You don't have to be an avid gym rat in order to strengthen the many different muscle groups in your legs. In fact, there are many different lower-body exercises that require no equipment and that can be completed in the comfort of your own home.
The exercises below can be combined into an effective, yet easy-to-perform routine for beginners looking to strengthen their legs. For a comprehensive leg workout routine, beginners should complete two to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise.
1. Wall Squat
This easy-to-do exercise targets the quadriceps on the front of your thigh, a muscle group that plays an important role in squatting, standing and going up and down stairs.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your back to a smooth wall and place your feet 8 to 12 inches away from it. Lean your butt and back against the surface and let your knees flex as you slowly slide down the wall. When your knees bend to a 60-degree angle, hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds before sliding back up again. Make sure your knees do not pass beyond the end of your foot as you squat down.
2. Heel Raise
Heel raises strengthen the gastrocnemius and the soleus. These two calf muscles converge to form the Achilles tendon and help to propel you forward while walking or running.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands resting on a countertop. Slowly lift your heels off the ground and rise up onto your toes. Hold this position for 1 to 2 seconds before lowering your heels back to the ground. Keeping your knee straight while you do the exercise will target your gastrocnemius, while maintaining a slight bend will focus on the soleus muscle.
3. Bridge Walkout
This exercise activates the hamstrings in the back of your thigh, a muscle group that helps to support the knee joint and is influential during jumping and running.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with both knees bent at a 90-degree angle and your feet on the floor. Begin by drawing in your abdominal muscles and lifting your buttocks in the air. Holding this position, alternate taking small steps forward with each leg. When you are unable to comfortably extend the legs any farther, lower your buttocks to the ground and return to the initial position.
4. Donkey Kick
Donkey kicks target the gluteus maximus, a powerful muscle in the back of your hip. Activities like running, jumping and squatting would not be possible without this important muscle.
HOW TO DO IT: Get onto your hands and knees and engage your stomach muscles so your lower back is flat like a tabletop. Without allowing your pelvis to tilt, kick your right leg backwards as you extend the knee. Hold the leg in this position for 1 to 2 seconds before bringing it back down again. When the set is complete, repeat the exercise on the left leg.
5. Stationary Lunge
Lunges are a great way for beginners to strengthen both the quadriceps and gluteus maximus muscles.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with one foot ahead of the other in a wide, staggered stance. Slowly drop your back leg toward the ground until each leg forms a 90-degree angle. Do not allow your front knee to move beyond the end of your foot. Hold this pose for 1 to 2 seconds before returning to the starting position. When you finish the set, reverse your legs and repeat the exercise.
6. Side Leg Raise
Side leg raises focus on the gluteus medius muscle, which sits on the side of your hip. This muscle helps to stabilize the pelvis while walking or running.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your side with your knees straight and your legs stacked on top of each other. Without allowing your body to roll backward, lift the top leg 8 to 12 inches in the air. Hold this position for a few seconds before lowering back down again. After a set, roll over and repeat the exercise with the other leg.
- International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy: Electromyographic Analysis of Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Maximus During Rehabilitation Exercises
- American College of Sports Medicine: Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise