5 Squat Variations For Killer Legs (Equipment-Free!)

Certified Personal Trainer By Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT
Certified Personal Trainer
Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT is the author of The 12-Minute Athlete: Get Fitter, Faster, and Stronger Using HIIT and Your Bodyweight and a leading expert on HIIT and bodyweight fitness. She lives in Venice, California, and is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Who doesn’t want strong, sexy legs for summer shorts season? Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually need heavy weights for an effective leg day; all that’s really required is your own bodyweight and a lot of motivation. Here are five different types of squats you can do using just your own bodyweight for killer summer legs.

Bodyweight Squats

Bodyweight squats (or air squats) may sound easy at first, but do enough of them in a row and your legs will definitely start to feel it! And since you can do bodyweight squats anytime, anywhere, they’re a great way to work your legs even if you don’t have access to a gym.

To do them, stand with your feet hip-width apart, then pull your shoulders back and engage your abs. Push your butt and hips back as if you were sitting in a chair and lower down as far as possible while keeping your weight on your heels. Return to the starting position and repeat.

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One-Legged Squats

At first try, one legged squats (or pistols) may seem nearly impossible — but with time and practice, they're doable. And pistols will get you some seriously strong summer legs.

To do a pistol, stand on one leg, with the other leg straight in front of you. Lower yourself down on one leg as if you’re sitting in a chair. Focus on going down as far as possible, working toward getting the back of you leg touching your calf muscle. Repeat on the other side.

Beginner modification (using a chair or a bench): Stand on one leg, with the other leg straight in front of you and a bench or a chair behind you. Lower yourself down on one leg until you’re sitting on the bench. Raise back up to standing, holding onto the chair slightly if you need extra balance.

Once you’re comfortable with one legged bench squats, try doing negatives without the bench to help increase strength and get used to the movement.

Bulgarian Split Squats

In spite of the funny name, Bulgarian split squats are a great way to build up strength in your legs and will especially make your quads burn. And though you can certainly add a weight to increase the intensity of this exercise, it’s also effective using just your own bodyweight.

To start, stand in a split stance with your leg elevated on a box, bench, or sturdy chair. Keep your front foot flat on the ground and lower your body until your lower knee is close to the ground, trying not to let your top knee go beyond your toes. Lower back up and repeat, making sure to switch sides.

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Close Squats

Close squats are another way to work up to pistols and add variety to your bodyweight squats.

To do them, stand with your feet together, then push your butt and hips back until the back of your thighs are resting on your calves. Raise up and repeat. You can always hold onto a counter or wall if you need extra balance, especially on the return portion of the exercise.

Jump Squats

Jump squats introduce a plyometrics element to regular squats and burn more calories (while still building strength) as a result.

To do a jump squat, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then lower yourself into a squat position with your thighs parallel to the floor. Jump up as explosively as you can, land in a squat position and repeat.

Photos courtesy of author

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