Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises: Quads and Hamstrings

Want to have leaner, longer-looking legs? The best bodyweight leg exercises will help you get sexier looking legs without having to bother will the workout equipment at the gym. This will let you set your own workout schedule. You’ll be able to do it anytime, anywhere.

Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises

In this installment of our bodyweight exercise series, we’ll cover the legs. To get the full workout for your legs, you’ll need to work both the front (thighs) and the back (hamstrings) sides. This will give you toned, sexy legs all-around.

Bodyweight Quad Exercises

This set of exercises targets your quadriceps or thigh muscles. This puts the focus on the front part of your legs.

Bodyweight Squat

This is one of the most basic yet essential bodyweight exercises. It is great for working your legs as well as your lower back, hips, butt and core muscles. As an added benefit, it will help you burn a few calories as well.

How to Perform Bodyweight Squats

  • Step One: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Step Two: Bend your hips back and bend your knees forward.
  • Step Three: Continue bending your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Step Four: Return to starting position.
  • Step Five: Repeat for a total of 15 reps

Sumo Squat

If you’re looking for the benefits of squats with special focus on your inner thighs, sumo squats will be the perfect addition to your routine. In addition to working the inner thighs, the also open up your hips while working your hamstrings and glutes as well.

How to Perform Bodyweight Sumo Squats

  • Step One: Stand with your legs two to three feet apart.
  • Step Two: Turn out your toes about 30 to 45 degrees.
  • Step Three: Place your hands on your hips.
  • Step Four: Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Step Five: Return to starting position.
  • Step Six: Repeat for a total of 15 reps.

Front Lunge

The squat and sumo squat work both your legs at the same time. In order to balance both right and left lower body muscles, you’ll want to do single limb exercises. These allow you to focus on one leg at a time.

Doing so ensures that your non-dominant side isn’t weak. Or, a lot smaller than your dominant side.

Lunges come in many variations. The most basic is the front lunge. This leg exercise strengthens your entire lower body. And, builds core strength and stability as well. We also like that it promotes balance and coordination.

The main muscles worked by front lunges include your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves.

How to Perform Front Lunges

  • Step One: Stand up with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Step Two: Step forward with your right foot and bend your left knee down toward the floor.
  • Step Three. Return to starting position by kicking off your right foot.
  • Step Four: After 15 reps, repeat on your left side.

If you have knee issues, you may want to do reverse lunges as well. With this exercise, you take a step backwards instead of forwards. This reduces the stress on the front leg’s knee.

The video below shows you how to do reverse lunges. In it, the trainer uses dumbbells. That’s just to add resistance to the exercise. You can do reverse lunges without the weights.

Side Lunge

As a modification of the front lunge, side lunges focus more on maintaining balance and flexibility. They also work the hips and inner thighs.

How to Perform Side Lunges

  • Step One: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Step Two: Bend your right leg and lunge sideways.
  • Step Three: Return to starting position.
  • Step Four: After 15 reps, repeat on your left side.

Curtsy Lunge

Change things up from a regular lunge by doing a curtsy lunge. This variation of the basic lunge are great for toning your butt and entire thigh area.

How to Perform Curtsy Lunges

  • Step One: Stand up with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Step Two: Starting with your right leg, lunge backwards diagonally.
  • Step Three. Return to starting position.
  • Step Four: After 15 reps, repeat on your left side.

Lunge Jump

To spice things up and burn more calories, add a jump to your regular lunge! This will also force you to use more of your core in order to maintain balance.

Jumping lunges are plyometric exercises. This lets you not only work your lower body muscles but also do some explosive exercise. The extra bonus of this exercise is it helps you burn fat.

How to Perform Alternating Jumping Lunges

  • Step One: Start in a lunge position.
  • Step Two: Jump up and switch legs mid air.
  • Step Three: Repeat for a total of 15 reps.

 

Best Bodyweight Hamstring Exercises

Hamstring exercises are equally important as those for your quads. While you may not be able to admire them in front of the mirror, it’s important to keep them balanced in order to prevent injuries.

Glute Bridge

Glute bridges are a great way to work your posterior chain. It lets you work your lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves. Most of the focus will be on your butt and hamstrings.

The video below demonstrates two great exercises for hamstrings and glutes. These are the glute bridge and hip thrust. Both target similar muscles. But do so in different ways.

You can use both exercises during your leg workouts.

How to Perform Glute Bridges

  • Step One: Lie on your back and bend your knees so they point to the ceiling.
  • Step Two: Place your arms on the floor to your sides. Your arms will help you keep your balance.
  • Step Three: Bring your hips off the floor by pushing off the ground using your heels.
  • Step Four: At the top position, squeeze your butt. Make sure to keep your hips and core in line.
  • Step Five: Bring your hips back down to the floor.

Single Leg Deadlifts (SLDL)

This is one of the best exercises for hamstrings. It is a single led exercise which means you’ll be doing one leg at a time.

This ensures that both the stronger and weaker sides get the same amount of work. It also prevents the body from “cheating”, where the stronger body parts compensate for the weaker ones.

Single leg deadlifts are great for your legs and butt. Plus, they build your balance and coordination as well.

The video below explains all the details about single leg deadlifts. It also goes into the progressions you can do to gain balance. And, how to add weight later on when bodyweight SLDLs are too easy for you.

How to Perform Single Leg Deadlifts

  • Step One: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your back in a neutral position.
  • Step Two: Lift your left leg back while keeping both the leg and your body straight.
  • Step Three: Let your arms fall naturally in front of you as you raise your left leg backwards.
  • Step Four: The top position of the exercise is when your body and left leg forms a letter “T” with your right leg.
  • Step Five: Slowly lower your left leg back to the floor.
  • Step Six: Repeat the movement for 8 to 10 times. Then do the same number of repetitions for the right leg.

Donkey Kicks

Donkey kicks are a quadruped exercise that targets all three essential gluteal muscles. Additionally, it also tone your core, lower back and hamstrings.

How to Perform Donkey Kicks

  • Step One: On a mat, position yourself on all fours.
  • Step Two: Starting with your right side, slowly raise your leg backwards till your thigh is parallel to the floor.
  • Step Three: Slowly lower your leg to starting position with your right knee slightly above the floor.
  • Step Four: After 15 reps, repeat on your left side.

Front Squat Kick

Commonly used with kick boxing and martial arts-inspired aerobics, squat kicks target your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves.

How to Perform Front Squat Kicks

  • Step One: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Step Two: Squat down, allowing your knees to slightly bend forward.
  • Step Three: Return to starting position.
  • Step Four: Kick one leg.
  • Step Five: Squat as your kick leg comes to the floor.
  • Step Six: Switch legs and repeat for a total of 15 reps.

 

Bonus: Lower Body Mobility Exercises

This is a bonus will help you with hip mobility. It all improve your hip’s range of motion. And, will let you rotate your hips internally and externally better without tightness or pain.

Fire Hydrants

An especially popular Pilates technique, fire hydrants tone your lower body by targeting your glutes, lower back and outer thighs. They’re a great hip mobility exercise that reverses some of the negative effects of sitting down all day.

How to Perform Fire Hydrants

  • Step One: On a mat, position yourself on all fours.
  • Step Two: Starting with your right side, slowly raise your leg sideways.
  • Step Three: Return your leg to starting position with your right knee slightly above the floor.
  • Step Four: After 15 reps, repeat on your left side.