6 Lower-Body Bodyweight Exercises to Add to Your Workout Routine
Humans have been exercising with the weight of our bodies for thousands of years, and for good reason: our bodies are always accessible, and it’s great for us.
Strength training is incredible for our bodies—it creates a foundation from which we can confidently take on everyday tasks like climbing stairs, lifting heavy objects, and even something as simple as bending down to pick up a dropped ring of keys. It’s an especially great tool for keeping our bodies feeling young in the long run.
Training also has a significant benefit on our mental health, as it’s associated with reduced anxiety and depression symptoms, better sleep, improvement of self-esteem, and more.
With these bodyweight workouts for legs, you can start building that foundation to keep your movements stronger, safer, and healthier!
1 | Bodyweight Squat
Squats are one of the golden moves of bodyweight training because while they mostly work your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and core, they require the support of your entire body to perform. That is why you’re going to have to bear with us as we explain the correct form.
Start standing straight with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. The general idea is to bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor and stand back up, but it takes a lot of lower body strength to get there safely.
Make sure your weight is in your heels at all times – it helps to slightly lift your toes off the floor while doing this move. When you bend your knees, drive your hips back and make sure your knees are bending straight forward. Don’t ever let your knees go in front of your toes (your knees will not thank you for that). Keep your chest up and shoulders back, being careful not to bend over.
If getting those thighs parallel to the floor isn’t in your wheelhouse yet, that’s just fine. A great way to start working the squat is by finding a bench or chair that you can sit on at the bottom of the movement before standing back up.
2 | Single-Leg Squat Alternative
This squat alternative for those who want more work is killer and will require lots of practice.
What you’re going to do is take everything we just learned about the squat, but do it on one leg. Try and keep your raised leg extended out straight in front of you, hovering off of the floor—this will ensure that you feel the burn!
Having a bench or chair to catch you is key here; it’s much harder to maintain form and know when to come back up on one leg. Start with sitting down on and getting up from the chair before you think about doing it without. It helps to hold your arms farther out in front of you to maintain balance, but don’t let this pull your torso down.
3 | Sumo Squat
Surprise, surprise, another squat variation! (Really, squats are so, so good for your whole body.)
This variation targets all of the same muscles as a regular squat, plus the inner thighs and with extra emphasis on the glutes.
To do a Sumo Squat, stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart and pointed out (around 45 degrees). Now, follow the standard protocol of a regular Squat: weight in your heels, knees moving in the direction of your feet without going over your toes, chest up and back engaged. Go down until your thighs are parallel with the floor and come back up.
4 | Lunge
Lunges are a great leg exercise because they require not only lots of muscle strength but also lots of balance – this move will train you to move with more all-around grace and power. There are manifold variations of lunges, but we’re going to focus on the traditional forward lunge. Bodyweight quad exercises like this one (it uses all sorts of muscles but gets those quads firing) are vital to having a strong base for almost any physical activity.
Starting with your feet together, take a big step forward with one leg, foot coming down heel-first while using your core to hold your torso nice and straight. Put your weight into your front foot and bend at the knee until your front thigh and back shin are parallel to the floor. Just like the squat, make sure your front knee doesn’t come out over your toes. Press into that front heel to come back up and repeat on the other side.
5 | Step-Ups
Step-Ups are on the opposite side of the same coin as lunges, but instead of working down, you’re working up.
Get a chair or bench, put one foot facing forward onto it, and step up and onto it. It sounds more simple than it is, and once you get your weight into your front foot and stop relying on springing from your back foot to get up, this move gets really tricky really fast.
Like a lunge, step-ups require lots of core strength and balance, so make sure to start with a lower step and work your way up!
6 | Romanian Deadlifts
Don’t be put off by the name. This move sounds much more difficult than it is.
A regular Deadlift is where you put a barbell on the ground, reach down, pick it up, and put it back down. A Romanian Deadlift is basically the same movement, but instead of starting the move from the ground and lifting, you start standing, bend down, and come back up.
A two-leg Romanian Deadlift is simple: stand up straight with your hands behind your head, elbows out. Engage your core while bending your torso forward, being careful to keep your back very straight, until your back comes almost parallel to the ground. Your knees should bend slightly, but nowhere near a squat. Now, use the muscles in your hamstrings and glutes (in addition to those core muscles) to hinge back up.
Piece these lower body bodyweight exercises together and you have a whole leg workout routine! Remember to keep it slow, focus on form, and have fun while you train. You can try these lower body workouts at any of our locations. Or, log onto iChuze Fitness where you can find virtual bodyweight exercises to add to your routine!
And don’t forget to stretch when you’re done!