Exercise is an important part of overall health. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest at least 150-minutes per week. Lower body workouts are a great inclusion in that weekly requirement, as they target your legs and glutes, which helps with both functional fitness as well as injury prevention.
Lower body exercises are easy to do with just bodyweight, making them possible to do at home without access to a gym or any significant equipment. So to help you meet your fitness goals, here are seven highly effective lower body exercises.
This powerful quad exercise strengthens your lower body and gets your heart rate up. Jump squats are a simple, effective exercise that you can do absolutely anywhere, making them easy to add into whatever workout you’re doing.
To perform this exercise stand with your feet hip-width apart and slightly turned out. Complete a regular bodyweight squat with proper form, but before you stand up out of the squat, squeeze your glutes and quads and push down through your heels, propelling yourself as high as you can upwards into a jump. Land softly in a squat and repeat. Try three sets of 10 to start and work your way up from there.
Also known as running planks, this exercise works your quads and core while getting your heart rate up. They’re also great for increasing endurance, especially when you don’t have a lot of space to do cardio in.
To perform this exercise, get into a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart, distributing your weight evenly through your feet and palms. Ensure your core is engaged and your back flat before pulling one of your knees up to your chest. Then switch legs, bringing that knee back and pulling the other knee to your chest, keeping your hips down. Remember to breathe while you increase your speed.
If you’re looking to work your glutes, donkey kicks are the perfect lower body exercise. In fact, this move does a great job of isolating and working the gluteus maximus as well as stretching out the hip – something that is really important if you work a desk job.
To perform this exercise, get down on all fours and tighten your core. Activate your glute muscle, flex your foot, and kick your leg back as high as it will go while keeping your hips square. Slowly lower your leg and repeat on the other side. To begin, complete three sets of 10-12 reps.
Single Leg Bridge
Also called a unilateral bridge, this lower body exercise isolates and works the glutes and hamstrings. It also works the core and lower back muscles, making it a particularly great workout for those who sit in a chair all day at work.
To perform this exercise, start on your back with your arms by your sides and palms on the floor for stability. Bend one leg and lift the other straight up towards the ceiling, pressing your opposite heel into the floor. Raise your glutes, then slowly lower them back down. To begin, start with two or three sets of 10 reps.
Wall sits are a straightforward, easy-to-do-anywhere lower body exercise that target the quads and only require bodyweight. This is a great exercise to do throughout the day for anyone who works at a desk and wants to engage their lower body.
To perform this exercise stand against a wall with your back squarely pressed against it. Place your feet 2-feet away from the wall, shoulder-width apart and then slide your back down the wall until your legs form a 90-degree right angle. You’re basically sitting in an invisible chair with your knees are directly above your ankles. Maintain a tight core and hold the position for as long as possible before slowly and carefully coming back to a standing position.
There are many variations of lunges, but overall this exercise is meant to target and tone the whole leg, including the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. To make it more difficult, try including weights. For weighted variations – check these 33 options out.
To perform this exercise in its most basic format, the forward lunge, stand with your feet hip-width apart and take a big step forward with one leg. Shift your weight forward until the shin of your front leg is vertical and your quad is parallel with the floor. Do not let your forward knee go past the toes. Your back leg should be parallel with the floor, if flexibility allows.
Press the heel of your forward foot into the ground to drive yourself back up. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Deadlifts build immense strength, improve posture, and work the hamstrings, glutes, and low back. In fact, deadlifts work the glutes even more than squats do! This exercise traditionally requires either heavy dumbbells or a barbell. However, for those who don’t have access to this equipment, you can use any weighted household object. Examples include bags of rice or flour, bags of books, or even two cases of soda.
To perform this exercise, stand holding the dumbbells in front of you, lightly resting on your thighs. Make sure the arms are straight and knees only slightly bent. Slowly bend at the hips, looking forward and smoothly lower the weights downwards as close to ground as possible while keeping a neutral (or straight) back.
Keep the weights close to your legs, squeeze your glutes, and stand up. Bring the weight upwards until your arms are straight again. Standing up should take half the time that it did going down.
Start with 3 sets of 10 deadlifts and be sure to use a weight that is heavy enough to create resistance, but not too heavy that it compromises your form. For those without weights, adjust reps accordingly. If you’re looking to try something a little bit different, try one of these variations!