5 Exercises for Sculpted Legs — No Lunges Required

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.

Step-ups target your lower body while also working on single-leg strength and balance.
Credit: Vladimir Sukhachev/iStock/GettyImages

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

Read more: 4 Exercises to Make Your Butt Look Bigger — No Squats Required

1. Sumo Deadlifts

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

  1. Stand with your feet wider than your hips. Point your toes out, between 30 and 45 degrees.
  2. The weight (barbell, kettlebell or dumbbells) should be right in the middle of your legs.
  3. Stick your hips back and hinge forward to grab the weight with both hands, using an overhand grip.
  4. Bend your knees slightly as you lift the weight, pushing through your heels to stand. Make sure to squeeze your glutes.
  5. Slowly return the weight back down as you hinge forward again.

Read more: 6 Deadlift Variations to Add to Leg Day

2. Step-Ups

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

  1. Stand in front of the step.
  2. Lift your foot 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. Slowly lower down to the starting position with control.
  4. Repeat for desired repetitions, then switch to your right leg.

Tip

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

3. Glute Bridge

This strengthening move not only sculpts your legs, but it also opens your hips too, Lopez Matosov says.

  1. Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor, knees bent so that your feet are near your butt and plant your arms at your sides.
  2. Engaging your abs, squeeze your glutes and lift your hips as high as you can, pressing into your heels.
  3. Pause at the top of the movement for an extra squeeze, then slowly lower back to the starting position.

Read more: Want More Burn From Your Hip Thrusts? Try These Variations

4. Single-Leg Deadlifts

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."

  1. Stand tall and soften your right knee with your right foot planted firmly on the ground.
  2. Lift your left leg straight behind your body as you hinge at the hips to bring your torso parallel to the floor. Think of moving your body in a seesaw motion: you hinge at the same rate that you lift the leg behind you.
  3. Your hips should stay square throughout the entire movement, avoiding the tendency to turn them out.
  4. Once you're parallel to the ground, squeeze your right glute, push through your right heel and pull your core in as you return back to standing tall.
  5. Repeat for desired number of reps, then switch sides.

Tip

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, says Lopez Matosov.

5. Kettlebell Swings

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

  1. Begin with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Place the kettlebell down about a foot in front of you.
  2. Bend forward and grab the kettlebell by the handle. Begin to bend the knees slightly to allow your back to flatten and look forward.
  3. Pull your belly in tight as you begin to lift the kettlebell back between your thighs. Allow your forearms to graze your inner thighs as you hinge forward.
  4. Exhale as you push your hips forward and squeeze your glutes, which will propel the kettlebell forward.
  5. Then hinge back allowing the kettlebell to swing between your thighs.

Tip

Don't lift the kettlebell with your arms, Lopez Matosov say. 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.

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