It can take months, if not years to build your leg muscles. Lower-body workouts can be grueling and you don’t want to lose the progress you’ve made in the gym if you can only work out at home. If you’re stuck at home without much equipment, or if you want to start building your legs from the comfort of your own home, you can create a humble home gym to build your muscles.
A February 2015 study published in Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging looked at what happens when you take time off from weight training. The researchers had subjects go on a 12-week weight-training program, take a year off, then go on another 12-week program.
The researchers found the subjects lost all their gains from the first program during their year off. However, once they went through another 12-week training program, they got all their progress back.
In the end, the researchers advised taking as little time as possible away from strength training. That means you shouldn’t take a break from your strength routine even if you have to work out from home. There are creative solutions to get your leg workouts in even if you don’t have much equipment.
10-MOVE AT-HOME LEG WORKOUT
All you need for this exercise is a chair or bench with a flat surface to step up on. It should be about mid-shin to knee-high. Once you have your chair you can grab a weight. Kettlebells work well as do dumbbells. If you don’t have actual gym equipment, you can use a water jug or a heavy book as a weight.
The move: Stand in front of your chair or bench. Grab your weight and hold it at chest-height. Put one foot on top of the chair. Step up with the other leg so you’re standing on the chair. Step back down with the same leg. Repeat 10 times then switch legs. Perform three sets total.
A hallway gives you plenty of space to do this exercise. If you don’t have a hallway, you can step outside quickly and use a sidewalk or driveway. To make it harder, hold weights like dumbbells by your sides.
The move: Start standing. Take a lunge step forward with your left foot. Drop your right knee down to the ground, as close to the ground as you can get without touching it. Then, step up with your right foot to meet your left foot. Take a lunge forward with your right foot next. Repeat this sequence for 10 reps on each leg. Perform 3 sets.
SPLIT SQUATS (PLYO)
This explosive split squat variation fires up your leg muscles. It also takes a toll on your knees and hips, so if you’re having problems in those areas you can keep your feet on the ground during the exercise to minimize impact.
The move: Start in a split squat position with your right knee on the ground and left foot planted in front. Your knees should both be at 90-degree angles. Then, explode up so both feet leave the ground. Land in the same position as you jumped from, without letting your knee touch the ground. Complete 10 reps on the same leg, then switch sides.
This booty-building exercise might seem too easy at first. If it does, switch to a single-leg variation where you keep one leg in the air and use the other leg to perform the movement. If you do the single-leg variation you should bend the knee in the air as much as possible. This helps activate the other glute more, according to an August 2017 study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.
The move: Lie on your back with your feet close to your butt, knees bent and feet planted on the ground. Lift your hips up as high as you can and squeeze your butt at the top. Then, lower your hips back down to complete one rep. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
Your hips will thank you for doing this exercise. Few lower-body exercises involve side-to-side movements, so it’s important to incorporate moves like this to balance things out.
The move: Start standing, then take a big step out to the right. Keep both feet pointed forward. Then, stick your butt back and squat down onto your right leg. Go as low as you can, then step back up to the center. Repeat on the left leg. Keep going until you’ve done 10 reps total on each leg. Complete three sets.
This squat variation can build power and speed in your legs, as well as stimulate the muscles to grow. You can hold light dumbbells (10 pounds or less) as you jump to make it harder. If the impact is bothering your hips or knees, keep your feet on the ground and perform squats.
The move: Start standing with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart. Squat down and throw your arms down and back. Then, throw your arms up and jump as high as you can. Land with your knees soft and stick your butt back. Go straight into the next jump. Repeat this process for 15 jumps, then rest. Complete three sets.
BANDED GOOD MORNINGS
For this exercise, you’ll need a resistance band. It can be medium to thick since the main muscles working are the powerful hamstrings and glutes.
The move: Start standing with both feet on a resistance band. Put the band around the back of the neck so it runs up the front of your body. Stick your butt back, keep your back flat and bend over. Continue to stick your butt back as you bend over until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Then, stand back up. Perform 12 repetitions. Complete 3 sets.
REAR-FOOTED ELEVATED SPLIT SQUAT
This exercise forces you to put most of your weight onto one leg, so it’s effective even if you don’t have weights. However, you can hold a weight in each hand to make it harder.
The move: Start standing in front of a couch or chair. Face away from the object. Lift your right foot and put it on the surface. You can either curl your toes or keep the top of your foot flat against the surface. Drop your back knee down as close to the ground as possible. Then, stand back up. Perform 10 reps per leg and complete 3 sets.
This exercise is a combination of cardio and legs. It might leave you breathless and make your legs burn.
The move: Start in a pushup position. Lift one knee toward your chest, then hop to switch legs. Keep pumping your legs quickly until you’ve completed 20 reps per leg. Then, rest and complete 3 sets total.
SINGLE-LEG BOX SQUATS
The single-leg squat works your legs one at a time, which can help keep them balanced in terms of strength. The single-leg squat is tough to learn, however, so using this variation with the box is more realistic for beginners.
The move: Start standing in front of a box, chair or couch. Lift one leg and keep it raised. Slowly and with control, sit down to the box with the leg on the ground. Then, lean forward to stand back up. Complete 8 reps then switch legs. Complete 3 sets per leg.
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