Want to build strong, powerful legs without using any equipment. Use this to get better results faster.
Building strong, powerful legs isn’t just for the gym, it’s also something you can do while working out at home, even if you don’t have any equipment. Being able to get results in this way is ideal for a lot of people, whether you can’t afford an expensive gym membership, you don’t have time to make it to the gym, or you travel a lot and find yourself in hotels, with no equipment and no way to work out.
If that sounds familiar, and you’re looking for a way to build your muscles and strengthen your legs, get ready, because in this article we’re going to give you the best bodyweight leg exercises around and show you how to use them in your next workout.
Is it Even Worth Working Out?
People have become so accustomed to working out in a gym (or with weights) that they’ve forgotten how much progress you can make with just your bodyweight. After all, a true sign of strength is being able to lift your body weight, so it should come as no surprise that you can achieve great progress without using any equipment.
It’s also worth remembering that the gym alone won’t get you results as the workouts you do will strengthen build and challenge the muscles, but if you don’t eat correctly, you won't get the results you want.
It’s something we see a lot in the gym, with people who use heavy weights to squat and lunge but still struggle to grow their legs. Often, it’s because they aren’t eating enough to build muscle.
Working out at home and only using bodyweight exercises can give you fantastic results and there are entire home workout programs designed around just this. However, the key thing is to make sure what you’re doing outside your training sessions matches up with your goals.
It should come as no surprise to see a squat on here. Simply doing this movement is a great way to build the muscles, open up your hips and strengthen the entire lower body. However, your focus should be on good technique and proper form. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and squat down until your butt is lower than your knees. Once you’ve reached this position hold for 1 second before you drive back up through the heels. Remember, engage your core, stand up tall, and squeeze the glutes as you complete the move.
Reps and sets: 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps is the perfect place to start.
A squat jump sets up just like the squat. You hold the same foot position and drop to the same depth, however, this time you drive back up to the top and jump as high as you can.
You should try to land softly, on the balls of your feet (not flat-footed), and let your knees bend to 45 degrees as you land.
This will take the pressure off your joints and make the move much more manageable.
Sets and reps: Aim for 3-4 sets of 12-20 reps.
Pause squats employ the training technique of increasing the ‘Time under Tension’ and can really turn up the intensity of your workout because, as the name suggests, your muscles are under tension for longer during these exercises. To do these, set up just as you would in a normal squat but when you get to the bottom of the move, hold for 3-5 seconds. These are a great way to set your quad on fire and get some great results.
Sets and reps: Try to get 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps.
Want to take it up another notch? Try these. Employing a similar method to ‘Time under Tension’ the 5-3-2-1 squats will challenge even the strongest quad muscles. The set up is as you would expect from the squat position, however, the difficulty comes in how the move is executed.
Lower yourself down into a squat, slowly, taking a full 5 seconds to get down. As your hips are parallel to the ground hold that position for 3 seconds, then push through the heels, back to the top in a slow and controlled fashion, taking 2 seconds to get back up. You pause at the top for 1 second before repeating and going back down.
Sets and reps: This is a very challenging squat which is why aiming for 3 sets of 10 should be just right.
Reverse lunges are a great way to build your lower body and for many people, they can be easier to do than forward lunges.
With your feet hip-width apart, take a big step back with one leg back and lower that knee and your hips to the floor. Push back to the top and bring the back leg back to meet the feet together.
You can also try alternate legs, doing a rep on each side one after the other, or stay on the same leg, only changing once you’ve completed the reps.
Sets and reps: Complete 3 sets of 10-15 on each leg.
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your left leg straight as you push your hips back to the right, and bend your right knee, lowering your body to the floor. Your right knee should be facing the same way as your right foot and your goal is to try and get your right thigh parallel to the floor. Hold at the bottom for one second before pushing back to the top and repeating on the same side. Change sides when all reps are done.
Sets and reps: 3 sets of 15 reps should be sufficiently challenging.
Jump Lunges can be very difficult, which is exactly why we do them.
Set up in the lunge position and lower down as normal, but this time as you push up, jump as high as you can in the air. As you jump, change your feet, bringing your front foot back and your back foot forwards. This will put you into the lunge position on the other leg and you can continue from there. Land softly and bend your legs as you do to avoid jarring the body and damaging the joints.
Reps and sets: Complete 3 sets of 10-12 reps on each side.
