The 5 Most Underrated Leg Exercises You Probably Aren't Doing (but Should)

Don't get stuck in a rut by varying the leg exercises you're doing in your lower-body workouts.
Image Credit: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages

When it comes to leg day, we all have our favorite exercises. And while it's nice to have a regular routine, it's also easy to fall into a rut. Day after day, the same moves eventually get boring. Or worse, they become less challenging, which can stall your progress.

Instead, bust the boredom by switching up your lower-body sessions. Make the most out of your next leg workout with these five underrated leg exercises, courtesy of Tatiana Lampa, CFSC, NASM-CES, creator of the Training with T app.

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1. Side Lunge

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Stand with your feet together and hands at your sides.
  2. Take a large step out to the right and bend your right knee and send your hips back while keeping your right knee and ankle aligned.
  3. Keep your left leg straight (but not locked), make sure both feet are parallel and pointing forward and maintain a neutral spine with your chest lifted.
  4. Push off your right foot, straighten your right leg and return to the starting position.
  5. Continue for desired number of reps and repeat on the left side.

The side lunge is a great exercise to work in the often-underutilized frontal plane (side-to-side motion) that isolates your outer thighs while engaging your inner thighs as stabilizing muscles, Lampa says.

2. Single-Leg Hip Thruster

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Skill Level Intermediate
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Sit on the ground with the bottom of your shoulder blades on the edge of an exercise bench, couch or box and your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Lift your right foot off the floor so that your leg makes a 90-degree angle at the hip.
  3. Keeping your neck long, your back neutral and your chin tucked, drive the left foot into the floor and squeeze your glute as you lift your hips.
  4. Pause here for a moment, squeezing your glutes at the top. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your left knee.
  5. Lower back down.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps, then switch sides.

This hip thrust variation fires up your hamstrings and glutes and builds unilateral (single-leg) strength, Lampa says.

3. Sumo Deadlift

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Point your toes out, between 30 and 45 degrees. Keep your knees slightly bent. Hold weights in front of you in the middle of your legs.
  2. Stick your hips back and hinge forward.
  3. Keeping your core tight, push through your heels and pull the weights up until you're standing up straight. Make sure to squeeze your glutes at the top.

This challenging deadlift variation activates different angles of your glutes than a traditional deadlift while also working your inner thighs (as stabilizers), hamstrings and lats, Lampa says.

4. Wall Sit

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Stand against a wall with your feet several inches away from the wall.
  2. Slide your back down the wall until your hips and knees are at 90-degree angles.
  3. Keep your shoulders, upper back and head against the wall and distribute your weight evenly throughout both feet.
  4. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds.

This isometric hold will light up your quads (think: shaking thigh muscles), Lampa says.

5. Side Plank Clamshell

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Skill Level Intermediate
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Full Body
  1. Start lying on your side with your elbow underneath your shoulder and knees stacked (as if you’re doing a modified side plank).
  2. Press into your bottom forearm to lift your hips as high as possible, keeping your core tight.
  3. Raise your top knee to open the thighs, squeezing your glutes, then slowly lower the knee, completing one rep.
  4. Do all your reps on one side, then switch sides.

This clamshell variation targets your outer thighs and glutes for a more balanced backside, Lampa says. Bonus: It also increases core strength.

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