Top 10 Bodyweight Exercises For Legs

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Want to get stronger legs without going to the gym?

Here you’ll find ten of the best bodyweight leg exercises and their progressions you can do right from home – no equipment needed.

These will help you develop those thick glutes and toned legs that make people stop and take a double look. Because let’s admit it, both guys and girls can appreciate some well-developed legs.

With each exercise you’ll find a demonstration and a description of how to do them properly in order to activate the right muscles. Try the advanced versions of the exercises if they become too easy or aren’t challenging you enough.

It’s time to stop neglecting your legs. No gym membership? No excuses!

1. Bodyweight Squats

Muscles Worked

Primary: Quadriceps

Secondary: Glutes, Hamstrings, Adductors, Calves


The squat and all its variations is a classic lower body exercise and one of the most fundamental movements you can make which translates well to everyday life.

It’s as close as you’ll get to an exercise that targets all the major muscle groups of your legs but’s especially effective at firing up the quads and also doubles as a nice cardio workout.

This is because ordinary bodyweight squats are all about volume.

3 sets of 20 reps, unless you’re an absolute beginner training-wise, won’t do anything to work your muscles. Aim for 100 or 200 in a row with your butt coming all the way to the bottom and back up again before trying one of the more advanced progressions.

To perform a basic bodyweight squat:

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart (this helps activate your glutes more during the workout).
  • Keep your toes pointed slightly outwards. Don’t point them straight ahead
  • Hip hinge and drop your butt backwards like you’re sitting in a chair and drop your butt as low to the floor as you possibly can (the lower the better!)
  • Once you reach the bottom, push back up as hard  and fast as you can using the same motion. Focus on pushing up with your heels not your soles.
  • For balance hold your arms out in front of you. Also try to keep your back relatively upright. Don’t slouch!

Typically, the wider your foot stance the more glute and inner thigh activation you’ll achieve (i.e. sumo squats). There are many different variations of the squat and slight changes can work different muscles more or less effectively.

Advanced Variation / Progression

Once ordinary squats become too easy, it’s time to try the pistol squat, which is basically a single legged squat that is 10 times harder and requires much better balance and coordination (not to mention strength) to simply complete one rep.

2. Lunges

Muscles Worked

Primary: Quadriceps, Hip Flexors

Secondary: Hamstrings, Calves


Lunges are another classic lower body exercise and are great for beginners.

To perform a lunge:

  • Start by standing up straight. Keep those abs contracted and puff your chest out a little.
  • Take a big step forward with one foot and lower your body until your back knee almost touches the floor. Your toes on the back foot will be touching the ground but the heels won’t. Your front knee shouldn’t go past your toes.
  • Come back up to the starting position. Make sure you keep your hips and knees pointed forward in front of you. Visualize your glutes and hamstrings helping you lift back up.

You can repeat with the same leg or switch legs with every rep. If you have enough space you also can do walking lunges where you move forward with each lunge alternating legs. Work yourself up to eventually be able to do 100+ lunges right after the other.

Advanced Variation / Progression

The reverse lunge is a similar movement except you move backwards instead of forward. This is a less natural movement and your body won’t be as familiar making it work that much harder. Beginning already at the end of your range of motion, it will also help improve your flexibility.

To make the exercise harder, you can also hold something heavy (doesn’t have to be dumbbells) or increase the distance between your feet.

3. Squat Jumps / Frog Jumps / Box Jumps

Muscles Worked

Primary: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Hip Flexors

Secondary: Calves, Glutes


Any form of jumping exercise will work the fast twitch muscle fibers of your leg and help increase your explosiveness. These exercises are known as plyometrics which are all about exerting a maximum amount of force in as short a period of time as possible.

Not only do they help strengthen and sculpt your leg muscles, they can also good double as a cardio workout.

To perform frog jumps:

  • Start in a regular squatting position, feet shoulder width apart, and toes pointed slightly outward.
  • Do a deep squat by dropping your butt all the way down and place your hands on the ground. (You’ll look like a frog doing this).
  • From this position you’re going to jump up straight into the air bringing your feet together and your arms up.
  • Land back into another deep squat with your hands on the ground and then keep jumping.

This exercise will really work you into a sweat quickly. Start off doing as many as you can for 30 seconds then take a short 5-10 second break and do as many as you can for another 30 seconds. If you’re already fairly fit, you can go for a minute straight. Whatever works for you as long as you’re challenging your body.

