Having strong legs can make a huge difference to your stamina and wellbeing. Even if you don’t happen to be training for a race or working towards a specific athletic goal, having strong legs can make it easier to get through life. From climbing a flight of stairs to lifting bags, everything is much easier when your legs are stronger.
Fortunately, you don’t have to over-complicate things to benefit from strong, healthy legs. No gym membership is required, as you can achieve great results using bodyweight exercises that can easily be incorporated into any exercise program or slotted into your daily life.
In fact, doing leg exercises at home is much more straightforward than you’d think. No leg-press machine or squat bar is required. All you need is maybe a chair, any necessary support clothing such as a newer version of compression leggings and, of course, the motivation to feel the burn in your hamstrings and calves.
Bodyweight exercises have the advantage of being functional. For instance, when you perform a squat, you are repeating the act of sitting in a chair, and when you stand from a squat, you brace your core and drive through your heels. If transferred to real life activities such as rising from a chair, these exercises will help give you better form and posture.
By learning bodyweight leg exercises, you are also laying the foundations of proper form for moving onto weights at a later date. And the final advantage of bodyweight exercises is that they’re free! You can perform them anywhere, whenever and wherever is convenient. These great bodyweight leg exercises may help you build up strength and at the same time prepare you to eventually start doing exercises with weights.
First, you need to stand so that your feet are shoulder-width apart yet turned out slightly. Ensure that your weight is in your heels. Bend forward at the hips and sit back in a squat, then bend at the knees so that your thighs are parallel to the ground. To stand up straight again, drive down through your heels, keep your core tight and squeeze your butt.
Reverse lunge with a knee lift
As with the first exercise, begin with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step back onto the ball of your left foot, while at the same time bending both knees to make two 90-degree angles. Push onto your right heel to stand up, and as you rise, drive your left knee up towards your chest, then repeat the exercise on the other side.
Plié squat calf raises
Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your toes turned outwards and your hands on your hips. Squat down so that your thighs are parallel to the ground. While still in the squat, raise both heels and hold for a count of two, then lower your heels.
This time, you have to stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart. Bend forward at the hips and sit back into a squat, bending your knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Jump as high as you can, straightening out your legs as you jump, swinging your arms down for extra momentum and keeping your chest up and your back straight. Ensure that you land with soft knees and go straight into another squat.
High knee toe taps
Start by facing a bench, box or chair with your hands on your hips. Tap your foot on the bench or chair, then swap and tap the other foot, alternating sides as quickly as possible. Ensure that your back remains straight and your chest lifted at all times.
With your feet hip-width apart, make a big step to the right, then bend at the right knee and push back with your butt, ensuring that your left leg remains straight, your core stays tight and your chest remains lifted. Then repeat on the opposite side.
Single-leg calf raises
From the same starting position as the last exercise, lift your left knee to the level of your hips, with your toes pointed and your hands on your hips. Keeping your core tight, lift your right heel as high as you can, using the ball of your foot to balance. Hold this position for a count of three, then drop your heel and repeat the exercise on the other side.
There are lots of easy and effective bodyweight exercises that can help to boost your leg strength, but these should help you make a good start and will also set you up well to take on more intensive weight work in the gym when you are ready.