Leg workouts are an integral part of any well-rounded strength training program, so you should never “skip leg day,” so to speak.
But what if you want to do at home leg workouts without weights? Can you do leg exercises without weights for leg workouts at home?
In this guide, we will discuss how to put together the best leg workouts at home without equipment and provide step-by-step instructions for some of the best bodyweight leg exercises:
- Cossack Squats
- In, Out, Center Calf Raises
- Single-Leg Stair Jumps
- Curtsy Lunges
- Pistol Squats
- Nordic Hamstring Curls
- Lunge Matrix
- Hip Thrusts
- Copenhagen Planks
Let’s dive in!
How to Do a Leg Workout at Home
While there will be limitations in the exercises and potential muscle-building benefits of a no weight leg workout, the good news is that there are leg exercises without weights that can be used for effective at home leg workouts.
Whether you’re doing a bodyweight leg workout at home or a leg workout routine at the gym with a full suite of strength training equipment, it should include exercises that target all the muscles in the legs.
Be sure to warm up with some light cardio and dynamic exercises before jumping in.
Here are some of the best leg exercises without weights that you can perform in your bodyweight workouts at home:
#1: Cossack Squats
Cossack squats work all the muscles in the legs, including the often underworked abductors and adductors (outer and inner thighs).
Here are the steps:
- Stand upright with good posture, feet nice and wide, with your toes pointing out about 15 degrees.
- Shift your weight primarily onto the right leg as you sit your hips back into a squat position.
- Lean into the right leg while you straighten the left leg out to the side, tapping your left heel on the floor with your toes pointing to the ceiling.
- At the bottom position, press through the right leg to stand back up as you bring the left leg back in.
- Perform 15 or more reps and then switch sides.
Additional bodyweight squat variations include Goblet squats, squat jumps, sumo squats and Bulgarian split squats.
#2: In, Out, Center Calf Raises
You can better target each of the two heads of the gastrocnemius muscle and different fibers of the underlying soleus muscle when you change your foot positioning with calf raises.
Rather than just performing calf raises with your toes pointing straight ahead, this variation is a great option for an at home no weight leg workout because the variety can help you fatigue all of the muscle fibers in the calf muscle group without weight.
For the in and out varieties, angle your foot about 30° to the inside or outside for each of the two modifications.
Beginners can perform this no equipment leg exercise with both legs working together simultaneously. Progress to performing single leg calf raises in each of the three positions.
Here are the steps for this one of our bodyweight exercises:
- Step up with the balls of your feet on an elevated surface with your heels hanging off. If you are strong enough, stand on only one leg and hook the other leg behind the working leg.
- Perform calf raises by pressing through the balls of your feet to lift onto your tiptoes.
- Pause and hold the top position for 2 to 3 seconds.
- Slowly lower down until your heel has dropped well below the stair level and you have a good stretch in your calf muscle. The larger the range of motion you can move through, the more time under tension and muscle fibers you will work for better gains in calf strength and mass.
- Perform at least 20 to 25 reps with your toes facing forward.
- Then, perform the same exercise with your toes pointing inward so that you are pigeon-toed.
- After that variation, perform the same exercise with your toes pointing outward as if you are duck-footed.
#3: Single-Leg Stair Jumps
As long as you have a stair or step available, the single-leg stair jump is one of the best exercises you can add to a no equipment leg workout at home.
This plyometric exercise will help develop explosive strength and power in each leg.
As a unilateral exercise, the movement pattern better replicates the musculoskeletal demands of running or jumping in sports applications.
Additionally, when you are doing leg workouts without weights, performing unilateral exercises is typically a better way to strengthen your legs because your entire body weight is loaded onto a single leg, which can help provide the overload you need to trigger muscle hypertrophy and increase strength.
Here are the steps for how to perform this no equipment leg exercise:
- Stand upright with good posture about one foot back from a stair or step.
- Stand only on your right leg and bend your left knee to lift your left foot up behind your body.
- Keeping your core tight, thrust your arms behind you and then rapidly forward as you propel your body up and land on the ball of your foot on the step. Explode off the ball of your foot to engage your calves and glutes.
- Bend your knee as you land on the step above to work your quads and press through the foot to stand up straight on the single leg.
