You're not destined to have weak, undefined leg muscles if you can't get to the gym. While back squats and heavy deadlifts do work your legs, but they're not your only options. Put together a challenging and effective workout for your legs that you can do in the comfort of your own home.
How You Build Muscle
Muscle builds when you stress it, tearing down the fibers. Then, when you rest, these fibers grow back bigger and stronger, and you end up with stronger, more muscular legs. Dumbbells, barbells and machines can stress your muscles, but your own bodyweight, household items and home weight equipment can be equally effective in building leg muscle.
Aim for two to three workouts per week for your legs. Schedule these workouts at least 48 hours apart to give that all-important recovery time during which your muscle repairs and grows. Include at least three of these exercises in each workout, or do all of them if you have the time.
With goblet squats, you hold resistance at your center, which means a household item like a jug of laundry detergent or sealed box of cat litter works great. If you have a dumbbell, of course you could use that instead. You'll work your thighs and your core with this move.
To do the exercise: Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips and hold the heavy item 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 repetition. Aim for 10 to 20 reps, choose what works you to fatigue. Work up to three sets, with 30 seconds between them.
You don't necessarily need any resistance to make walking lunges challenging. However, if you find them too easy, hold a gallon bottle of water or a large milk jug filled with sand in each hand, hanging alongside your hips, as you move.
To do the exercise: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart; arms hanging alongside your thighs. Step 3 to 4 feet forward with your right leg and bend the right knee so it aligns over your right ankle. Simultaneously bend the left knee so it almost touches the floor. Rise up and immediately step forward with the left leg to execute another lunge. Move across the length of a long room or hallway -- or use the sidewalk in front of your house. Do about 20 repetitions, and work up to three sets.
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 subjecting your muscles to stress.
To do the exercise: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms alongside your hips. Squat down and immediately explode up, swinging your arms to get momentum and height. Land back in a squat and repeat your next rep. Do the jumps for 30 seconds and work up to three sets of 45 to 60 seconds. When you do multiple sets, rest about 1 minute between them.
Easily adapt step-ups to a home workout by using a picnic bench, sturdy chair or tall stair step, such as one on a front porch. You want it to be between 12 and 24 inches high. Hold a heavy item alongside your hips, such as jugs of water, for extra challenge.
To do the exercise: Stand in front of the elevated surface. Lift your right leg to step up; use your buttocks and your thigh to pull your weight straight up. 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, then switch to leading with the left leg. Complete 10 to 15 reps on each leg and work up to three sets.
Bridges effectively work the backside of your legs, especially your buttocks and the hamstring attachments. Use the floor to work the bridges, or place your feet on a chair or ottoman for a little extra challenge.
To do the exercise: Lie on your back. Plant your feet about 18 inches from your buttocks, or place your heels on an elevated surface. Squeeze your buttocks and backs of the legs as you lift your hips up out of the floor to form a bridge. Pause for a count or two and lower back down. Repeat 15 to 20 times.