mbg moves: 12 Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises

mbg Senior Health Editor By Kristine Thomason
mbg Senior Health Editor
Kristine Thomason is the senior health editor at mindbodygreen.
Helen Phelan
Welcome to mbg moves! We've been working out at home more than ever lately—and we know our readers are, too. To help keep your fitness routine feeling fresh, we're releasing a new at-home workout every Monday, to start your week off strong.

When you imagine a classic "leg day" workout, it may conjure images of squat racks and heavy barbells. However, that's certainly not the only way to work your legs. In fact, you can activate your leg muscles and build strength with nothing but your own body weight (yes, seriously).

Let these 12 bodyweight leg exercises from some of our favorite trainers serve as proof that you can get a great lower-body burn at home, without any equipment.

Combine a few of these exercises for a leg-specific workout, add them to a bodyweight routine, or simply rock one out for a bit of daily movement:

1. Lunge With Toe Tap

Helen Phelan - Lunge with Toe Tap

Image by mbg Creative

  1. Start by standing. Step one leg forward and bend that knee slightly to get into a lunge position. Keep your knee directly over your ankle. Try to shorten your foot rather than let your arch collapse.
  2. Tuck your pelvis, and hinge your hips forward. Create a long line from your head to the heel of your back foot.
  3. With 90% of your weight in the front leg, bring your back leg forward and tap your toe next to your opposite foot. Keeping the rest of your body still, return the foot to its starting position.
Advertisement

2. Static Lunge

Helen Phelan - Static Lunge

Image by mbg Creative

  1. Start in a lunge position.
  2. Bend your back knee, and lower your body until both knees form 90-degree angles.
  3. Push into the ground with your forward heel and back toes as you lift your body back to the starting position. Engage the core to maintain your balance as you lift.

3. Lunge With Chest Lift

Helen Phelan - Lunge with Chest Lift

Image by mbg Creative

  1. Start in a lunge position.
  2. Engaging your core and keeping your spine neutral, hinge your chest forward, and slowly lower until your torso is nearly parallel with the ground.
  3. With control, rise back to your starting position.

4. Lunge With Heel Lift

Helen Phelan - Lunge with Heel Lift

Image by mbg Creative

  1. Start in a lunge position.
  2. Keeping the rest of your body still, lift the heel of your front foot until you're balancing on your toes.
  3. With control, slowly return your foot to the starting position.

5. Squat

CJ Frogozo - Squat
  1. Start in a standing position. Bring your feet out wider than hip-distance apart. Toes turn out to 1 and 11 on a clock.
  2. Lower down, keeping knees over heels. Reach your butt back, and flip tailbone toward the sky.
  3. Drag your shoulder blades down your back. Separate the knees away from each other, don't let them knock in, and activate the outer glutes.
  4. Engage glutes to lift back up to start. That's one rep. Repeat for 2 minutes.

6. Jump Squat

CJ Frogozo - Jump Squat
  1. Start in your squat position.
  2. At the bottom of the squat, squeeze your glutes, press into your heels, then roll through your feet and propel upward off your toes.
  3. Land softly on your feet, then use the momentum from landing to move into your next squat. That's one rep. Continue for 1 minute.

7. Curtsy Lunge to Squat

CJ Frogozo - Curtsy Lunge To Squat
  1. Start in a standing position. Bring your feet out wider than hip-distance apart, with toes pointed at 1 and 11.
  2. Lift one knee up next to your body, then cross that leg behind your opposite leg.
  3. Press your back toes into the ground, and bend your knees. Send your hips back, tailbone up, waist in, and shoulders down.
  4. Lift your back knee back up, place your foot back down into a squat position, then lower down into a squat.
  5. At the top of your squat, lift the opposite knee up and repeat on the other side. That's one rep. Continue for 3 minutes.

8. Side-to-side lunges

mbg Moves with CJ Frogozo - Side to Side Lunges
  1. Bring your feet wider than hip-width apart, with your toes facing forward.
  2. Bend one knee and shoot your hip creases back; flip your butt cheek to the sky.
  3. Feel a big stretch in your inner thigh, then switch to the other side.
  4. Continue for 3 minutes, and incorporate some arm movements throughout.

9. Wide squat

mbg Moves with CJ Frogozo - Wide Leg Squat
  1. Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart, and turn your toes out to 10 and 2 on a clock.
  2. Bend your knees and lower down halfway and freeze. Knees should stack right over heels, and heels press into the ground. Tailbone is heavy. Keep shoulders and hips in the same line. Pull your waist in; drop your shoulders.
  3. From here, sink as low as you can. If your knees start to pop in, actively press them toward the wall behind you. Feel the outer glutes engage.
  4. Bring your arms out to the sides. Drop your shoulder blades down your back, pull the waist in, drop the collarbone, and sit a little lower.
  5. Continue lifting and lowering for 3 minutes while including movement variations with your arms. 

10. Ski jumps

ski jumps
  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
  2. Jump up slightly and turn 45 degrees to the right. Hinge at your hips and shoot the glutes back. Keep your knees over your heels.
  3. Then jump in the opposite direction and repeat.
  4. Move as fast or slow as you prefer, for 2 minutes

11. Jump Squat With Heel Click

Dino Malvone - Jump Squats

Image by mbg Creative

  1. Start in a narrow squat position (toes at 11 and 1 on an imaginary clock, knees over heels, tailbone back, core engaged, and shoulders soft).
  2. At the bottom of the squat, squeeze your glutes, press into your heels, then roll through your feet and propel upward off your toes. At the top of your jump, click your heels together in midair.
  3. Land softly on your feet, then use the momentum from landing to move into your next squat. That's one rep. Continue for 1 minute.

12. Squat to Curtsy Lunge to Tree Pose

Dino Malvone - Squat, Curtsy Lunge, Tree Pose

Image by mbg Creative

  1. Start in a standing position. Bring your feet out wider than hip-distance apart, with toes pointed at 1 and 11. Slowly lower into a squat, and return to start.
  2. Step one foot back, crossing that leg behind your opposite leg, and bend both knees slightly.
  3. Step back to your narrow squat. Send your hips back, tailbone up, waist in, and shoulders down.
  4. With that same foot that crossed, rebound up to a modified tree pose—balancing on one leg, with the other foot pressed above or below your standing knee (just not on your knee). 
  5. Land softly on the ground, and bend your knees to find your narrow squat again. Repeat on the other side. That's one rep. Continue for 3 minutes.

Want your passion for wellness to change the world? Become A Functional Nutrition Coach! Enroll today to join our upcoming live office hours.

Advertisement

More On This Topic

A Modern Approach to Ayurveda
More Movement

Popular Stories

Advertisement

Latest Articles

Latest Articles
Advertisement

Your article and new folder have been saved!