Think of a jump squat, except now you have no choice but to get your legs up. If you have a box then that’s perfect, although you could use a step or bench if you have one, just make sure it’s secure and not liable to move at all. You’ll be hitting it with force and you don’t want to get injured.
Set up just like a normal squat, then in one smooth movement, go into a squat but jump up and onto the box. Land softly and bend your knees as you do.
Reps and sets: 5 sets of 10-20 reps
Bulgarian Split Squat
Think of a traditional set lunge, with one leg back and one forward as you lower your knee and hip to the floor. The difference however with the Bulgarian Split Squat is that you place your back leg on a bench or step, putting more pressure on the front leg in the process.
This is a very challenging movement that does wonders for the lower body but be warned, it is difficult.
Sets and reps: Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Start this movement with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands by your sides. Then with your back straight, bend from the hips and take one leg back behind you as you lower your chest to the floor. Your goal is to get your chest parallel to the floor, not lower, and you shouldn’t have any arch in your back. You’re supporting your weight on the front leg, which should have a slight bend at the knee. To return, bring your chest back up and your leg back together as you return to standing.
Sets and reps: Complete 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
Single-Leg Hip Thrust
Lay on the floor, on your back, with both feet bent at the knee and your hands on the floor by your hips. Straighten one leg to a 45-degree angle then lift your hips and squeeze your glutes as you do. Hold at the top for 1 second then release back to the bottom and repeat all of the reps before changing sides.
Sets and reps: Perform 3 sets of 15 reps on each side.
To effectively perform a calf raise at home all you need is something to step on. A step, bench, stairs, anything can work. Place your right foot on the step and wrap your left foot around the back of the right calf. Then slowly push up onto the balls of your feet, taking yourself up tall, before lowering back down. For best results try to stand on something that allows you to drop the foot down, stretching out the calf, before push back up to the top to complete the move.
Sets and reps: Complete 3-5 sets of 20 reps and mix slow and controlled reps with quicker paced ones.
The most effective workouts
Let’s take a look at some of the best bodyweight workouts you can do for the legs. These are great options whether you’re looking for something fun and fast-paced for when you’ve got limited time, or something a little more structured like a traditional workout.
The Quad Burner
Perform 10 jump lunges before going straight into the 10 5-3-2-1 squats with proper form for 10 reps and then finally, 10 reps of the side lunge.
This powerful workout is enough to shred your legs and it only takes minimal time.
Perform each move back to back then rest for 90 seconds once you’ve done. Complete 4 circuits total.
The Glute Builder
It is possible to grow your glutes without equipment and this workout can help.
Complete the Bulgarian Split Squat, followed by the single-leg deadlift, then drop down to the single-leg hip thrust.
You’re going to use a sliding scale with this one and complete more reps with each movement.
10 reps for the split squat, 15 reps for the deadlift, and 20 reps for the hip thrust.
This workout will help you to build your quads and your hamstrings/glutes by using antagonistic paired supersets. Perform each move back to back then rest for 60 seconds before repeating.
Once you’ve done one superset, move onto the next set of exercises.
Set 1: Jump squats / Single Leg Deadlift - 3 sets of 12
Set 2: Walking lunge / Side lunge – 3 sets of 12
Set 3: Box Jumps / Single Leg Hip Thrust – 3 sets of 15
‘Every Minute On The Minute’
Every minute on the minute perform the following workout for 10 minutes straight
15 jump squats, 12 jump lunges, 10 box jumps.
Your goal here is to complete this as fast as you can in under 1 minute, then rest for the remaining time before starting again on the next minute. Complete until you reach 10 mins.
Lower Body Finisher
If you want to finish your workout with a bang then this is the workout for you. The goal is simple, perform as many sets as you can until you can’t do anymore.
Perform the following exercises in a row for 30 seconds each. Once you’ve finished, rest for 60 seconds before starting again. Bulgarian split squat on the right leg, Bulgarian split squat on the left leg, jump squat. Have fun with this one.
Having the option to exercise at home can be a fantastic way of getting results when you’re traveling, stuck without any weight sot use, or if you’re pressed for time.
Not only is it possible to get amazing results, without having to join a gym, but it’s also possible to get a great workout in a much shorter time. The workouts above are all fantastic in their own right and will challenge you, whatever your fitness level is.
Our advice is to focus on proper form to fully develop the muscles and over time, increase the reps and sets for optimal results.