We’re always told that “The Squat is King” and while this is probably true with a barbell across your back, sometimes bodyweight squats just don’t cut it.
Don’t get me wrong, as far as bodyweight exercises for legs go, the squat is great, but I’m sure we could all knock out 100s of reps without feeling as though we’ve achieved much.
I still like to perform the bodyweight squat, but typically as a warm-up exercise.
I’ve actually found that performing certain single-leg bodyweight exercises seem to work best.
I will also say that performing leg exercises has been the main part of many of my workouts (with or without weights) for many years now.
I’ve learned that by pushing the biggest muscles it seems to have a knock-on effect on the rest of the body. This is especially true in terms of fat loss and muscle gain.
So, without further ado here are the bodyweight exercises for legs that I love.
1. Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat is a great exercise whether you choose to perform it with weights or as a standalone bodyweight exercise.
It’s simple in nature, but gives you a huge bang for your buck.
So, you perform this fantastic bodyweight exercise by having the back leg elevated in a bench, box, or sturdy chair.
This superb lower body compound movement will place a greater focus on the quads, but you are working the glutes and hamstrings as well (this will depend on the depth of your squat and the distance between your front leg and back leg).
As for reps and sets, this of course very much depends on your fitness levels and your ultimate goal in training.
For me, I like to use it as a muscle toning and conditioning tool and will typically perform 10 sets of 10 reps on BOTH legs. My aim is to complete all 200 reps without resting if possible (or as little rest as you can).
By the end of this mini-workout my legs can really feel the burn, my heart-rate is through the roof, and I’m usually dripping in sweat.
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2. Walking Lunges
I’ve always loved walking lunges and as far as bodyweight exercises for legs go, they can be done for many different reasons.
I tend to use them towards the end of a workout (again either with weights or without) and with very high reps.
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You are once again working the entire leg, although there is a main focus on the quads and glutes here.
I often perform walking lunges in my local park (yes, I often get strange looks, but I tend to workout early, so there’s not many people about, although dogs tend to stare at me with suspicion).
The exercise is as simple as it sounds, and you perform non-stop lunges while moving forward.
I tend to go for a certain number of reps or distance.
My local park has football pitches marked out and is approximately 0.5 miles all the way around one section.
I have often performed 100, 200, 300, 400 or 500 non-stop walking lunges.
Once again this tends to be a great endurance and conditioning exercise.
To be honest the figures may seem a little high and out of reach, but as I’ve learned with exercise (and most things in life) the mind tends to give up before the body.
We typically tell ourselves that what we’ve done is enough, or that we just can’t complete another rep – not true.
I will admit that when I first tried non-stop walking lunges I found 100 to be a bit of a struggle, and I felt as though my legs had nothing more to give.
However, by the end of the week after finishing off each of my workouts with walking lunges I was performing 200 with no issues.
Just go for it here and see how many lunges you can complete.
Set yourself a target and remember it’s mind over matter here.
3. Step Ups
I would attribute steps ups as one of the main bodyweight exercises for legs that has made the biggest difference to my body as a whole.
I think it’s because steps ups are far more glute focused (depending on the height of the step/bench/box, the greater the height, the more glute activation) and the glutes are the biggest muscle in the body.
You work the biggest muscles and you get the biggest payback as far as I’m concerned.
I typically use a bench or a 24-inch box.
You can complete steps up just purely as a bodyweight exercise, or you can add weight through a variety of implements – weighted vest, backpack, medicine ball, dumbbells, kettlebells or barbell.
You can perform these in alternating fashion, but I prefer to complete step ups the same way I do with Bulgarian split squats.
Perform 10 sets of 10 reps per leg and see how you feel afterwards.
Once again, you can complete your step ups as a standalone finisher or go all out for as many reps as possible.
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So, there you have my 3 favourite bodyweight exercises for legs.
Bulgarian split squats, walking lunges and step ups.
As you can see, these are all single-leg exercises and they can all be completed as bodyweight exercises or with added weight.
They certainly make a nice change from boring old bodyweight squats and will definitely push you a little harder.
You could actually complete all 3 exercises as a leg-day workout and you are pretty much working the entire lower body.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve found that working the legs seems to have the greatest impact on the body as a whole and it has certainly helped me to become fitter, stronger and improved the overall aesthetics of my body.
So, what are waiting for – get to working on these superb bodyweight exercises for legs.