Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises

Your legs are your foundation. They are crucial for stability, mobility and functional strength. Here are some of the best bodyweight exercises to strengthen and tone your leg muscles and glutes.


Squats are probably the most well known bodyweight leg exercises. There are countless squat variations, but the standard squat is a great place to start. Squats work the largest muscles in your body (your glutes and quads). Steve Holman (Old School New Body) says that if you only have time for one exercise, choose squats.

For the best results use 3 second (or longer) negatives and 1 second positives as explained here.

How to do Squats
  • Start with you feet a little more than shoulder width apart and you toes pointing forward
  • Stretch your arms out in front of your for balance
  • Lower yourself down slowly as if you are sitting down on a chair placed behind you.
  • Make sure that your knees stay behind your toes during the exercise.
  • Come back up to the starting position and repeat.

Prisoner Squats

The prisoner squat is a variation of the regular squat where you hold your hand behind your head while you’re squatting. This activates the upper back muscles. It’s a little harder than the regular squat, but that extra effort pays off!

How to do Prisoner Squats
  • Start with you feet a little more than shoulder width apart and you toes pointing forward
  • Place your hands behind your head and interlace your fingers. Make sure you keep your elbows back so they are out of your peripheral vision.
  • Imagine you are standing in front of a wall and lower yourself down slowly as if sitting down on a chair that is placed behind you.
  • Keep your weight on your heels and make sure that your knees stay behind your toes during the exercise.
  • Come back up to the starting position and repeat.

Front Lunges

Lunges are another great bodyweight leg exercise. They are a great exercise for strengthening and toning your glutes and quads as well as improving balance and stability. Unlike squats, lunges work one side of the body at a time. There are a lot of different types of lunges. Here’s how to do the basic front lunge:

How to do Front Lunges
  • Start by standing up straight with your feet close together, your shoulders back and your chest forward.
  • Take a big step forward with your right foot, dropping your left knee without letting it touch the floor.
  • Take care to keep your back straight and facing forward.
  • Now push off the right (forward) foot and return back to the starting position.

Lateral Lunges

Also known as side lunges, lateral lunges are another great bodyweight leg exercise. They work your quads and glutes as well as improve stability and balance.

How to do Lateral Lunges
  • Start facing forward with your feet about two shoulder widths apart.
  • Slowly transition your weight to your right leg while bending your right knee.
  • Keep your left leg and your back straight and look straight ahead (don’t bend forward).
  • You can put your hands out in front of you for balance.
  • Come back up and repeat on the other side.

Skater Squats

Skater squats are a bodyweight leg exercise to tone and strengthen your quads and glutes. There are two progressions to this exercise. Beginners should start by allowing their back foot to touch the ground. Once you’ve mastered this first variation you can make the exercise more challenging by keeping your back foot off the ground during the exercise.

How to do Skater Squats
  • Stand on your right leg, and pick your left one up off the floor.
  • Now shift your hip back and drop your butt down. You can hold light weights or something similar to help you keep your balance.
  • Bend your hips and knee, and lower your body as low as you can.
  • Come back up.

While performing skater squats you should also make sure you:

  • keep your chest up
  • face straight ahead
  • make sure you have a neutral spine as you drop down

Single Leg Bridges

Single leg bridges work your hamstrings, glutes, abs, lower back. You can do this exercise using sets of short repetitions or as an isometric exercise where you hold the bridge position for a minute.

How to do Single Leg Bridges
  • Lie on your back with your hands by your sides, your feet flat on the floor and your legs bent.
  • Lift one leg into the air, keeping it in line with the leg that is still on the floor.
  • Use your grounded leg to push into the floor and bridge your hips up toward your shoulders.
  • Keep your extended leg in the air as you lower your hips back down with control and repeat.

Drinking Bird

The Drinking Bird (also called the dipping bird or the tipping bird) is a slow and controlled bodyweight exercise that works your hamstrings, glutes, abs and lower back. It’s als a great exercise to improve core stability and balance.

How to do the Drinking Bird
  • Stand on one leg with you other leg behind you.
  • Bend forward from your hips and raise you back leg as you do so.
  • Your back leg and your upper body should form a straight line from your heel to the back of your head.
  • Don’t allow your hips to twist as you bend.
  • Make sure you don’t lock the knee of the supporting leg (keep it slightly bent).
  • Brace your trunk as you return to the starting position.
  • Be careful not to twist your body to the side as you get back up.

Wall Sit

The Wall Sit is a killer isometric exercise for the quads. It’s probably the toughest exercise in this list.

How to do the Wall Sit
  • Stand about 1.5 or 2 feet in front of a wall with your feet about shoulder width apart.
  • Lean back against the wall and lower yourself down until your upper legs are parallel to the floor.
  • Your knees should be at a 90 degree angle and should not be sticking out past your toes.
  • Keep your back against the wall and look straight ahead.
  • Hold this position for a minute (or as long as you can).

One Leg Body-Weight Romanian Deadlift

This one is great for your glutes and hamstrings. It also promotes balance and coordination. It bears a lot of resemblance to the drinking bird exercise mentioned earlier, but the deadlift places more emphasis on the glutes.

How to do the One Leg Romanian Deadlift
  • Stand on one leg with the other leg slightly behind you and off the floor and making sure the supporting leg is slightly bent.
  • Slowly lean forward by pivoting from the hip. Make sure you maintain a straight line between your head, back and the leg that is off the floor.
  • Keep beding forward until you touch the floor with your outstretched arms.
  • Slowly come back up.

Back to Bodyweight Exercises

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This program consists of short (10-20 minute) but extremely effective fat burning and body sculpting body-weight workouts. Ideal if you have a busy life and you don’t want to spend a lot of money on expensive exercise equipment or gym memberships.

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Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises

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