Advanced Variation / Progression

Add an exercise ball. Instead of keeping your hands on the ground you’re going to jump up while holding the ball. You can either lift it over your head as you come up or just hold it out in front of you. Since this is more challenging, instead of going all the way down try bending your knees only 90 degrees instead.

4. Hip Thrusts

Muscles Worked

Primary: Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius

Secondary: Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Abductors


If you want a bigger butt, hip thrusts are the exercise you need to be doing.

Bret Contreras, known as the “glute guy”, calls the weighted version of the hip thrust the best overall glute exercise you can perform.

But even without weights you can still activate the two largest muscle groups in your butt if you aim for high volume reps.

You can also perform a hip thrust with two benches/chairs instead of one:

  • Place your upper back on one bench and your feet on the other.
  • Then drop your hips to the ground as low as you can.
  • While pressing on your heels, lift your hips back up and focus on contracting your glutes.

An easier version (or if you don’t have any benches/chairs around) is to lie flat on the ground with your knees bent. Once again, you press your heels into the ground and drive your hips up until they form a straight line with your shoulders and knees. Don’t overextend your back and squeeze your butt at the top. (Yes this is a glute bridge).

Sets of 20-25 are ideal for this exercise but start with more or less if it’s too hard or easy.

Advanced Variation / Progression

You’ll perform the same exercise using either two benches or the ground except this time you’re only going to lift your hips with one leg. You’re going to keep the other leg bent up near your chest. Single leg hip thrusts make sure you aren’t cheating by using one leg more than the other so they’ll each get an equal workout.

5. Single Leg Glute Bridge

Muscles Worked

Primary: Glutes

Secondary: Adductors, Hamstrings, Hip Flexors


Single leg bridges are pretty similar exercises to hip thrusts except the motion is slightly different.

To perform a single leg bridge:

  • Lie down on the ground with your hands at your sides and your knees bent.
  • Lift one of your legs into the air and use the opposite foot’s heel to push into the ground and bring your hips upward.
  • While keeping the extended leg in the air, slowly lower your hips back to the ground before going back up again with the same leg.

Do 10-15 reps for each leg before switching to the other. This exercise also hits your lower back and gives your abs a bit of a workout too which is a nice bonus.

Advanced Variation / Progression

The higher towards the ceiling you can bring your leg, the more difficult this exercise becomes. Improving your flexibility to be able to keep it straight instead of bent also makes the exercise harder.

6. Elevated Calf Raises

Muscles Worked

Calves (of course).


The calves are a notoriously hard muscle to hit correctly but this exercise gives them a good workout with enough volume.

To perform calf raises:

  • Stand on an elevated surface (a stair step for example) with just your toes and the balls of your feet so your heels are hanging off the edge.
  • Lift your heels up by standing on your tippy toes. Keep the rest of your legs straight and hold the position for a second or two.
  • Bring your heels back down as low as you can go before bringing them back up again as high as you can.

If you’re a beginner, aim for 100 reps in a row as a start. If you need a break work in sets of 20 to 25 reps.

Advanced Variation / Progression

To make it harder, instead of using both feet you’re only going to be using one at a time. Hold the leg you won’t be using slightly behind you. Then focus on getting through 20-25 reps with one foot before switching to the other.

7. Hip Abductions

Muscles Worked

Primary: Gluteus Minius, Outer Thigh (Abductors)


Hip abductions are great for hitting the outer part of the glute and work especially well with resistance bands after you’ve trained them up a bit.

To perform a lying hip abduction:

  • Lie flat on the floor on your side with your legs extended straight out holding your feet together. Your arm should be resting along your hip.
  • Raise the leg on top of the other toward the ceiling keeping the foot in a neutral of even downward facing position (meaning toes angle toward the floor). The higher the better but stop when you feel tension in your lower back or oblique muscles. This is typically a 45 degree angle from your bottom leg.
  • Lower the upper leg and repeat for reps. You’ll feel the burn on the upper and outer part of your glutes (called the gluteus minius) which helps it look wider and thicker when trained.

Aim for 100 to 200 consecutive reps on each leg but remember to work your way up if you haven’t hit that muscle yet.

Advanced Variation / Progression

Instead of lying on the ground, try doing standing hip abductions which force you to balance and work harder against gravity. Another method is to bend the lifting leg at the knee to a 90 degree angle instead of keeping it straight out. This focuses the exercise even more on the glutes.

8. Single Leg Deadlift

Muscles Worked

Primary: Hamstrings

Secondary: Glutes


Also known as the drinking bird, this is a fun exercise that requires some serious balancing skills.

