24 Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises to Blast Your Legs

Think leg training and most people’s minds will gravitate toward the squat rack. Heavy lifting with weight-based exercises like squats and leg presses are the default exercises for shapely, muscular legs.

There is, however, a different, and many would say, better way. Your body provides all the training ‘equipment’ you need to sculpt strong legs to impress. Read on to discover the 24 best bodyweight leg exercises.

5 Beginner Bodyweight Leg Exercises

Exercise #1: Wall Sit

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Quadriceps
  • Secondary: Hamstrings

Execution method:

  • Stand with you back against the wall and your feet about twelve inches from it. Lower down as if you were sitting in a chair. In the bottom position, your legs should be parallel to the floor.
  • Place your arms against the wall and keep them there throughout.
  • Drive your heels into the ground as you tense your thighs. Stay in this position for the set period of time. Keep your shoulders pinned against the wall throughout.

Exercise #2: Wall Squat

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Calves
  • Secondary: Soleus

Execution method:

  • Set yourself up against a wall, with tailbone and shoulders touching the wall and your legs bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Elevate the heels off the ground to flex the calves, hold for a second and then come back down.

Exercise #3: Weightless Deadlift

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Hamstrings
  • Secondary: Lower Back

Execution method:

  • Stand with feet about shoulder width apart. Your legs should be fairly straight but not locked out.
  • Bend at the waist to lower your extended arms to the floor as if you were about to grab a barbell.
  • With an exhale squeeze the glutes forward, and pull with the back of the legs to come back to an upright position.

Exercise #4: Wide Stance Squat

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Quadriceps
  • Secondary: Hamstrings

Execution method:

  • Spread your legs fairly wide with the toes pointing forward.
  • Sit back and down into the lowest position possible. Keep the knees from going over the toes.
  • Keeping the head in line, squeeze the hips forward to power back up to a standing position. Breathe out on the way up.

Exercise #5: Deep Ape Squat

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Quadriceps
  • Secondary: Core

Execution method:

  • Crouch down into a full squat and put your palms on the ground in front of you.
  • Rise onto your toes, turning your thighs outward. Open up your arms as you spread them out to the sides. Hold for a count of 3 and return to the start position.

6 Intermediate Bodyweight Leg Exercises

Exercise #6: Belt Kick Squat

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Glutes
  • Secondary: Hamstrings

Execution method:

  • Assume a normal squat position with hands on hips and feet shoulder width apart.
  • Squat down until the hamstrings are parallel with the floor. Keep the knees behind the toes.
  • As you stand back up raise your left leg with a kick straight out to the front. Exhale as you kick.

Exercise #7: Bulgarian Split Squat

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Glutes / Quadriceps
  • Secondary: Core

Execution method:

  • Position a platform, stool or table that is about 16 inches high directly behind you. Place one foot on the platform with the other leg directly in front of you.
  • Squat down directly, keeping a tight core. Bring the rear knee down as far as you can.
  • Push through your front thigh to rise back.

Exercise #8: Burpees With Deep Squat

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Lower abdominals
  • Secondary: Quadriceps

Execution method:

  • From a standing position get down into a deep squat with palms on the ground.
  • Kick your feet back and do a push up with an exhale.
  • Jump back in to a deep squat and then explode into the air.

Exercise #9: Deep Squat

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Quadriceps
  • Secondary: Core

Execution method:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms out directly in front of you.
  • Sit down and back into a deep squat position. Keep the butt engaged and the quads up slightly so that you hold the tension in the squat.
  • Hold the bottom position for 10-20 seconds.

Exercise #10: Explosive Lunge

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Quadriceps
  • Secondary: Hamstrings

Execution method:

  • From a shoulder width standing position, take a big step forward. Bring the rear knee to a position a few inches from the ground.
  • Explosively push the thigh back to the start position. Get into a rhythm with the leg popping back each time.

Exercise #11: Hamstring Curl

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Hamstrings
  • Secondary: Calves

Execution method:

  • Lie on the floor on your back with a cloth, towel or plastic bags under your heels. Your arms should be by your sides.
  • Extend your heels all the way out, lifting your glutes off the ground.
  • Squeeze to draw your heels up towards your glutes, then push them back out. Contract the hamstrings tightly as you bring the heels in.

8 Advanced Bodyweight Leg Exercises

Exercise #12: Explosive Squat Jump

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Quadriceps
  • Secondary: Hamstrings

Execution method:

  • From a three-quarter squat position, with hands clasped together in front of the face, jump up explosively as you drive the hands behind you.
  • Land softly as you drive down in preparation for your next jump. Push your butt back and keep your knees from going over the toes.

Exercise #13: Lunge Jump

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Quadriceps
  • Secondary: Glutes

Execution method:

  • Assume a lunge position with your lead foot planted firmly in front and the rear knee just off the floor.
  • Exhale as you jump explosively to switch legs. Land softly, absorbing the energy back into the legs. Propel yourself off the ground with arm drive.

Exercise #14: One Legged Hamstring Bridge

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Calves
  • Secondary: Quadriceps

Execution method:

  • Lie on your back with a towel under your heels. Lean back with your knees slightly bent and an arch in your lower back.
  • Lift with both heels to raise your butt off the ground, keeping your leg locked in a slightly bent position. Now lift one leg in the air. Your hips need to be off the ground so that your leg is holding you from the shoulders to the heels.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds before switching legs.

