The Importance of Bodyweight Leg Exercises

Bodyweight Leg ExercisesIt is tough to overstate the usefulness of bodyweight leg exercises such as squats and lunges. Your legs contain the largest muscles in your body and need just as much training as your upper body. They also provide a base of power and stability that you will use in your every day life. With these bodyweight leg exercises, you can give your legs the workout they need anytime and anywhere. If you want to perform better at any physical activity, make leg exercises a part of your workout routine. Even if you just want to walk up the stairs without getting winded, then keep reading to learn how to build stronger legs.

Jump straight to the bodyweight leg exercises you need: squats, lunges, jumps, or isometric holds.

Bodyweight Squats

If you want to build a powerful lower body through bodyweight leg exercises, then squats are where you need to start. Forget about leg extensions or any other isolation exercise. The best and most efficient way to build strength and muscle is by engaging multiple muscle groups with compound exercises. Squats are the king of the compound exercises. With every squat you are strengthening your hamstrings, quads, calves, hips, lower back, and abs.

Bodyweight Squats: Also known as Air Squats. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Your toes can either point straight forward or slightly out to each side. Extend your arms out in front of you or place them behind your head. Squat down by sinking your rear towards the ground. Keep your weight on your heels and your back as vertical as you can. Do not bend over at the waist or lift your heels up at any points. Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the ground. If you can comfortably go lower, then do so. Keeping your weight on your heels, push up with your legs and return to the starting position.

Squat Jumps: The starting movements are the same as with bodyweight squats. On the way up, explode up and jump as high as you can. As you land from your jump, go right back down into a squat.

Squat to Calf Raises: After rising up from a bodyweight squat, transfer your weight to the balls of your feet and lift up your heels. Hold for a moment before beginning the next repetition.

Balance SquatsBalance Squats: Lift one foot off the ground. As you squat down with your other leg, extend your airborne leg to the rear and lean forward from your waist. Balancing will be just as much of a challenge as squat. As your balance improves, squat down lower.

80/20 Squats: Get into a good squat position. Take one foot and lift your heel so that you are lightly resting on the ball of that foot. Shift 80 percent of your weight on the opposite leg and keep it there as you squat. Maintain a quick tempo and switch legs halfway through. These 80/20 squats are a good way to work up to Pistols.

Uneven Squats: Find a sturdy base 6 to 12 inches high that you can place one foot on. As you squat down, keep most of your weight on the leg planted to the ground. Uneven bodyweight squats are another great stepping stone to Pistols.

Pistols: Think bodyweight squats are too easy?  Then you’re ready for pistols, also known as the one-legged squat. Performing even one pistol is a demonstration of superb body control. Not only do pistols require great strength, but coordination and balance as well. Lift one foot up and begin squatting down with the other. Keep the airborne leg extended and out to the front. Squat down as low as you can.


Lunges are another great way to strengthen your legs, butt, and hips. These bodyweight leg exercises also give the added benefits of increasing your flexibility and balance.

The LungeForward Lunge: Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, take a big step forward with one foot. While keeping your upper half straight up and down, lower yourself down until your rear knee lightly touches the ground. If you have room,  you can lunge forward with your rear foot. If space is short, bring your front foot back to the start position and lunge forward with the opposite foot. Place your arms  on your hips, or behind your head for a slightly tougher challenge.

Back Lunge: Lunge backward by dropping one foot behind you and bending both knees until the rear one lightly touches the ground. Bring your rear foot back up the start position and repeat with the opposite leg.

Side Lunge: Work your hips, groin, and legs from a slightly different angle by stepping out at a 45 degree angle and completing a lunge. Alternate sides.

Balance Lunge: Start with one leg stretched out behind you and resting on a stable base 12 to 24 inches high. Squat down with your forward leg as far as you comfortably can. If your front knee proceeds forward past your toes, then move your front foot further forward. Your back knee will not touch the ground.

Calf Lunges: Do a series of forward lunges while remaining on the balls of your feet for the entire exercise.

Step Ups: Find a sturdy base you can stand on. Place one foot on top and step up. Bring your opposite leg up and swing your knee towards your chest. Slowly lower yourself back down. Switch legs halfway through the set.

Jumping Lunge: Start in a lunge with one foot forward, rear knee down near the ground. Jump up and switch leg positions.  As you land go right back into a lunge with the other leg. Spring back up and repeat.


Jumps are great for building athletic strength, explosive power, and agility. They are much more than just a leg exercise. Expect some sore ab muscles after your first workout with a lot of jumping .

Broad Jump: Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, squat down and then jump as far forward as you can. While in the air, bring your knees up towards you chest. This will help you land farther and really works your core.

Box Jumps: Find a box or stable base you can leap on, picking a height that is within your limits. Beginners can start with a box six inches high, while more experienced jumpers can handle a platform 30 inches or higher. Crouch down and spring up. Focus on pulling your feet up and getting them on top of the box. After landing, thrust your hips up and stand straight. Step down and repeat.

Toe Tappers: Find a stable platform that is mid-shin to knee-high. Place one foot on the ground and the other  up on the platform. Jump up with your ground foot and bring it up to the platform. At the same time bring your opposite foot down to the ground. As you continue this motion, keep most of your weight on your lower foot. Your toes should just lightly tap the platform with each repetition.

Lateral Jumps: Stand with your feet together. Hop with both feet over to the right and then hop back to the left. Try to minimize time spent on the ground. After landing, jump again quickly. Start by hopping over an imaginary line, but as you progress, you can add a small obstacle to jump over.

Tuck Jumps: To do this high intensity leg exercise jump into the air and pull your knees as high up as you can. When you land, spring back up as quickly as possible.

One Legged Bounds: Find a flat spot where you have some room to move. Take a step or two and then leap forward from one foot and land with the other. Imagine you’re trying to jump over a large puddle. Turn around and leap again, this time launching from the opposite foot. As you get better, make your leaps longer.

Isometric Holds

Not all bodyweight leg exercises involve dynamic movement. These holds will test your strength and stability by maintaining challenging body positions for a set amount of time.

Wall Squat: Stand with your back against a wall and your feet about 12 inches away from the wall. Slide your body down the wall until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Hold this position, keeping your hands off your thighs.

Single Leg Wall Squat: Start in a wall squat. Lift one foot up and extend that leg out. Hold this position.

Basketball Shuffle: Perform a bodyweight squat and stay down. Holding that position, begin shuffling in either direction by sliding your feet one at a time. Keep your butt down and your spine vertical the entire time.

No more excuses – do your leg exercises!

The beauty of bodyweight leg exercises is that you can perform them anytime and anywhere. You don’t need any fancy equipment to build strong legs that will help you live an active life. These exercises will get you there, so get going and get working out!

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