3. Pause at 90 degrees, and then drive the weight in your front heel forward to bring the back leg to the starting position
  4.  Switch legs, and repeat as desired

Why:

Lunges target all the important muscle groups in the lower body, providing a strengthening workout in one basic movement. 

They also assist with improving hip flexibility, as the lunge movement activates the hip flexors.

When it’s all said and done… lunges are the party responsible for shaping the glutes you daydream about having. 

When:

The lunge is one of the most important strength training moves you can do to train, sculpt, and strengthen your lower body. 

They are a low-impact move that can be done up to 5 days a week, especially if you use bodyweight alone. 

Once you are familiar with the movement, start incorporating lunges into every leg day, lower body, and glute workout. You won’t regret the outcome!

 

1. Squats

Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises - Squats

Great for:

Training the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves while improving core stabilization and posture.  

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed slightly outward 
  2. Move your hips backward, and slowly sit back like you are lowering into a chair 
  3. Lower your hips and raise your arms out in front of you for balance 
  4. Sink until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then drive your weight through your heels and stand up to starting position  
  5. Repeat as desired

Why:

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that squats are the #1 bodyweight leg exercise you can do. Trying to build stronger hips and calves? Hit the squat rack ASAP. 

Squats are versatile, universal, and can be completed basically anywhere. 

They have a variety of variations depending on your fitness level, so you can modify or intensify as your strength increases. You will also notice the endurance you build in your quads and hamstrings.

When:

You can complete squats as part of your leg day warm-up, but they should definitely be the main contender in your leg day regime. 

We prefer squats with dumbbells, but they can easily be modified to use your bodyweight, and you’ll still get a powerful burn in your glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

 

FAQs About Bodyweight Leg Exercises

Before jumping into all the bodyweight leg exercises, you can handle, check out our answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about leg exercises and the muscle groups they target.

 

Q: Can you build leg muscle without weights?

The most effective way to build leg muscle without weights is through bodyweight leg exercises. 

Particularly ideal for those new to strength training or fitness in general, you can focus on perfecting your form and controlling your bodyweight before adding dumbbells or any other equipment.

 

Q: What are the benefits of working out your legs?

Leg workouts activate and work the largest muscle groups in the lower body. 

Working out your legs has tons of benefits; you can lose weight, build muscle mass, improve your overall athleticism, and avoid injury in joints, muscles, and tendons as you strengthen areas like your hips, knees, and back. 

Exercising the muscles in the legs can improve range of motion, increase caloric burn, and improve strength for everyday tasks.

 

Q: Why are leg workouts so important?

Leg workouts are important because they mimic the movement we do on a daily basis; walking, running, lifting heavy items, and climbing stairs. 

Strengthening the lower body has a powerful impact on the rest of the body. This means you can prevent injury, manage chronic conditions easier, and improve mobility.

 

Q: Is it okay to train legs every day?

We recommend training your leg muscles frequently to build strength and improve your fitness level. 

If every day feels like too much for your current fitness level, try working out your legs three times a week for 20 minutes at a time and scale up from there. 

 

Q: Are bodyweight leg workouts effective?

Bodyweight exercises are one of the most effective strength training workouts you can do.

You can target the most powerful muscle groups in your lower body, including the glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and hips, to improve balance, mobility, and strength for daily tasks.

 

Summary 

After reading this post, you’ll hopefully understand the importance of leg day even more so. 

Bodyweight exercises can be done nearly anywhere and don’t take much time to complete.

Start incorporating these leg workouts into your daily routine, and you’ll be amazed at the results you see.

Here’s a quick recap of the 10 best bodyweight leg exercises:

  1. Squats
  2. Lunges
  3. Calf Raises
  4. Glute Bridges
  5. Single-Leg Deadlifts
  6. Quadruped Hip Extensions
  7. Skipping
  8. Fire Hydrants
  9. Step-Ups
  10. Skaters

What’s your favorite bodyweight leg exercise? Leave a comment below. 

Hanna has been a fitness fanatic for most of her life. She grew up on the soccer field and volleyball court and credits those sports with her determination, passion for fitness, and leadership off the field. She is currently studying to become a personal trainer and hopes to begin coaching in 2022.

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