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Centr Team

The best exercises to build your legs at home

Centr Team

Whether the squat rack in the gym is taken or the gyms are closed, if you’re building your leg muscles at home we’ve got the information and no-equipment leg exercises you need to get the job done.

When you’re looking to build big, powerful legs, there are 4 muscle groups you need to get to know:

  • Hamstrings (the back thigh muscles)

  • Quadriceps (the front thigh muscles)

  • Abductors (the inner thigh muscles)

  • Calves (the muscles below and behind your knees)

While your glutes aren’t technically part of your legs, they’re an integral part of your lower body. For that reason, many of the bodyweight leg exercises below will also build your glutes.

The benefits of leg workouts

Building strong, powerful legs is about more than just looking great in a pair of shorts. Developing your leg muscles has a direct benefit on your daily movement patterns and mobility. Walking to work, sitting on the toilet, bending down to pat a dog – the muscles in your legs are crucial to making all those things happen.

Bonus: because you’re activating such big muscle groups when you work your legs, you’ll also be burning fat during your workouts.

There’s no need to seek out a different routine based on your sex. Leg workouts for women and leg workouts for men can be exactly the same. Even if you’re only looking to tone your legs at home, building muscle is the best way to achieve the lean muscle definition you’re after.

How to build leg muscles at home

To build your legs with bodyweight exercises, you need to utilize a muscle-building principle called progressive overload. In order to build bigger muscles, you need to continuously challenge those muscles so that they are forced to get stronger.

You’ll need to use progressions (harder versions of the exercise) and repetition to achieve progressive overload when you’re working your legs with bodyweight exercises.

Once you can complete 15–20 reps of the beginner leg exercises listed below, we recommend introducing some of the intermediate and advanced exercises to your at-home leg day.

You can also increase the intensity of most of these exercises by making use of some weighted household objects. While you may not have a kettlebell lying around, a backpack filled with books or a sack of oranges can become weight training tools – get creative!

The best beginner bodyweight exercises to build your legs

Start with these bodyweight leg exercises if you’re a beginner. Once you can easily complete 15–20 reps of each exercise with a full range of motion, it’s time to add weight or move on to the intermediate and advanced exercises below.

Squats

The essential lower-body strength move, squats work your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Here’s how to do them:

  • Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your chest up. Brace your core.

  • Bend your knees and drive your hips back and down, keeping your chest up and back straight as you do.

  • Drive through your feet to return to standing.

Make squats harder with weights: Hold weights as you squat – either over each shoulder or in front of your chest.

Lunges

Lunges are a killer quad exercise that also hit your glutes and hamstrings. Here’s how to do them:

  • Take a large step forward. You want your legs far enough apart that both knees form 90-degree angles when you lunge.

  • Put your hands on your hips, engage your core and lock in a neutral torso and head.

  • Drop your back knee toward the floor, only lowering to the point you feel comfortable.

  • Keep the bulk of your weight in your front leg and use your back leg to maintain balance.

  • With your weight focused on your front foot, drive back up to standing.

  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Make lunges harder with weights: Hold weights as you lunge – either over each shoulder or in front of your chest.

Reverse lunges

Unlike regular lunges, which target the quads, the reverse lunge puts the focus on your hamstrings and glutes. Here’s how to do them:

  • Take a large step backward.

  • Put your hands on your hips, engage your core and lock in a neutral torso and head.

  • Lower your hips and drop your back knee towards the ground. Only drop as low as you can while maintaining stability.

  • Keep the bulk of your weight in your back leg and use your front leg to stabilize.

  • With your weight focused on your front foot, drive back up to standing.

  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Make reverse lunges harder with weights: Hold weights as you lunge – either over each shoulder or in front of your chest.

Lateral lunges

Get your abductors and quads firing with some lateral lunges. Here’s how to do them:

  • Take a step to the left, so that your feet are just wider than shoulder-width apart.

  • Bend your left knee and push your hips back.

  • Descend as low as you can while keeping your back straight and chest up.

  • Press through your left foot to return to standing.

  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Make lateral lunges harder with weights: Rest a weight on each shoulder.

Glute bridge

Strong glutes make building your legs easier, so make sure to include glutes bridges as part of the leg exercises you do at home. Here’s how to perform a glute bridge correctly:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor about hip-distance apart.

  • Brace your core, squeeze your glutes and push through your heels to lift your hips into the air. Try to make your body a straight line angling down from your knees to your shoulders.

  • Hold the bridge for a couple of seconds before lowering back down.

Make glute bridges harder with weights: Use both hands to hold a weight on your pelvis while you complete the exercise. Keep your upper arms on the ground for stability.

The best intermediate and advanced bodyweight exercises to build your legs

Ready to take it up a notch? These exercises will help you to achieve progressive overload so that you can continue to build your legs without weights as you get stronger.

Bulgarian split squat

Work your quads, calves, hamstrings and build unilateral strength with Bulgarian split squats. Here’s how to do them:

  • Position a chair, low table or bench behind you. Take a long step backward with your right leg and carefully place the front of your foot on the object.

  • Keeping your torso upright, bend your right knee and lower your body towards the ground.

  • Push through your front foot and straighten your legs to return to a standing position.

  • Repeat on the other side.

Make Bulgarian split squats harder with weights: Hold a weight in each hand and keep your arms by your sides.

Single-leg glute bridge

When regular glute bridges no longer make your butt burn, give the single-leg version a try. Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor about hip-distance apart.

  • Raise one leg off the ground, squeeze your glutes and push through the foot on the floor to drive your hips up.

  • Repeat on the other side.

Make a single-leg glute bridge harder with weights: Use both hands to hold a weight on your pelvis while you complete the exercise. Keep your upper arms on the ground for stability.

Squat jump tucks

Build powerful quads, calves, glutes and hamstrings by adding squat jump tucks to your lower-body workouts. This is how to perform them correctly:

  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, chest up and your core switched on.

  • With your weight in your heels, sit your bum back and down into a squat position.

  • When your quads are parallel to the ground, drive through your feet to spring up out of the squat.

  • As you jump off the ground, lift your knees up towards your chest while keeping your core tight. (It’s OK if you can’t get them very high to begin with!)

Jump lunges

Jump lunges will develop your glutes, hamstrings, calves and quads while providing a great cardio workout. Here’s how to do them:

  • Sink into a deep lunge.

  • Lean forward slightly and engage your core.

  • Drive through your feet and jump upwards, changing the position of your legs in the air.

  • Land as softly as you can and sink immediately into another lunge.

  • Repeat the movement.

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