Lifting heavy is great, but these bodyweight leg exercises make for a killer lower-body workout — no equipment required.
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Female athlete in sportswear doing leg fitness workout
Credit: Getty Images

While lower-body strength training seems synonymous with lifting weights, you don't always need dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells — or any equipment, for that matter — to get a solid workout. In fact, you can build strength simply by performing bodyweight leg exercises.

The best part? Skipping the equipment means you can do bodyweight leg exercises anywhere and anytime. "A lot of us see time, money, and space as an obstacle to getting in a workout," says Tara Nicolas, NASM-CPT, an instructor at The Fhitting Room in New York City. "But bodyweight training is cheap, and you really don't need much room."

What's more, you have better control of your lower-body movements without having a weight to hoist around. And ditching a weighted counterbalance during stability exercises means you can really focus on how your body moves and what you need to do to keep it steady. "Bodyweight exercises help you get in touch with how your body is moving and any imbalances you may have on one side," says Nicolas. With these bodyweight leg exercises, in particular, you can also sidestep injury by strengthening typically weaker muscle groups, like the hamstrings and glutes.

Ready to reap all the rewards bodyweight exercises have to offer? Combine these must-do moves from Nicolas into a bodyweight leg workout that's sure to leave your lower body shaking after just one round.

Equipment-Free Bodyweight Leg Workout

How it works: To warm up, foam roll the quads, glutes, calves, and back, then do 20 seconds each of air squats, lateral lunges, and inchworms. Then, do each exercise in the bodyweight leg workout for the suggested time. Perform as many rounds of the circuit as you desire.

What you'll need: no equipment required

3 x 6 x 1 Squat

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Left: Credit: SHAPE
Right: Credit: SHAPE

A. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes turned slightly outward and hands at sides.

B. On an inhale, sit back into hips and bend knees to lower until thighs are parallel or almost parallel with floor, moving on a count of three. Keep chest up and prevent back from rounding throughout movement.

C. Hold the bottom of the squat for a count of six. Then, on an exhale, press through feet to straighten legs and return to standing on a count of one.

Continue for 45 seconds.

Squat with Alternating Calf Raise

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Left: Credit: SHAPE
Right: Credit: SHAPE

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart. On an inhale, sit back into hips and bend knees to lower into a squat.

B. Holding the squat position and keeping core engaged, lift left heel to perform calf raise. Lower left heel back to the floor, then repeat the movement on right side.

Continue alternating for 45 seconds.

Quadrupled Hip Extension

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Left: Credit: SHAPE
Right: Credit: SHAPE

A. Start in a table-top position on the floor with hands stacked directly under shoulders, knees bent and stacked directly under hips, and feet hip-width apart. Lift right knee and foot slightly off the floor to start.

B. Pull right heel in toward butt and drive heel up toward the ceiling, making sure to engage core and keep a neutral spine.

C. Lower right knee back down toward the floor without touching it.

Continue for 45 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.

Quadrupled Hamstring Curl

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Left: Credit: SHAPE
Right: Credit: SHAPE

A. Start in a table-top position on the floor with hands stacked directly under shoulders, knees bent and stacked directly under hips, and feet hip-width apart. Extend right leg straight back and lift it to hip height to start.

B. Holding right leg in line with hip, bend right knee to curl heel in toward right glute.

C. Straighten right leg back to the starting position, keeping leg at hip height. 

Continue for 45 seconds. Switch sides; repeat. 

Quadrupled Fire Hydrant

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Left: Credit: SHAPE
Right: Credit: SHAPE

A. Start in a table-top position on the floor with hands stacked directly under shoulders, knees bent and stacked directly under hips, and feet hip-width apart.

B. Keeping right knee bent, lift right leg up and out to the side, raising it to hip height. Then, lower it back down to the starting position.

Continue for 45 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.

Lateral Lunge Balance

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Left: Credit: SHAPE
Right: Credit: SHAPE

A. Stand with feet together, hands clasped in front of chest.

B. Step out to the right side with right foot, knees and toes pointing forward. Bend through right knee and press hips back, keeping weight in right heel and right knee over ankle.

C. Press through right foot to return to standing, then drive right knee toward chest while balancing on left leg.

Continue for 45 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.

Squat Jump

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Left: Credit: SHAPE
Right: Credit: SHAPE

A. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes turned slightly outward and hands at sides.

B. On an inhale, sit back into hips and bend knees to lower until thighs are parallel or almost parallel with floor. Keep chest up and prevent back from rounding throughout movement.

C. On an exhale, explosively jump up, straightening legs. Land softly with bent knees, lowering back down into a squat.

Continue for 30 seconds.

Speed Skater

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Left: Credit: SHAPE
Right: Credit: SHAPE

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides. Shift weight into left foot, then press through left foot and jump out to the right, landing softly on right leg with left foot swinging behind. Arms can swing naturally.

B. Quickly push off right foot to jump to the left, landing softly on left leg with right foot swinging behind left leg.

Continue alternating for 30 seconds.

Single-Leg RDL

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Left: Credit: SHAPE
Center: Credit: SHAPE
Right: Credit: SHAPE

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides. Shift weight into right leg, maintaining a slight bend in knee, and lift left leg off the floor, knee bent at a 45-degree angle.

B. Hinge at hips and lean forward with chest while lifting left leg behind, body moving in one straight line. Keep the left leg straight and shoulders down and back. Stop lowering chest once torso and leg are parallel to the floor.

C. Raise arms straight out to sides in an airplane position to help balance. Then, push through right foot and lower left leg and arms to return to start.

Continue for 45 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.

Side-Lying Leg Lift

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Left: Credit: SHAPE
Right: Credit: SHAPE

A. Lie on left side of body on the floor with legs extended and let hand propping head up, elbow resting on the floor. Draw right knee in toward chest and rest it on the floor in front of hip.

B. With the left foot flexed, lift it two to three inches up toward the ceiling. Pause at the top, then lower foot back to the starting position.

Continue for 45 seconds. Then, hold left leg at the top and pulse for 45 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.