The Best Exercises for a Home Bodyweight Leg Workout

By on January 21, 2015

If you work out from home then you’ll no doubt agree that some body parts are easier to train than others. The abs? They’re pretty much exactly the same to train at home as they are in the gym. The biceps? Easy as long as you have a pull-up bar or a couple of dumbbells lying around…

The legs are a different story though. Dumbbells are very difficult to pick up with your feet and unless you have a huge home gym then you’re unlikely to be able to squat easily from the comfort of your home…

So what do you do? You get creative of course! Read on and let’s go through some surprisingly tough and effective home leg exercises that you can do at home – most of which only require your bodyweight to work.

Bodyweight Calf Exercises

One-Legged Calf Raises: Calf raises are the obvious exercise for training your calves with bodyweight alone and when you perform them on one leg you’ll find they’re difficult enough even without weights. That said, if you do have weights lying around and you want to up the challenge, then go ahead and pick one up! Calf raises are great for home legs workouts but they’re also something you can do while you’re waiting around – especially if you find the edge of a curb.

Self-Resistance Calf Raises: Sit on a chair, then simply push down on one knee with both hands. Now your objective is simply to raise your foot onto tip-toes against the pressure (you can also do this bilaterally with a hand on each knee). This is another sneaky one you can do while sitting at a desk too and if you’re at home and have a dumbbell to hand you can balance that on your knee instead.

Calf Jumps: I love these! They basically involve jumping off the floor but without moving your knees or arms at all – so that you’re entirely using the power of your calves to project yourself upwards.

Compound Home Leg Exercises

Pistol Squat: The pistol squat is a one-legged squat that has you head all the way down with one leg sticking out directly forward (and often both hands). The weight will be slightly back which will place the emphasis on your hamstrings and glutes. It’s a great party trick but takes some building up to. Start out with a basic squat and use a free hand to stabilize yourself.

Technically not a pistol squat... (tip toes is cheating...)

Technically not a pistol squat… (tip toes is cheating…)

One Legged Squat From a Deficit: An easier form of the one legged squat that has a lot of potential for generating burn, is the one legged squat from a deficit. Here you start off standing on a raised platform (such as a sofa or a weights bench) on one leg and then lower and raise your free leg up and down off the floor. It makes balancing a little easier and isn’t so tough on the knees.

Pistol Squat With a Jump: If you want to build some real explosive power then you can end your pistol squat by jumping up at the end!

The Sissy Squat: The sissy squat on the other hand is one you shouldn’t go near if you have bad knees. This one is like doing a normal squat except that you’ll be leaning backwards and up on tip-toes while ‘hinging’ at the knees (see the picture). Essentially you’re doing your best Neo impression.

sissy squats

Air Squats: Air squats are squats with no weight and most of us will find them pretty easy. But there are a range of ways you can make these harder – for instance by using partial reps or by using them as a form of an ‘active rest’ period. You can also use jumping squats, or grab some dumbbells and perform squats with dumbbell presses.

Side Squat: Side squat meanwhile means stepping out sideways with one leg straight as though you were going to stretch and then squatting on the one bent leg. You can also perform ‘side to side’ squats where you move from leaning and squatting left, to leaning and squatting right.

Box Jumps: Simply jump strait up and on top of any platform high enough to be a considerable challenge while keeping both feet together. Don’t have a large wooden box in your house (lame)? Then you can always use the stairs, or you can jump over something instead.

Jack in the Box: Never underestimate the jack in the box! While this exercise might primarily be used for cardio, it’s also actually highly effective as part of a legs workout as long as you’re going all the way down and then exploding all the way back up. By the end your legs will be screaming.

Walking Lunges: You’ll need a long stretch of garden/hallway (or otherwise nerves of steel if you’re going to do this down your road) but walking lunges are a great and easy way to train the hamstrings, quads and glutes.

walking lunges

Jumping Lunges: Jumping lunges are like lunges except you’re going to jump in the air after each one and switch which leg is in front before landing again.

Kettlebell Swings: You’ll need to buy a kettlebell swing for this one so it’s not bodyweight, but still a kettlebell is much easier for most people to use in the housed than a squat rack. Swings can build pretty much all the same muscles as the squat though as well as being great for the erector spinae (lower back) and an awesome form of resistance cardio. This is one of the best ways to strengthen your posterior chain and to trigger the massive release of anabolic hormones for muscle growth and weight-loss. Kettlebell clean and presses are also pretty awesome.

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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