Exercise #15: Side-to-Side Jump

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Hamstrings
  • Secondary: Quadriceps

Execution method:

  • From a standing position with a wide stance, bend the knee to jump to the side as wide as possible.
  • Plant yourself with the knee, push your butt back slightly and then crouch to jump to the other side. Absorb into the landing.

Exercise #16: Single Leg Wall Sit

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Quadriceps
  • Secondary: Calves

Execution method:

  • Assume a regular wall sit position as if you were sitting in a chair.
  • Bring the knees closer together than you would in a normal wall sit position. Now, lift one leg straight out. Keep your back firm against the wall.
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds then switch sides.

Exercise #17: Squat-Jump-Knee Tuck

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Quadriceps
  • Secondary: Hamstrings

Execution method:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your elbows bent with your hands at chest level. Now, squat down low. Keep your back arched.
  • Now jump as high as you can, tucking the knees into the chest in the top position. Exhale as you explode into the air.
  • Move smoothly into the next jump.

Exercise #18: 30-30 Squat Challenge

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Quadriceps
  • Secondary: Hamstrings / Gluteus

Execution method:

  • Get into a bottom squat position. Your toes should be pointed slightly out and your back should be arched. In the bottom squat position your thighs should be parallel to the floor. Hold your clenched fists in front of your body. Breathe consistently and maintain proper posture.
  • Set your goal to hold the squat for 30 minutes per day for 30 days. You can do as many individual holds as your need to each day to hit the 30-minute target.

Exercise #19: Pistol Squat

Pistol Squat Progression

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Quadriceps
  • Secondary: Hamstrings

Execution method:

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart in a normal squat ready stance. Ensuring that you have a neutral spine, place your arms directly out in front of you.
  • Push your left heel firmly into the ground as you lift your straightened right foot off the ground a few inches – pivot from the hip to do this.
  • Using your arms for balance, lower down into a parallel squat position. As you go down, keep your right leg straight and off the ground.

Note: Check the video above for a number of progressive movements to allow you to perform this challenging exercise.

5 Great Bodyweight Calf Exercises

Exercise #20: Side Calf Raise

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Calves
  • Secondary: Soleus

Execution method:

  • Stand against a wall with one hand on the wall for support.
  • Cross one leg behind the other on the Achilles.
  • Lift up to full extension on the working leg, stretching out the calf maximally.
  • Stretch back down and repeat. Do not bend the knee.

Exercise #21: One Knee Up Calf Raise

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Calves
  • Secondary: Soleus

Execution method:

  • Stand parallel to a wall with the closest hand against the wall for support.
  • Lift on knee up and keep it there.
  • Rise up on the toes of the other foot, stretching the calf to a maximum contraction. Lower and repeat.

Exercise #22: Squat Jump

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Calves
  • Secondary: Soleus

Execution method:

  • Assume the mid position of a squat with your hands positioned at chest level in preparation to jump vertically. Push your butt back.
  • Exhale as you jump up as high as you can, landing softly and moving back to the start position.
  • Immediately move into your next jump.

Exercise #23: Elevated Side Calf Raise

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Calves
  • Secondary: Soleus

Execution method:

  • Stand against the wall with the toes of one foot on a block or raised surface. Place the other leg on top of the opposite heel.
  • Drop the working heel as low as possible, then press your calf up as high as you can. Do not bend your knees. Stretch up and down, going for maximum stretch in your calf muscles.

Exercise #24: Straight Leg Stride

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Calves
  • Secondary: Quadriceps

Execution method:

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Straighten one leg out in front of you. Place the toes down and push off without bringing your heel down. You will be using your calves to propel you forward.
  • Bring the other leg down in the same manner, with a straight leg and connecting with the toes. Run up and down in this manner.

Note: You will need room to run with this one.

Putting these Bodyweight Leg Exercises into Practice

Leg training is hard work. Because we walk on them all day long, our legs are used to carrying a load. To make them respond, we’ve got to push beyond their normal experience. When it comes to bodyweight training, of course, you can’t just add extra weight onto the bar. That makes it vital that you perform these best bodyweight leg exercises as perfectly as possible.

You also need to maximize your time under tension. Time under tension is related to the length of time that the target muscle group is placed under direct stress during the exercise. The longer the better.

You can increase your time under tension by regulating the cadence of your repetitions. By slowing down the negative, or eccentric, part of the repetition, you will be increasing the time under tension and, therefore, placing more emphasis on the working muscle.

To achieve a greater time under tension on your leg exercises, follow a 1:1:4 protocol with your repetitions. That means that it should take you one second to perform the positive part of the move (which, when it comes to legs is usually a rising up type movement), one second to contract the working muscle in the top position and four seconds to perform the negative part of the rep (usually a lowering motion).

The final intensity enhancer is to do with number of repetitions. With bodyweight training, you’ll be going high reps on the legs. This will cause lactic acid buildup in the muscles, leading to fatigue. Push to fight through and complete your set. By doing so, you’ll be strengthening and shaping your legs. In the process your lower body will develop a tremendous level of endurance, allowing you to keep going where others would fail.

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