The relentless coronavirus surge pushed most countries to enforce extended lockdowns and social distancing measures. Strict covid lockdown means gyms are closed, amateur sports and outdoor games are banned, and we no longer burn calories from incidental activities like walking to the bus stop or running errands.
Being cooped up indoors for months, home exercises have been our saving grace. But no matter how tempting it may be, never skip leg day! We’ve put together six relatively simple, no-equipment leg exercises to try in the comforts of your home.
Why You Should Never Skip Leg Day?
We all agree that exercise is important, but most people have a love-hate relationship with leg day. Despite being the largest muscle group in the body, the legs are also the most neglected during workouts. If you hate leg day, here’s what you’re missing.
1. It helps build a stronger lower body
Full-body workouts are vital for total body health and fitness, but you need a strong and stable base to train effectively and efficiently. Stronger legs also mean better performance, so you’ll do well at high-impact sports like soccer, basketball, tennis, and long-distance running.
2. It is critical to brain and nervous system health
A 2018 study found that leg workout increases brain function including those related to mood, learning, and memory. It appears that weight-bearing exercises prompt the brain to produce new nerve cells, a process that is essential to brain and nervous system health.
3. It prevents vascular disease
Physical inactivity is a risk factor for vascular diseases such as varicose veins, peripheral vascular disease (PVD), and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Vascular diseases are dangerous because they may lead to ischemia or an inadequate supply of blood to the body’s tissue. Even a simple foot and ankle range-of-motion (ROM) exercise may reduce the incidence of DVT, according to a study conducted on neurointensive care patients.
4. It burns more calories
Muscles burn more calories than fat. Exercising the largest muscles of the body (your buttocks and legs) speeds up your metabolism and continues to burn calories even while doing nothing.
5. It reduces your risk of injury
Having a stronger lower body makes you less susceptible to injuries. Studies show that increasing balance between the strength of your hamstring and quadriceps muscles may help prevent anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries—the most common knee injury among athletes.
At-Home Leg Exercises
There are two types of exercises for the lower body, compound exercises, and isolation exercises. Compound exercises recruit multiple joints and multiple muscle groups, while isolation exercises involve just one joint and one muscle or muscle group. It is important to perform compound exercises before isolation exercises.
Compound movements like squats and deadlifts generally involve much greater effort to execute. You do not want to tire your legs with isolation movements before you perform heavier compound exercises. Squat, lunge and deadlift are the foundation of lower body lifts.
This exercise targets the glutes and the quads and should be performed early in the workout. This is good for developing core strength and increasing the size of the lower body muscles.
- Stand with your feet slightly apart and aligned to your shoulders.
- Push out your hands to the front.
- Your toes should be pointed slightly outward.
- Slowly descend by bending the hips and knees.
- Lower your hips until your hip joint is parallel to the floor
- Pause for one count then squeeze your glutes and push your heels to return to the starting position.
Lunges target the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. This move is great for beginners. It can be performed using bodyweight alone or you may use dumbbells or kettlebells to increase difficulty.
- Stand in an upright position, relax your shoulders, and chin up.
- Put your hand together in front of your body.
- Put one foot forward and flex your ankle, knee, and hips.
- The front knee should be at a 90-degree angle, the back knee just short of touching the floor.
- Press into the heel of the lead foot and drive forward by extending your ankle, knee, and hip.
- Repeat with the opposite leg and continue alternating sides.
This exercise targets the gluteus muscles, hamstrings, and low back. A deadlift is typically performed with a barbell but you may use dumbbells or similar-sized plastic water bottles.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with your feet slightly turned out.
- Hold one dumbbell in each hand in front of hips, palms facing thigh.
- Keep your head in a neutral position, your knees locked, and your shoulders back.
- Squeeze shoulder blades together and flex at the hips by moving your buttocks backward.
- Lower dumbbells slowly along the front of the legs. Keep your back straight and shoulders drawn back.
- Return to starting position, maintaining a neutral spine, and keeping dumbbells close to the body during the entire movement.
This is an isolation exercise that targets the quadriceps muscles. It is best to perform wall sits at the end of the workout. This is a great exercise for those who want to build core strength and endurance but have knee discomfort. For added resistance, hold a weighted plate or dumbbells.
- Keep your back flat against a stable wall with your feet shoulder-width apart, your arms down at your sides.
- Slowly slide your back down the wall while engaging your abdominal muscles.
- Keep your knees at 90 degrees and hold this position for 1 to 2 minutes.
The classic toe touch improves flexibility by stretching your hamstrings. Remember not to bend down with straight legs to reduce the risk of injury. You can do toe touches while lying down if you have low back pain or injury.
- Stand straight with your feet shoulder-distance apart and arms at your sides.
- Extend your arms, slowly bend forward at the waist, keeping your knees slightly bent.
- Reach down and let fingers hang down toward your toes.
- Hold for 15 to 30 counts and then return to the starting position.
Standing calf raise is an easy exercise to perform at home. This isolation exercise targets the gastrocnemius, the outermost muscle responsible for the size and shape of your calves. Strong calf muscles translate to better stability and balance.
- Stand with the balls of your feet firmly planted on a 6-inch step or platform, and your heels hanging over the edge.
- Balance yourself with your hands on a wall or sturdy object.
- Push up onto the balls of your feet and slowly raise your heels a few inches above the edge of the step.
- Pause for a few seconds then lower your heels back to the ground.
- Repeat 10-30 times.