5 Exercises for Sculpted Legs — No Lunges Required

Kettlebell swings work your inner thighs, hamstrings and glutes.
Image Credit: VisualCommunications/E+/GettyImages

Lunges are like the Brussels sprouts of the exercise world — you know they're good for you, but you can't seem to develop a taste for them. Luckily, lunges aren't your only option. There are plenty of other leg exercises that build lower-body strength while challenging your balance and flexibility.


So, if you loathe lunges but want the lower-body perks, Nedra Lopez Matosov, trainer and c0-owner of the New York City-based fitness studio The P.E. Club, suggests incorporating these five leg exercises into your weekly workouts.

Video of the Day


1. Sumo Deadlift

Deadlifts are amazing for sculpting the hamstrings and glutes, Lopez Matosov says, adding that the sumo deadlift's wider stance targets the hard-to-reach inner thighs too.

Sumo Deadlift

Region Lower Body
  1. Fix the weight plates on your barbell and position it on the floor in front of you.
  2. Step up with your shins almost against it, feet about double shoulder-width apart and toes angled out. Keep your spine straight, chest up and shoulders back and down.
  3. Grip the bar with both hands about shoulder-width apart. Tighten your glutes, legs and core to brace your body before you lift.
  4. Drive your feet into the ground while keeping your back flat. As you straighten your legs, you should be pulling the bar up in a smooth motion, keeping your arms extended. Don’t jerk the weight with your arms.
  5. As the bar rises, squeeze your glutes and think about your hips and knees fully extending at the top at the same time.
  6. Finish the move standing as tall as possible, pause, and then slowly reverse the motion to rest the bar back on the floor.

2. Step-Up

"This move is great because you are working the entire leg — plus glutes — and you get your heart rate up, too," Lopez Matosov says.


Region Lower Body
  1. Stand in front of a step, box or bench with your hands in fists in front of your chest.
  2. Lift your right leg onto the step — planting your whole foot — and step up, placing all your body weight into it. Make sure to squeeze your glutes at the top.
  3. Lift your left leg onto the step — planting your whole foot — and step up.
  4. Slowly lower your left leg down to the starting position with control.
  5. Repeat for desired repetitions, then switch legs.


For an added challenge, hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.

3. Glute Bridge

This strengthening move not only sculpts your legs, but it also opens your hips, Lopez Matosov says. This is good because most of us have tight hips due to how much we sit.


Glute Bridge

Region Core and Lower Body
  1. Lie on your back with your arms resting by your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the ground hip-width apart. Your feet should be close enough to your hips that if you reach one hand at a time toward each heel, you can just touch it with your fingertips.
  2. Relax your arms alongside your body. Think of your shoulders being "glued" to the floor to help keep your spine neutral.
  3. Squeeze your glutes and core, and press your heels into the ground to drive your hips up toward the ceiling until you form a diagonal line from knees to hips to chest. Resist the urge to arch your lower back as you raise your hips. Focus on keeping your spine in a neutral position throughout.
  4. Hold this position for a second or two with your glutes engaged.
  5. Slowly lower your hips back down to the ground and reset in the starting position for a second before lifting back up.


If you want to make this exercise more challenging, you can do single-leg glute bridges, where you lift one leg up off the ground and extend it straight out in front of you.

4. Single-Leg Deadlift

Kick your deadlift game up a notch with this single-leg version, which is great for increasing strength and stability, Lopez Matosov says. "You will notice your legs feeling leaner and your booty higher after including these consistently into your routine."

Single-Leg Deadlift

Region Lower Body
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, a slight bend in both knees, hands on your hips (To make balancing easier, feel free to grab onto the back of a chair or other sturdy object in front of you.)
  2. Engage your core and simultaneously press your butt back and hinge your hips forward, extending your right leg behind you. Press your left foot into the ground while doing so, and keep your left leg slightly bent.
  3. Hinge forward and continue lowering until your torso is parallel to the ground or you feel a pull in your glutes and hamstrings (whichever comes first). Keep your shoulders rolled down and back (so they are in line with the hips).
  4. Press into your left foot, squeeze your glutes and reverse the movement to return back to the standing start position.
  5. Repeat for the designated number of reps before switching legs.


To help with balance, you can place an object in front of you to touch as you lean forward, or if you want to up the ante and increase the move’s difficulty level, hold a dumbbell in each hand, Lopez Matosov says.

5. Kettlebell Swing

"The kettlebell swing is a powerful and effective exercise that works your inner thighs, hamstrings, abs and glutes," Lopez Matosov says, who adds that this move can also double as cardio.

Kettlebell Swing

Region Full Body
  1. Begin with the bell on the floor. Stand directly in front of it with your feet together, toes touching the bell.
  2. From there, hinge your hips back and grip the handle with both hands. Hike the bell back between your legs. As you swing it back, sink deeper into your hips.
  3. Drive through your hips to straighten your legs. Forcefully contract your glutes and legs to swing the weight overhead until your biceps are in line with your ears.
  4. Use the bell’s momentum to swing it back between your legs. Continue for time or reps.


Don't lift the kettlebell with your arms, Lopez Matosov says. The explosive power of the movement should come from your hips, glutes and core. And if you feel discomfort in your back, make sure to bend your knees and engage your abs, especially as the kettlebell swings forward.



Report an Issue

screenshot of the current page

Screenshot loading...