Just because you’re training from home, there’s no reason that your leg workouts need to consist of a walk around the park or a run around the block. Far from it, your home leg workouts can be every bit as effective, every bit as rewarding as your gym sessions.
Below we’ve collected the best leg exercises, which paired together make up a formidable home leg workout. Doing this workout once a week will ensure you’re hitting all of the key muscles in your lower body, as well as giving your core a good workout too.
Why Leg Workouts Are Important
We get it, if you were reluctant about training legs when gyms were open and opportunities were plentiful, the prospect of squatting in the middle of your living room may not be a very appealing one. But training legs remains an important part of any balanced training plan, as Jason Bone, head strength coach at FLEX Chelsea explains: “Legs are an integral part of your weekly workout plan. Studies show an increase in testosterone from training legs which helps improve muscle mass, bone density, hair growth and arguably most importantly your sex drive.
“Having a big upper body and skinny legs is never a good look so aesthetically and balance wise you need to work the legs as many times as you work your upper body. It also burns a lot of calories, which will keep you lean and allow those extra calories in the kitchen.”
If you’re not persuaded by the effect leg workouts can have on your body, then perhaps you’ll be more convinced by the impact leg workouts can have on your mind. A study by Georgia Tech researchers found that performing leg extensions at maximum effort boosted memory as well as muscle, while another study, published in the journal Frontiers, revealed that performing load bearing exercises, like squats and deadlifts, played a crucial role in maintaining brain health.
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The 12-Exercise Home Leg Workout
So what are you waiting for? Below is a 12-exercise, home leg workout that will test every muscle in your lower body.
But before you jump in, remember the exercises can be scaled, so if you’re new to fitness consider doing the workout without dumbbells. However, if this workout appears old hat to you, then increase the load to increase the difficulty. Simple.
01. Lateral Band Walk
10 reps on each leg
With a resistance band positioned between your knees and ankles and your body under tension, bend your knees to assume a high-squat position. Move your right foot towards your right and then, with control, step in the left foot the equivalent distance so that your feet are back to a hip-width distance apart. Do this for three to four steps then repeat the process in the opposite direction.
“Any coach worth his salt will give their client this exercise,” says Bone. “It’s such a great way to fire up the glutes, which believe it or not aren’t always the easiest to get going. Glute activation is a great way to help stabilise the hips and knees so if you’re planning to do a heavy leg session this needs to be top of the list for your warm up/activation.”
02. Banded Side Lunge
3 sets of 6 reps on each leg
With your left foot on the band, grasp the handles with an overhand grip. Step to the right and drop into a deep lunge. Drive up hard off your right foot to return.
Lateral lunges place emphasis on your hip adductors and abductors, the School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science reports, making it beneficial for the “very tight sidestepping manoeuvres” required in American football, rugby, basketball and skiing.
03. Squat to Shoulder Press
3 sets of 6 reps
Stand on the resistance band (securely, please) and hold it at shoulder height, palms forward. Squat deeply explode up and press overhead, holding for 1sec at the top.
“This is great whole body exercise,” says Bone. “The more muscles you use in a single movement, the more energy is required so you can expect to be getting a sweat on with this. Done correctly this exercise will work your legs, glutes, back, shoulders and core. Your heart rate will certainly be tested and well as your coordination.”
04. Dumbbell Step-up with a Knee Raise
10 reps on each leg
Stand next to a bench, chair or step holding two dumbbells at your sides and place one leg firmly on top. Keeping your torso straight, drive up through the heel of your raised leg. Once you’re up on the bench drive your knee upwards until it’s at hip height. Without placing your other foot on the bench, lower yourself down to the starting position under control.
“The step up activates all of your leg muscles including your glutes, quads and hamstrings,” says PT James White. “It is low impact so is also a good option for someone with a history of knee pain.”
05. Bulgarian Split Squat
10 reps on each leg
Holding two dumbbells, place your back foot on a bench and position your front foot about 1 metre in front. While keeping your torso upright, lunge down so your back knee is around two inches from the floor. Drive yourself back up to the starting position.
“This exercise works your front leg through a huge range of motion,” says White. “It’s perfect for well balanced strength and muscle gains.”
06. Goblet Squat
2 sets of 12 reps
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold your dumbbell in front of your chest with your elbows pointing down. Push your hips back and squat down until the tops of your thighs are parallel with the floor (or as low as you can comfortably go). As you lower, imagine that you’re screwing your feet into the floor by actively pressing your ankles, lower legs and thighs outward. Pause, and push yourself back up to the starting position.
“This is an excellent all-round exercise,” says PT Lee Ashford. “With a full range of movement it’s one of the best moves for improving strength.”
07. Calf Raises
3 sets of 12 reps
Stand with your torso upright holding a barbell across your shoulders. Place the balls of your feet on an exercise step with your heels touching the floor. Raise your heels off the floor and hold at the top of the contraction. Slowly lower yourself to the starting position and repeat.
“It’s a common mistake for people to forget about their calves,” says Ashford. “This is a must-have move to ensure you work the entirety of your legs.”
08. Pistol Squat
3 sets of 6 reps
Stand with your feet in a narrow stance and lift one leg off the floor. Bend your standing knee to squat down as low as you can while keeping your back straight. Push back up to the start position through your heel, then switch legs and repeat. That’s one rep.
“A great single leg exercise to challenge hip mobility and stability that transfers over directly to daily life,” says Jonathan Dick, performance coach at Equinox Kensington.
09. Standing Long Jump
3 sets of 6 reps
Lower yourself into a squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Swing your arms back and use them to propel yourself forward, then bring your legs forward for additional momentum. Jump as far as you can and land on the soles of your feet.
“If you’re looking to develop explosive horizontal power, these are number one,” says Phillip Leonard, head of personal training at Ten Health & Fitness. “To reduce the stress on your knees, aim to jump up and forward.”
10. Walking Lunges
Walk 10m forwards and 10m back for 3 sets
Lunge forward as far as you can with your right leg, bending your trailing knee so it almost brushes the floor. Use the heel of your right foot to push yourself off into the next lunge, this time leading with your left leg.
“Walking lunges are technically a unilateral exercise which can improve imbalances, stability, mobility and symmetry. They work your legs, glutes and core which requires a lot of energy, balance and focus so your body will be working overtime,” says Bone.
11. Single-leg Glute Bridge
10 reps on each leg for 2 sets
Lie on your back with one leg raised in the air. Thrust forward and raise your hips off the ground as high as you can. Slowly lower yourself to the floor.
“If you’ve ever had issues with your back, hips or knees this will often be due to a weak core posterior chain (back, glutes and hamstrings), by incorporating single-glute bridges in to your workout you’ll be strengthening the area and improving your imbalances,” says Bone.
12. Donkey Kicks
3 sets of 6 reps
Begin with your feet set about 6in apart, then drop into a squat. Your knees should be bent and torso tilted forward at 45 degrees. Keeping your upper body still, draw your right heel back and up toward your glutes. Brace your core for balance – you’re going to need it. Now shoot your legs back and up in one explosive movement; lean forward as you kick, taking your full bodyweight onto your hands.
This move targets the gluteus maximus – the engine room muscle that determines your propensity for speed and ability to jump high.
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