It develops what’s known as straight leg hamstring strength. 

Most exercises that work the hamstrings require them to bend but you’ll see keeping them straight is a challenge on its own and works the muscles differently.

To perform a single leg deadlift:

  • Stand straight balancing on one leg with your knee slightly bent. The opposite leg should be hovering above the ground right behind you.
  • Bend forward at your hips while extending your arms out in front of you. As your head comes down, the leg behind you should be slowly brought up as high as you can, ideally until your back leg is parallel to the ground. Your back should be kept in a neutral position.
  • Once you’ve fully extended your leg, bring yourself slowly back to the starting position. Don’t turn your hips, rotate your body, or arch your back. Your hips should always be squared.

You can either repeat the rep with the same leg or switch legs after each rep. Try doing 10 reps for each leg. This exercise also has the added benefit of working your core and back.

Advanced Variation / Progression

Work on lifting your back leg higher and higher until it reaches parallel. If that’s already to easy for you (hey there cheerleaders) try holding something heavy in your hands to make balancing more difficult.

9. Split Squats

Muscles Worked

Primary: Quads.

Secondary: Glutes and Adductors


Split squats are a modified version of regular bodyweight squats focusing on one leg at a time.

To perform a split squat:

You need an elevated surface such as a bed, couch of bench.

  • While standing straight with your hands on your hips, place one of your feet behind you on top of a bench. At the same time extend your other foot forward in front of you is if you’re doing a lunge.
  • Squat down by flexing the knee of the front leg. You might feel the top of your thigh stretch as you go down on the resting leg.
  • Before the knee of the resting leg touches the floor, squat back up into the starting position. Keep your back upright and your knee and foot pointing forward in front of you. Switch legs after doing 15-20 reps.

Split squats are fairly similar to lunges. The difference is that during a lunge, the other leg is also working to lift you back up while during a split squat only one of the legs is doing the work.

Advanced Variation / Progression

The higher the resting foot is elevated the more difficult this exercise becomes. Try gradually increasing the height further and further up. This will also train your flexibility and hip flexors. Also try holding something heavy like dumbbells with your hands to make it even harder.

10. Sprints

Muscles Worked

Every muscle in the legs.


It’s important to make the distinction here between simply running or jogging and actually sprinting. Sprints which require running at max or near max capacity (say 90%) will tire you out much quicker and thus even though the workouts are much shorter, will develop your legs much faster and much better than traditional running.

Check out this post for more on the differences between jogging and sprinting.

To perform a sprint:

  • Run as fast as you can!

Okay that’s not entirely accurate. Yes you’re running fast but there are many nuances in your running form you have to take into account in order to avoid injury and move as fast as possible.

We encourage you to watch the video above to get yourself acquainted with these. It’ll take time to get to the point where each movement is firmly ingrained into your muscle memory so try focusing on one or two points per sprint session.

If you’re going all out, you only need 2 or 3 sessions a week to really work your legs. Try starting with 40 to 50 meters depending on your fitness level, and repeat five to ten times giving yourself enough time for rest in between.

Advanced Variation / Progression

Increasing the distance or the time naturally make these harder. Hill sprints which have you running on an incline are easier on the joints but also work your leg muscles at a different angle and more effectively. You also have the option of attaching something around your waist, like a tire, for weighted sprints that require your legs to generate more force.


Let’s wrap things up.

Here are the ten best bodyweight leg exercises you can do without equipment:

  1. Squats
  2. Lunges
  3. Jumps (Squat Jumps / Broad Jumps / etc.)
  4. Hip Thrusts
  5. Glute Bridges
  6. Calf Raises
  7. Hip Abductions
  8. Single-Leg Deadlifts
  9. Split Squats
  10. Sprints

These exercises will target the main muscle groups including the glutes, quads, hamstrings, as well as the calves to give you a well-developed and stronger set of legs. This assumes you already have your diet in check.

Make sure you’re getting enough protein in order to repair and synthesize the new muscle tissue you’re building. About 1 gram per. lb. of bodyweight  is standard advice but it depends on your experience level (and how trained your body already is.)

Overall when it comes to bodyweight, train legs 3 to 4 times per week, focus on volume, and advance to harder and harder progressions to force your legs to grow.

If you’re having trouble growing your legs, consider adding some equipment into your routine such as resistance bands or a medicine ball to help make it easier. Even without weights these will still get you farther than you might think.

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