- Carefully hop back down to the starting position. Repeat all of your reps on one leg, and then switch legs.
If you are a beginner, start with two-legged jumps and carefully step back down after each repetition.
#4: Curtsy Lunges
This is a difficult bodyweight leg exercise, making it a good option to add to home leg workouts without weights.
You will work your quads, glutes, hip abductors, adductors, and hamstrings, while also challenging your core.
Here are the steps:
- Stand upright with good posture and your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Lift your right leg up and cross it behind your left calf as you lower into a full single-leg squat on the left leg. Thrust your arms forward for a counterbalance.
- Tap the right toe behind and to the outside of your left leg.
- Return it to neutral as you press up with only your left leg.
- Complete 10 reps and then switch sides.
Additional bodyweight lunges include walking lunges, reverse lunges, and forward lunges.
#5: Pistol Squats
Pistol squats are one of the most challenging no equipment leg workout exercises because the movement requires tremendous strength and control in your quads, glutes, hips, ankles, and core.
Here are the steps for how to perform this challenging bodyweight leg workout exercise:
- Stand upright with good posture and your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Lift up your left leg and extend it straight in front of your body while you bend your right knee and sit your hips all the way back as you drop down into a single-leg squat. Bring your arms straight out in front of your body for a counterbalance.
- Slowly sink down as low as possible, trying to get your hips as close to the floor as possible.
- Press through your heel to stand back up.
- Complete 10 reps and then switch sides.
The best at-home leg workouts involve challenging, total-body exercises such as the burpee. This exercise will work both your upper body and lower body muscles and get that heart rate sky high.
This plyometric move combines a bodyweight squat, push-up, and vertical jump, working not just your leg muscles but also your core, chest, shoulders, arms, and upper back.
#7: Nordic Hamstring Curls
Studies have found that the Nordic1Al Attar, W. S. A., Soomro, N., Sinclair, P. J., Pappas, E., & Sanders, R. H. (2016). Effect of Injury Prevention Programs that Include the Nordic Hamstring Exercise on Hamstring Injury Rates in Soccer Players: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 47(5), 907–916 hamstring curl effectively reduces the risk of hamstring injuries.2Bourne, M. N., Timmins, R. G., Opar, D. A., Pizzari, T., Ruddy, J. D., Sims, C., Williams, M. D., & Shield, A. J. (2017). An Evidence-Based Framework for Strengthening Exercises to Prevent Hamstring Injury. Sports Medicine, 48(2), 251–267. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0796-x
Here are the steps to perform this bodyweight leg exercise:
- Kneel on a mat with an upright torso and heels hooked under a low table or couch to keep your feet anchored.
- Cross your arms over your chest.
- Fall forward, leaning your entire body from the knees rather than just hinging at the hips.
- Try to “fall“ towards the floor in a slow and controlled manner.
- Squeeze your hamstrings to reverse the motion and initiate the concentric contraction back up to the starting position.
As you get stronger, gradually increase the angle through which you are moving, bringing your chest much closer to the floor as your hamstring strength increases.
An additional hamstring exercise you could try at home would be a single-leg deadlift.
#8: Lunge Matrix
The lunge matrix is one of the best no equipment leg exercises for the entire lower body, and it will get your neuromuscular system firing.
Plus, because you will be lunging in the sagittal and frontal plane, you will strengthen your hips and glutes for multi-directional movements.
Here are the steps:
- Stand upright with good posture, feet hip-width apart, and your hands on your hips.
- Take a giant step forward with the right foot and bend both knees to drop down to a forward lunge. Both knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Use your glutes to press back up to standing.
- Then, step the right foot out to the side, dropping into a lateral lunge.
- After pressing back up to the standing position, step the right leg backward and drop down into a reverse lunge.
- Complete 15 rounds with the right side and then switch to the left side.
#9: Hip Thrusts
The hip thrust3Delgado, J., Drinkwater, E. J., Banyard, H. G., Haff, G. G., & Nosaka, K. (2019). Comparison Between Back Squat, Romanian Deadlift, and Barbell Hip Thrust for Leg and Hip Muscle Activities During Hip Extension. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(10), 1. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000003290 is one of the best posterior chain exercises to target the glutes.
