For most sports, leg strength can give you, well, a leg up on the competition. Even if you’re not an athlete, though, leg strength is important for health and wellness.
If you like to exercise but you aren’t a gym person, you might think that running, cycling or hiking are your only options for a decent leg workout. But there is so much more you can do to strengthen your lower body without lifting weights or using machines.
Here are 5 of my favorite equipment-free leg exercises for developing strong legs and glute muscles.
(Wondering what calisthenic leg workouts are all about? See my note at the end of this post.)
Ready to develop strong legs? Let’s go!
1. Bodyweight Squat
This is the most fundamental strength building exercise for the legs. This classic leg squat hits all the muscles of your lower body and may be a mobility challenge for some folks as well.
To perform a bodyweight squat, start with your feet hip distance apart, then reach your arms forward, bend your knees and sit back into your heels. When your hips get below knee height, return to a standing position and repeat.
Working your way up to 40-50 consecutive bodyweight squats will set you up with a fantastic foundation to progress your lower body strength training.
2. Walking Lunge
The walking lunge requires a bit more body awareness than the standard squat. It also introduces a balance component and is a great way to hit your leg muscles from different angles. Walking lunges are the perfect complement to bodyweight squats.
Stand with your feet together, then take a big step forward with one foot and lower your back knee toward the ground, keeping your leg in a straight line, stopping just before it touches. Keeping your front foot where it is, step forward with your other leg and stand back up, alternating legs with each rep.
It is a similar motion and has some of the same benefits of a split squat with a bit more challenge.
3. Archer Squat
This asymmetrical squat variation is a beautiful merger of strength, flexibility, balance and control. It’s also a great way to target your inner thighs and can be an early lead-up step toward one-legged squats.
Begin with a wide stance, then keep one leg straight as you squat all the way down on the opposite leg. Return to the start position and repeat on the other side.
4. One Leg Box Squat
Stand facing away from a box, bench or other object that’s around knee height, then lift one leg into the air.
Carefully sit back onto the box with your knees bent, then stand back up without your extended foot touching the floor. It’s common for beginners to lose their balance at the bottom. As such, the box can provide safety and stability as you build the strength and control to perform a freestanding, unassisted one-leg squat.
One-leg squats are one of the most challenging leg exercises at first, but incorporating them into your leg workouts will really help you build strength and balance.
5. Hover Lunge
You can think of this almost like a lunge where your rear foot and back leg remain hovering in the air. You’ll need to lean forward a bit more than in a standard lunge in order to stay balanced while on your front leg. Reaching both arms forward helps with the balance as well. Be careful to lower yourself down with control – especially during those last few inches – in order to avoid any impact on your rear knee.
Check out the video below and give this calisthenics leg workout a shot and let me know how it goes!
What is calisthenics, anyway?
Calisthenics is a type of bodyweight exercise that is intended to increase strength, flexibility, and endurance. The beauty of this type of exercise is that it is simple, doesn’t require equipment, and can be done anywhere. Jumping jacks are a classic example.
Calisthenics can be used for upper body, core, or leg workouts. You can use the exercises I’ve described above for a great, varied, calisthenics leg workout at home or at the gym. Some people think bodyweight leg workouts aren’t enough to promote muscle growth in your legs. Try my calisthenics leg workout for yourself and you’ll see!
Interested in more lower body and upper body exercises designed to build your strength and burn calories? You can head to my website to find out about pistol squats, plyometric exercises, and more.
Al Kavadlo is one of the world’s leading experts in bodyweight strength training and calisthenics. He’s also the author of several books, including the Amazon bestsellers Get Strong and Street Workout.
The content of this post does not constitute and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have about your health or a medical condition.