Who has time for the gym nowadays? I’ve got the leg workouts to build muscle and tone your legs, from the comfort of your home. The major muscles you want to target are the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles. These workouts can be done first thing in the morning or in the evenings during commercial breaks of your favorite shows. If you want more fun from home, check out our course, No Equipment, No Excuses.
Some of the most common exercises are also some of the best, for instance, squats and lunges. Squats trim and tone the thighs, butt, hips, hamstrings, and quads, even without adding weight. Squats can be performed alone, with a medicine ball, or with any weight. When you squat, your legs are shoulder width apart and you should sit back as if you are sitting on a chair, with your knees behind your toes at all times. You should do approximately 3 sets of 8 – 12 repetitions. To balance, you can extend your arms out in front of you and to increase difficulty, add weight.
For a twist on the traditional squat, you should try wall sits. Grab any available wall in your home and rest your back and butt against it. You should lower yourself in a squat position to where your butt is horizontal to the ground and your knees are bent. Stay in that squat position for 1 – 3 minutes, depending on your leg strength. For more difficulty, extend your arms out in front of you and hold them out with a medicine ball or weight.
Lunges work primarily the quads, hamstrings, and glutes and can be performed forwards or backwards. If you lunge forward, you want to extend one leg forward and bend it at the knee, being sure that your knees do not cross your toes. The back leg should also be bent with only the toe on the ground and the knee nearly touching the ground. Do approximately 3 sets of 8 – 15 repetitions on each side, then alternate legs. Do 3 sets. Once again, you can add weight once you get more advanced or hold the lunge position.
Sideways leg lifts are an excellent drill to workout the hip abductors and glutes. You should lay on one side, with your arm behind your head, holding it for support. Start with the leg that is on top, say it’s your right leg, and slowly lift it up off your left leg, and slowly lower it back down. After you do about 8 – 10, place the right foot down on the ground, with your right leg bent and the left leg that’s on the ground should be straight. With the left leg that is straight, lift your leg upwards towards the ceiling, with the inside of the shoe facing upwards. Do 8 – 10 repetitions and then switch sides so that you are laying on your right side. Once again, do 8 – 10 repetitions with the top leg, then switch so that you lift with the bottom leg as described above.
One legged donkey kicks are best for working those glutes until you feel the burn. You want to start out on all fours, with your hands, knees and toes touching the ground. Slowly lift one leg up and extend it out towards the ceiling. Do 8 – 10 repetitions and then switch feet. You want to do about 3 sets before moving on.
Now, for some more dynamic plyometrics to get your legs burning, try some jumps. First you have squat jumps, where you begin in squat position and explode as high as you can, reaching with your arms to the sky and landing softly with bent knees. Then, try squat jumps with a twist, 90 degrees to be exact. Jump up from squat position and twist to the left or right, landing facing another side. Repeat for approximately 12 jumps or 3 full circles.
You can also do jumps with knee tucks where you jump as high as you can, while simultaneously pulling your knees up and in towards your chest. These should be performed in rapid succession for sets of about 10 – 15 each, resting after each set. If knee tucks are too high impact, you can get a workout by holding your hands out about even with your navel and touch your knees to your hands, one at a time. Alternate knees while walking and try to get them up as high as possible.
To workout the calf muscles, you can do quick hops from left to right or forward to backward. I do mine over a cone or ball, but you can start without anything and gradually increase the size of the obstacle. For a low impact alternative, try slow calf raises. Begin with both feet together, flat on the ground and slowly raise both heels up, keeping the toes on the ground. After you left the heels up as high as possible, hold it and slowly begin to lower them. To increase difficulty, do this exercise off of a stair.
Now, the key to getting a good burn going, is to isolate one leg at a time. It is a good way to increase the load, without overdoing it or adding weight. A great one-legged exercise is single-leg squats where you tuck your resting leg behind your working leg and extend your arms out for balance. Then the working leg bends down for a squat, being sure not to let the knee cross the toes. After doing about 8 – 10 repetitions, switch legs.
A variation of this exercise is the propped single leg squat. Put one leg on a couch or chair and with the front leg a comfortable distance from the couch, you bend at the knee and squat. Do 8 – 10 repetitions and then switch. For each of these exercises, you want to do no more than about 3 sets.
If you’ve been looking for a way to tone up without forking over tons of money for a gym membership, I’ve given you the tools to get started! I know you’re dying to get back in tip top shape, so for more workout ideas, try looking at I Want My Body Back! For more ways to lean your body without a gym, look at our course on how to Finally Lose Weight without a Gym. If you’re pressed for time with your busy schedule, try our course The Under 20 Workout for Just 6 Weeks.