If you are doing an at-home leg workout, you can add weight in the form of a heavy backpack filled with books or bags of rice on your hips.
Here are the steps to perform a bodyweight hip thrust:
- Rest your shoulder blades and upper back on the long side of a chair or couch.
- Bend your knees 90 degrees and place your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart.
- If you have a weighted object that you want to use, place it across the crease of your hips.
- Squeeze your glutes and press through your heels to raise your hips to the tabletop position so your body is in a bridge. Your thighs should be parallel to the ground, and your shins should be vertical at the top of the rep.
- Pause at the top of the movement and squeeze your glutes into a full lockout.
- Slowly lower your hips back down, allowing your knees to travel naturally back inward towards your body.
- Complete 10-15 reps.
Additional glute exercises include double and single-leg glute bridges.
#10: Copenhagen Planks
One of the most effective adductor exercises is the Copenhagen plank. It is also a great core exercise to strengthen your obliques and deep core muscles.4Ishøi, L., Sørensen, C. N., Kaae, N. M., Jørgensen, L. B., Hölmich, P., & Serner, A. (2015). Large eccentric strength increase using the Copenhagen Adduction exercise in football: A randomized controlled trial. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 26(11), 1334–1342. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.12585
This adductor strengthening exercise can also be modified for beginner leg workouts at home by placing the knee up on the chair or table.5Schaber, M., Guiser, Z., Brauer, L., Jackson, R., Banyasz, J., Miletti, R., & Hassen-Miller, A. (2021). The Neuromuscular Effects of the Copenhagen Adductor Exercise: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 16(5). https://doi.org/10.26603/001c.27975
As you get stronger, remove more of your leg so that only your ankle rests on the chair.
Here are the steps to perform this bodyweight leg exercise:
- Lie on your side with your legs stacked and shoulders stacked.
- You should be positioned so your body is on the floor perpendicular to the long side of a low coffee table or kitchen chair.
- Engage your glutes and abs, and place your hand in front of your body on the floor if you need help bracing your body or balancing.
- Rest your top leg on the table.
- Press yourself up into the side plank position, resting on your forearm on the arm underneath your body, and lift your hips all the way up so that your body is in a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Your lower leg should come off the floor and press upward on the underside of the coffee table, and you should press into the table on the leg that’s on top of the table to activate your adductors.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Depending on your fitness goals, whether they be to gain total body strength in general, build muscle, or lose weight, you may want to consider eventually getting some key pieces of equipment for your workouts so they continue to be challenging as you advance.
It will be more effective to build leg muscle with some form of resistance, whether it be dumbbells, a weighted vest, or kettlebells.
How Often Should I Do Leg Workouts?
Check out anther one of our total bodyweight workouts here.
- 1Al Attar, W. S. A., Soomro, N., Sinclair, P. J., Pappas, E., & Sanders, R. H. (2016). Effect of Injury Prevention Programs that Include the Nordic Hamstring Exercise on Hamstring Injury Rates in Soccer Players: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 47(5), 907–916
- 2Bourne, M. N., Timmins, R. G., Opar, D. A., Pizzari, T., Ruddy, J. D., Sims, C., Williams, M. D., & Shield, A. J. (2017). An Evidence-Based Framework for Strengthening Exercises to Prevent Hamstring Injury. Sports Medicine, 48(2), 251–267. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0796-x
- 3Delgado, J., Drinkwater, E. J., Banyard, H. G., Haff, G. G., & Nosaka, K. (2019). Comparison Between Back Squat, Romanian Deadlift, and Barbell Hip Thrust for Leg and Hip Muscle Activities During Hip Extension. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(10), 1. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000003290
- 4Ishøi, L., Sørensen, C. N., Kaae, N. M., Jørgensen, L. B., Hölmich, P., & Serner, A. (2015). Large eccentric strength increase using the Copenhagen Adduction exercise in football: A randomized controlled trial. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 26(11), 1334–1342. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.12585
- 5Schaber, M., Guiser, Z., Brauer, L., Jackson, R., Banyasz, J., Miletti, R., & Hassen-Miller, A. (2021). The Neuromuscular Effects of the Copenhagen Adductor Exercise: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 16(5). https://doi.org/10.26603/001c.27975