Your legs are the foundation of your body. They connect you to the ground and are from where you generate your power. When you travel or go on vacation, it is more likely for you to find a universal trainer in the hotel gym than a squat rack.
What many people may not realize is there are actually some advantages to doing lower body training using your body weight. When you drive more weight as you often do training both legs together, you sometimes emphasize the imbalances of your lower body. When you train each leg individually, you even out your legs.
In the exercises below, you are going to really emphasize each leg separately to even out the power and strength from which your legs can produce. Repeat each exercise for 5 sets of 30 seconds each (in other words do as many repetitions as you can for 30 seconds) 5 times, and take 20 seconds to rest between sets.
Jump squats are a maximum effort exercise with every repetition. By applying maximum effort from your legs, you engage all of the muscle in your legs to their highest potential.
To start, place your feet apart in a position in which you will be able to jump your to highest height. With your feet in that position, drop your hips back as far as possible while pushing your knees out to have them under your hips.
Jump up with a single motion, jumping as high as you can. This explosive, dynamic exercise will work your entire leg and really get your heart rate up. So it’s a targeted leg exercise and cardio, all in one!
Bulgarian Split Squats
It’s time to make those legs burn! The Bulgarian split squat is going to help stretch the rear leg while strengthening your front leg by loading up your weight on your front leg.
Feel free to grab dumbbells or weights to increase the difficulty of this exercise. Place your feet on a surface, be it a chair, bed, or a bench, and sink down as low as you can.
Drive vertically upward so that one foot is off the floor. To increase your heart rate, you can finish this with a hop or jump. Repeat until you finish all of your reps on one side, then repeat on the other leg.
Equipment needed: Chair, bench, or elevated surface (optional weights)
Boy, oh boy! You knew pistol squats were going to be in here somewhere, didn’t you? This nasty exercise will truly test your balance, flexibility, and mobility, as well as give you an awesome contraction in the quads both statically and dynamically.
If your balance is great, start by kicking your leg out to a 90-degree angle. Squeeze your leg as tight as possible, and sit down as low as you can. From there, drive upward using only your leg that is on the ground.
Then repeat. Complete one side before moving onto the other leg. If your balance is not great, you can go down to a surface and drive up from there.
Equipment needed: Chair, bench, or elevated surface
Single Leg Squats
Single leg squats are going to push that balance and core strength threshold. These are going make both your quads and hamstrings scream. As you lower your body, your hamstrings are going to be fully engaged. Then when you raise up, your quads will kick in and yell at you.
Kick your leg back and attempt to sink all the way down until it touches the floor. Look to keep all of your weight on your front leg. Drive up, kick your back leg forward, driving your knee. Finish all repetitions on one leg before you move to the other leg.
It’s time for a curtsy lunge! Yes, the hardcore transformation specialist just said curtsy. Yes, curtsy like what little girls are taught to do when they say hi to someone with whom they are supposed to show respect.
You know, the same curtsy that you did mockingly when someone told you to do something you didn’t want to do and you replied, “yes your highness.” A curtsy squat is that funny looking lunge that you weren’t exactly sure what to make of it the first time you saw it. It is an awesome exercise that is going to hit your glutes hard.
Tuck your one leg behind the other, and with legs crossed, sink down. You will feel a deep and tight activation of your glute and outer thigh. Come back to an upright position. To increase difficulty, you can add weight or do all repetitions on one side and then shift to the other leg.
Reverse lunges are going to back down the intensity for a bit. You will feel some serious burn with this exercise.
Beginning with your legs shoulder-width apart, reach one leg back and sink down. Then, raise upward back to a standing position. Again, like with the single-leg squat, kick your leg forward, and point your knee at the end of the repetitions.
This is a lovely little nugget. The lateral lunge is a simple yet effective leg exercise that will have you fully loading your weight on each leg and it will force maximum activation in the quads and glutes.
Reach your leg laterally from the midline of your body while keeping the opposite leg straight. Sink your weight down into the leg you reached out.
Foot Over Toe
Foot over toe is the simplest and meanest exercise you have ever done. There is a chance you might shed a few tears, but that’s okay. You will feel this in muscles that you may have never felt before.
Sit on the ground with your back against a wall and your legs out straight in front of you. Squeeze your quads tight enough to pick your heels up off the floor. Raise the heel of your one foot as high as you can over the toe of the other leg without bringing it in towards the middle.
Do not let this leg go all the way back to the floor. As your mobility increases, so will your range of motion for this exercise.
It’s time to make sure that you are attempting to cleave the meat off the bone. Yoga squats are going to start to hone in on particular parts of your leg. This squat variation will work more on the outside sweep of your quads and butt.
While standing with your feet in as close to each other as possible, squat down. While squatting, make sure to emphasize pushing your knees out and keep your hips back to maintain the proper squat form.
Staying still has never felt so painful. When you finish off with pause squats, you will feel a mean tightness in your legs. Your butt will hurt. You will feel everything deeply.
With your feet in a standard squat position, push your knees apart. Squat as low as you are comfortable without causing pain or injury. Hold for a count of 5-10, the longer the harder the exercise. Then drive upward.
Never Miss a Leg Day
Knock out all these exercises in this order to really feel each muscle of your legs burn. Add weights as you get more advanced.
Take your time with each repetition. Work through 5 sets of 10 repetitions for each exercise to get a deep burn throughout your legs. Now, wherever you are, you can have a great leg workout, no equipment required.
And don’t forget to fuel up your body with adequate nutrition for recovery. To optimize your leg workout, make sure that you fuel up with a high-quality protein, one with a full amino acid profile. If you do not fuel your body, it will betray you.