If leg day doesn't get you as pumped to hit the gym as back or biceps, you can still get an effective leg workout right at home! While back squats and heavy deadlifts are optimal for leg strengthening, they're not your only options. Put together a challenging and powerful leg workout that you can do in the comfort of your own home.
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Benefits of At-Home Leg Workouts
"Never skip leg day" is a popular maxim for a good reason. Typically, lower-body exercises like lunges and deadlifts are compound exercises, working multiple muscle groups at the same time. This can make them more exhausting but also more important. Just think of all your legs do for you throughout the day!
If you've ever performed a barbell deadlift, you'll recall the burn you felt in your glutes, hamstrings and quads in addition to your core and back. Luckily, you don't need a trip to the gym to reap these benefits. Some of these benefits of at-home leg workouts include:
- Targeting and strengthening the some of biggest muscles in the body
- Stronger lower body muscles can help alleviate knee pain, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine
- Working out with little or no equipment means fewer potential injuries
- Fewer excuses when all you have to do is get off the couch and squat (or lunge)
How to Build Leg Muscle at Home
When muscles undergo intense exercise, the muscle fibers experience trauma and tearing, according to an article from Len Kravitz, Ph.D., exercise scientist and professor at the University of New Mexico. As the muscles rest, they repair the damaged fibers, growing back larger, giving you stronger legs. So never skip rest day, either!
Schedule your leg workouts at least 48 hours apart. Prioritizing recovery will help you see the best results in your muscle growth and strength without risking burnout or overtraining.
Dumbbells and barbells are great tools building leg muscle, but body-weight and at-home workout equipment like resistance bands are also effective. So if you don't want to drive all the way to gym, incorporate at least three of the following exercises in each workout — or do all of them if you have the time!
Body-Weight Leg Exercises to Do at Home
One easy way to eliminate a common workout excuse (I don't have the right equipment!) is to do body-weight lower-body exercises. And the even better part is that most of the following exercises can be done with or without weights. So on the days you do make it into the gym, you don't have to rethink your whole routine!
1. Goblet Squat
With goblet squats, you hold resistance at your chest to work your thighs and core. If you don't have a dumbbell or kettlebell, a jug of detergent, gallon of water or sealed box of cat litter works great. Don't have any of those (or new to working out)? Skip the weight altogether.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet wider than your hips and hold the weight with both hands at your chest. Bend your knees and hips to sit back until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Rise back up to complete one rep.
REPS: 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps, with 30 seconds in between
Read more: 12 Essential Squat Variations to Try
2. Jump Squat
Jump squats challenge your muscles as you catch your body weight when you land. When you don't have access to weights, this exercise is especially effective in stressing the muscles, since you're letting gravity do most of the resistance work.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms alongside your hips. Squat down, and then immediately jump up, swinging your arms over your head to get momentum and height. Land back in a squat and repeat.
REPS: 3 sets of 30 seconds (work up to sets of 45 to 60 seconds), resting one minute in between
3. Walking Lunge
You don't necessarily need any resistance to make walking lunges challenging. However, if you find them too easy, hold a gallon of water or a large milk jug filled with sand in each hand, hanging alongside your hips, as you move.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart; arms hanging alongside your thighs. Step three to four feet forward with your right leg and bend the right knee so it trails the middle of your shoe. Simultaneously bend the left knee so it almost touches the floor. Rise up and step forward with the left leg for the next lunge. Move across the length of a long room or hallway — or use the sidewalk in front of your house.
REPS: 3 sets of 20 reps
Read more: 22 New Lunges to Supercharge Leg Day
Easily adapt step-ups to a home workout by using a bench, sturdy chair or tall stair step. You want the seat to be between 12 and 24 inches off the ground. For extra challenge, hold a heavy item alongside your hips, such as jugs of water.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand in front of the elevated surface. Lift your right leg to step up and, keeping the weight in the right leg, activate your glutes and quads. Tap your left toe on the surface and step the left foot down; then step the right foot down. Repeat all the reps on the right, and then switch to leading with the left leg.
REPS: 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps on each leg
5. Glute Bridge
Bridges effectively work your hamstrings and glutes (a.k.a. your booty). Lie on the floor for your bridges and raise on leg for more challenge.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back and plant your feet near your butt. Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings as you lift your hips up off the floor to form a bridge. Pause for a count or two and lower back down.
REPS: 15 to 20
Leg Workouts You Can Do at Home
To strengthen your leg muscles at home, all you need is a couple feet of space. If you have weights available, they can be incorporated into your workout for some added resistance.
As you complete the workouts below, listen to your body. Form comes first! If you begin to fatigue and break down in form, take a rest or move on to the next exercise.
Beginner Leg Workout at Home
According to Roxie Jones, SoulCycle instructor, personal trainer and creator of BodyRox, body-weight workouts are a great starting point for anyone beginning to strength train. Start by mastering the movement patterns before adding weight so you minimize your risk of injury. Perform each of these exercises for 60 seconds with at least four total rounds of the entire circuit for an ultimate leg burn.
- Seated Squat Jump: Sit in a chair, and then explode into a jump. Squat down and tap the chair with your glutes between each jump.
- Knee Drive: Starting with one foot on top of a chair, drive through the heel of your elevated front leg and drive your opposite knee up toward your chest. Step back down and repeat.
- Glute Bridge: See above.
- Hamstring Walk: Starting in a glute bridge, walk the legs out and in, one heel at a time.
- Bulgarian Split Squat
Read more: How to Do Glute Exercises in Bed
Body-Weight Leg Workout at Home
If you've ever seen personal trainer Mathew Forzaglia's impressive lower body routines, you'll be quick to try his at-home leg workout. Either complete these exercises on their own (with a break between each round), or do them all in a single run-through.
- Tempo Stationary Lunge: From a lunge, lower for three seconds and stand up in one second. Do three sets of 12 reps on each leg.
- Jump Squats: Take out the jump for a low-impact option. Complete for four sets of 15 reps.
- Glute Bridge: Do three sets of 20 reps with a hold at the top.
- Speed Skaters: Complete four rounds of 20 reps (each side is one rep).
At-Home Leg Workout for Men
Created by personal trainer Mike Donavanik, this workout will have your glutes, quads and hamstrings firing on all cylinders. Complete each exercise for 40 seconds, taking a 20 second break between exercises. Repeat this sequence for three to five rounds with proper form.
At-Home Leg Workout for Women
Personal trainer Holly Perkins has crafted a fast-paced leg workout for the ladies (or guys, too, really). Complete each exercise below for 15 repetitions with no rest between exercises. Once you complete all five moves in the circuit, rest for 60 seconds. Then, complete round two of 15 reps per exercise, and then take a two-minute rest. Finish is off with a third and final round!
- Walking Lunge
- Side Lunge (15 each leg)
- Single-Leg Deadlift (15 each leg) — challenge: hold a dumbbell or gallon of water in the hand opposite of your standing leg
- Squat Jump
- Step-Up (15 each leg)
Leg Workout at Home With Dumbbells
Another great leg workout from Perkins, you'll perform each exercise for 45 seconds with a 15 second rest between exercises. You can repeat the exercises for as many rounds as you can sustain with good from. You can check out this article for how to do all these leg exercises.
- Goblet Squat
- Speed Skater
- Front Lunge
- Dumbbell Swing
- Single-Leg Deadlift