We’ve all been there… waking up feeling unmotivated, tired, and downright grumpy. Yesterday we told ourselves that we had to go to the gym because it’s leg day. We know deep down that exercise will give us the energy and confidence we crave each day, but the mere thought of getting out of bed makes us want to throw health and fitness related goals out the window and start again tomorrow (or next month).
The good news is, there are plenty of ways to do leg workouts at home. No need to spend money on a crowded gym, precious time in the car or on a bus, or energy lugging around a stinky bag of clothes. Stop, drop and do a convenient (and effective!) bodyweight workout.
Why no-equipment workouts work
No-equipment workouts help us get in tune with our current fitness level by allowing us to listen to our bodies and push just the right amount. Think about it: When using weights or big machines, it’s easy to get caught up in how heavy things feel and lose proper form which, in turn, leads to injuries. Using our own body weight offers a plethora of modifications, making almost any exercise perfect for all levels!
Another big perk is that bodyweight workouts challenge not just the target muscle group, but the entire core as well since it stabilizes your body.
Why it’s easy to do leg workouts at home
Working out at home eliminates all of those neverending excuses that stand between us and a healthier, happier lifestyle. Further down, we’ll show you a number of leg exercises you can do at home with no equipment. If you’re still having trouble motivating yourself to do them, decide whether you have the most energy and strength in the morning, afternoon or evening and schedule your workouts for that time of day to start. If your home space happens to be chaotic, squeeze some of our leg exercises in at the office, in the park, or grab some friends and get moving with those accountabilibuddies.
Key muscles in the legs
Time to talk anatomy! Most of the muscles in the leg are long, meaning they cover more surface area than short muscles. These muscles contract and relax, helping to move our bones so that we can squat and lunge our hearts out while the smaller ones help stabilize those big ones.
Four muscles (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius) make up the quads, which are the strongest muscles in our body. These muscles help extend our legs straight.
Rectus femoris: Starts at the hip and goes down the middle of the upper leg, connecting back at the knee
Vastus lateralis: Begins on the femur on the outside of the quad and inserts at the knee
Vastus medialis: Starts half way up the femur on the inner portion of the quad and connects back at the knee
Vastus intermedius: Arise from the front of the femur and sits under the rectus femoris
The three hamstring muscles (biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus) are at the back of the thigh. They help flex the knee and extend the hip.
Biceps femoris: Lower inside part of the back of the thigh
Semimembranosus: Middle, side of the thigh in the back
Semitendinosus: Middle portion of the thigh in the back
The calf connects to the heel, flexing the foot, ankle, and knee. The gastrocnemius is known as the calf muscle with the soleus, plantaris, and Achilles tendon (the one that gives us that bounce when we run) supporting it.
Gastrocnemius: Back, lower portion of leg
Soleus: Lower, back part of the leg that goes from the knee to heel
Leg exercises you can do at home with no equipment
From walking to running and biking to skating, our legs are responsible for getting us around town. They are responsible for taking us on all kinds of adventures. With modern advances with the nature of “work” these days, we sit a lot more than we used to. Since sitting has been coined as the “new smoking,” let’s talk about the strength we can gain with those leg exercises you can do at home with no equipment.
As you strengthen those strong, powerful legs, embrace the burn, shake, and fatigue. These leg exercises will only make your legs stronger.
Targets the glutes, hamstrings, quads, calf, core, and back
Keeping the upper body straight (picture trying to balance a book on the top of your head), with shoulders back and relaxed and eyes straight ahead, engage the core
Step forward with one leg, then lower the hips until knees create 90-degree angles. Keep the front knee above the ankle and the other knee not quite touching the floor
Come straight up then repeat with the other leg leading
For more of a challenge, hold weights (or get creative with water bottles or cans) at your sides.
Works the core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and abdominals
Stand with feet at hip distance apart. Engage the core by pulling the belly button in and tucking the tailbone
Keeping knees pointing in line with feet, squat until thighs are parallel to the floor
Jump as high as possible, then allow knees to bend to 45 degrees when landing
Pause in the deep squat for 1-2 seconds then jump again
If you are new to squats or feel pain in your knees, do a standard squat without the jump.
Tones the quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and obliques
Step the right leg behind the left so the legs are crossed at the thighs and there is a distance between each foot. The back foot’s toes will be touching the ground
Bring the right arm forward and the left arm behind
While switching the arms for momentum, hop sideways by stepping the right foot to the right and crossing the left leg behind the right
Repeat on the other side while keeping the core engaged
Is the jump too much? Do the same movement, but without the bounce.
Strengthen the calf muscles including the gastrocnemius, soleus and tibialis anterior
Stand straight with legs about hip distance apart and the tailbone tucked in.
Engage core by visualizing the belly button reaching the spine
Lift heels until standing on tippy toes. Distribute the weight on the balls of the feet while keeping legs straight
Stay up for 2 seconds before lowering slowly back onto the heels
Note: This video shows calf raises with angles. It can also be done without angles by simply lifting the toes, keeping feet parallel.
8-minute leg workout to do at home
With this 8-minute leg workout, we’re going to focus on sets instead of reps. It will attack all of the big muscles of the legs — including hamstrings, glutes, quads, and calves — all at once. The goal is to feel the burn while being aware of body and form.
Get on some comfortable shoes and clothes, pump up the tunes, find a timer, and get those legs pumping. Do the following 4 exercises as a circuit. Perform each move for 30 seconds, then switch to the next and do it for 30 seconds until all four exercises are completed. When you finish the last one, start with the first one again, until the 8 minutes are up.
Set the timer for 8 minutes and press “start”!
Lunges – 30 seconds
Squat jump – 30 seconds
Skater lunges – 30 seconds
Calf raises – 30 seconds
Do this and other quick leg workouts at home every other day, resting the legs at least one day in between. For more at home workouts, sign-up for the 8fit app.