Bodyweight leg exercises are often overlooked by those seeking to grow tree trunk thighs in favor of more impactful exercises such as Squats and Deadlifts.
That’s ok, but during turbulent times where gyms are shut and options are wearing thin, you don’t want little chicken legs that have your friends accusing you of skipping leg day.
You still have to get the work done.
Now, I understand that some people might not be able to get in a proper leg day due to injuries or problems.
As somebody — a former powerlifter — who suffers from spinal stenosis, I have had to modify my leg days with bodyweight leg exercises to reduce spinal loading and keep my leg gains, pain free.
If you are looking for leg exercises with reduced spinal loading, we recommend that you check out our article on the subject.
The Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises
This article will not include any exercises that require equipment — except for a training partner.
You can do any of these bodyweight leg exercises at home or at a gym.
The bodyweight Squat is the king of bodyweight leg exercises and no list on the subject would be complete without this classic movement.
Often prescribed to beginners, even advanced lifters can benefit from this movement for a variety of corrective reasons from improving mobility in the hips and ankles to ingraining more efficient motor patterns for the Barbell Squat.
This is a great introduction to the Squat in general and almost anybody can do them.
You can work up to mega rep ranges (20+) and even use it to help sear off fat while improving your cardio.
For these bodyweight leg exercises, I will talk about the vertical jump and broad jump as our two staples.
There are three lower body pattern movements. They are 1) Squat 2) Hinge 3) Lunge. The vertical jump is a Squat pattern movement and the broad jump is a Hinge pattern movement.
And both jump variations can be used to great effect in your workouts to develop speed, explosive power, and help transfer some of this power output to your Squat and Deadlift.
Squat pattern movements such as the vertical jump recruit more of the quadriceps than the broad jump which is more posterior chain dominant.
Even the most committed strength athlete should consider including dynamic effort jumps into their training regimen to get the most out of their program.
The Wall Sit
The Wall Sit, again, is another bodyweight leg exercise that is implemented into many training programs, but can be challenging to even the most advanced lifters.
You literally just sit with your back against the wall in a parallel 90 degree squat for however long you like.
You shouldn’t go ass-to-grass on this isometric exercise as it would remove much of the tension from the exercise.
The whole point of this isometric exercise is to hold the position in a place where the muscles are most activated.
The Wall Sit activates the same muscles as the conventional Back Squat, but removes the spinal load.
And if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can always add a plate or two on your lap.
Nordic Glute Ham raise
This is another brutal bodyweight leg exercise, but it’s often programmed into many athlete’s training regimens as it quickly strengthens the hammies like no other. It is often incorporated in the programs of athletes who have suffered from hamstring problems to prevent future injury.
A lot of athletes overtrain their quads by prioritizing the squat.
And what happens?
Well, they pull/tear their hammies because their quads are mechanically stronger than their hammies.
And this exercise can help to rapidly address those strength imbalances.
Get a training partner, friend, lover, whoever, to hold down your heels while you slowly descend as far as you can toward the floor, then press up and curl your hammies as hard as you can.
If you can make it 45 degrees to the floor without falling over completely, you’re doing remarkably well. Just make sure that you have your arms extended to break your fall.
The only people I have seen successfully complete this movement all the way to the floor without breaking their fall are petite 100lb soaking wet weightlifters.
It is incredibly challenging.
Aim for 6-10 reps per set and try to get lower than last time before falling. Try to make the negative portion (the descent) last around 3-5 seconds before falling.
Alternating Jumping Lunges
This dynamic bodyweight leg exercise is a classic movement that’s often thrown into various HIIT regimens.
This bodyweight leg exercise can help develop explosive power, athleticism, balance, and coordination as well as spiking up your heart rate.
Athletes tend to use this exercise as either a warm-up or finisher to their lower body sessions.
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