Want an exercise program that requires little to no equipment? Try this leg workout routine which includes a warm-up and cool-down stretch session. Tone your legs anywhere you are!
For planning purposes, the workout will take 10 minutes for the warm-up, 4 minutes for one Leg Work circuit MULTIPLIED BY how many circuits you perform, plus about 10 minutes of stretching. This is a relatively quick workout.
NOTE: Each run-through of the six exercises in the Leg Work section is a circuit. Try to do 3 circuits building up to being able to do five circuits. As previously stated, each circuit takes about 4 minutes to complete (the six exercises). If you can only perform one complete circuit, that’s fine. Keep doing this workout 1 to 2 times per week. Try to add a few more exercises each week, even if it’s not a complete circuit. Over time, this is how you will build your strength.
Never skip your warm-up. Warming up helps avoid injury. It wakes up your body. It activates nerve connections to muscle fibers and primes the muscles preparing them for the strength exercises you want to perform. You should never jump straight into strength training with cold muscles. Get your blood flowing first!
The following warm-up alternates a little jumping with dynamic (moving) stretches. The jumping gets your heart pumping. The stretches during any warm-up movement should not be held longer than 5 seconds. When cued to hold a stretch in the following warm-up, the recommended time will be 2-3 seconds. Because the stretches should not be performed with intensity, alternating jumping with stretching keeps the blood flowing.
Jump Rope or Jump in Place – 1 minute
Jumping Rope or jumping in place gets your heart pumping fast and wakes up muscles in the legs, preparing them for the workout ahead. If you can go longer than a minute, up to 5 minutes is good for warming up.
Deep Squat – 5 to 10 reps
Deep squats mobilize your hips and ankles, preparing those joints for the upcoming leg work. Perform the reps slowly, staying at the bottom for a couple seconds, slightly shifting side-to-side, and keeping your heels in contact with the floor. Push through your heels to return to a standing position.
Forward Stepping Lunges – 5 to 10 each leg
Perform these lunges slowly, emphasizing the stretch through the hip and groin area. Hold for about 3 seconds and return to a standing position. You should feel your quads and glutes engage.
Jump Rope or Jump in Place – 30 seconds
More jumping to elevate the heart rate, but just a brief time. If you are up for more than 30 seconds, do up to 2 minutes.
Twist Upper Body – 5 to 10 on each side
The movement should be through the lower back. Aim your shoulders in the opposite direction from your hips.
High Knees (March in Place) – 5 to 10 on each side
High knees lengthen the muscles in the back of your legs and glutes while elevating your heart rate. Step pace can be fast or slow, depending on your ability.
Jump Rope or Jump in Place – 30 seconds
Last round of jumping to elevate the heart rate, but just briefly. If you are up for more than 30 seconds, do up to 2 minutes.
Having strong legs makes daily movements more efficient and manageable. Strong legs protect you from falls, easily carry you up a flight of stairs, and boost your confidence. The muscles in the legs and glutes are the biggest muscles in the body. Building these muscle groups means more calorie burn, which helps with fat loss. Secondary to the leg and glute muscles, leg work strengthens muscles in the core. Work your legs two days a week for amazing results!
Squats – 10 to 15 reps
Squats target the quads and glutes, but your hamstrings, calves, and core are also hit. Keep the pace steady. To elevate the effort, slowly go down and explode back to the standing position. For added resistance, use a band around the thighs.
Bridges – 10 to 15 reps
Bridges target the glutes toning your backside. The hamstrings and the transverse abdominal muscles are also targeted, which are important for body stability. If you sit a lot, make bridges a regular exercise. They counteract the negative effects of too much sitting.
Hold and squeeze the glutes at the top end to elevate the workload, then slowly lower back down. For added effort, place a band just above the knees.
Lunges – 10 to 15 reps for each leg
Step forward, bringing the back leg’s knee close to the ground, then push off from the front foot back to the standing position. Alternate left foot forward and right foot forward.
Lunges work the entire leg and glutes and recruit the muscles in the core. You will find your heart rate elevates during this exercise as well. To increase the intensity, hold dumbbells.
Bird Dog – 10 to 15 reps on each side
To perform the bird dog, your opposite leg and arm extend out. You should look like a bird dog pointing. Bird dogs are another exercise that counteracts sitting too much. If that’s you, do these regularly!
Increase difficulty by holding the extended limbs for 3 counts on each rep. Perform these without alternating. Extend the same limbs for 10 to 15 reps, then switch the limbs you extend.
Burpees – 8 to 10 reps
Burpees involve the full body and really get your blood flowing. Burpees are included in the leg work routine because it’s an intense exercise and very much involves the legs on the squat jump. Try to maintain a steady pace.
Begin standing. Drop into a squat. Kick your legs back. You are now in a high plank position. Drop down doing a push-up. Return to high plank. Bring your legs back into a squat position, then jump straight up.
If you can’t do the push-ups for the recommended 8 to 10 reps, do as many as you can, then continue performing the burpee without the push-up portion.
Lateral (Side) Lunges – 8 to 10 reps for each leg
Lateral lunges improve stability, balance, and overall leg strength. Perform these lunges alternating which leg steps out.
To make the lunges harder, stay in the stepped-out position for 2-3 seconds, then explode back to standing.
REPEAT the above 6 exercises up to 5 times.
One run-through of the six exercises is a circuit. Try to do 3 circuits building up to being able to do five complete circuits. Each circuit takes about 4 minutes to complete (the six exercises).
If you are only able to do one circuit, no worries. Everyone has their own starting point. Find yours and build up from there. If you are able to do one full circuit plus a partial second circuit, do that. Try adding 1 or 2 more exercises each time you do this routine. You will find yourself getting stronger and stronger, able to do more, and eventually getting to the end goal of five full circuits.
Cool-Down – Stretch
Most people associate stretching with improved flexibility. Yes, stretching improves your flexibility, but you must stretch for other reasons, especially post-workout. Do not skip stretching unless you love being stiff and prone to injury!
Once the workout is complete, you need to stretch. Lactic acid builds up in worked muscles. Lactic acid causes soreness. Stretching after your activity helps move the lactic acid out. This is not to imply you will not experience soreness. If you have not exercised for an extended period, you will experience some muscle soreness even with stretching. Nonetheless, stretching will reduce how sore you get.
For the following stretches, hold each pose for 30 to 60 seconds. For best results, repeat the stretches doing each pose twice. If you find an exceptionally tight area, stretch that muscle group longer, maybe even three sets of stretching on that particular area. You may even want to hold a specific stretch for up to two minutes. This is completely fine.
Deep Squat Stretch
One of the best actions you can do to improve the mobility of the lower body is deep squats held as a stretch. You will feel a nice stretch through the lower back and glutes. The recommended hold time is 30 to 60 seconds, but holding a deep squat longer is widely recommended among health professionals.
With one leg forward, have the other leg behind you and lean into a stretch through the hip and groin area. Keep upper body straight. The lunge stretch is great for opening up the hips and counteracting extended periods of sitting.
Most people are plagued with tight hamstrings. Tight hamstrings affect walking, running, and bending over, among other everyday body movements. Be sure to get deep into this stretch but not to the point of pain. You want the back of the leg to feel tension, not hurt.
The quadriceps muscles are the primary muscles targeted. Depending on how deep you can get into this pose, you will also open up the hips and thoracic area.