Have you considered adding bodyweight leg exercises to your workout routine? The large muscles in your hips and legs help stabilize your body movements and they provide support so that you are able to walk, jump, move, or run. Strengthening your leg muscles will help prevent injuries and help make performing daily activities easier.
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As you get older, it is natural for you to begin losing muscle and decrease your flexibility. Those with joint problems, major health problems, or even those who are living a sedentary lifestyle increase their risk of weak hips and legs. Weak muscles in your hips and legs can lead to back pain, fatigue, bone loss, or even stability problems.
Staying active and performing strength training exercises that target your hips and legs is the best way to prevent weak muscles. Bodyweight leg exercises are an excellent choice, even people who suffer from mobility issues or seniors. Those with mobility issues or seniors should seek help from a personal trainer or a physical therapist to modify the bodyweight leg exercises so that you can safely perform these exercise.
Bodyweight leg exercises don’t require a gym membership or fancy equipment. The exercises can be performed anywhere including in the comfort of your own home, while traveling, or even at the office. Let’s take a look at the most popular bodyweight leg exercises. It is important that you learn proper form and do each exercise properly in order to avoid injury.
Squats are one of the most popular bodyweight leg exercises that trainers recommend whether you are a newbie or an athlete. This powerhouse exercise that helps build muscles, make everyday tasks easier to complete, prevent injuries (if squats are done properly), and increase your body’s ability to burn fat.
Always warm up before you start performing any of the bodyweight leg exercises, especially squats. We recommend that you take 10 to 15 minutes stretching or walking to loosen up your muscles. Performing squats without warming up can be disastrous. Tight muscles can result in a pulled muscle or injury.
Proper form is a must when it comes to doing this powerhouse bodyweight leg exercise. Once you have warmed up your muscles, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. With your back in a neutral position and your knees over your toes. Breathe in and slowly bend your knees, hips, and ankles, as if you were attempting to sit down in a chair until you reach a 90-degree angle. Then return to the starting position. Repeat for 20 to 30 times. As you get stronger, you can add a kettlebell weight, jumping squats, or pistol squats.
Many people find that lunges are difficult to perform but they are highly beneficial bodyweight leg exercise. Lunges not only engage the large muscles in your legs but they also engage your core muscles. Having a strong core can help prevent back pain, improves your posture, and helps improve your balance.
If you have tight hip flexor muscles, doing lunges is one of the only exercises that target and strengthen them. A sedentary lifestyle is the main cause of tight hip flexor muscles. Tight hip flexor muscles put increased strain on surrounding muscles and it usually causes pain in your upper groin.
According to Healthline, you can perform this simple test to determine if you have tight hip flexor muscles is called the Thomas test:
- Lie on your back on the floor, a bench, or another stable, flat surface.
- Bring both knees to your chest.
- Hold your right knee against your chest.
- Straighten your left leg.
- Lower your left leg as far as possible.
- Repeat with the other leg.
Hip flexors are considered tight if either leg cannot completely lower to the surface you are lying on.
To get the maximum benefits of performing lunges, it is important that you perform them correctly and pay attention to your form. Begin by warming up and then standing up straight while staring at the wall or an object on the wall. Relax and push your shoulders back so that your back is straight. Keep your chin up while engaging your core.
Step forward with one leg and slowly lower your hips until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. The front knee should be lined up so that it is over your ankle. Avoid pushing your knee forward too much or allowing your back knee to touch the floor. Push your heel into the floor and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 20 to 30 times. As you get stronger, you can do walking lunges, reverse lunges with knee lifts, curtsy or even side lunges.
Bridges are often used in rehab or physical therapy; however, it is a useful bodyweight leg exercise for anyone who is looking to improve their core and leg muscles. It is super easy to perform and there are several variations that you can add to your workout routine as you get stronger.
To perform a bridge, you need to lie flat on your back with your knees under your feet. Your feet should be flat against the floor. Place your hands by your side. Then tighten your abs and glutes. Slowly raise your hips so that your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Squeeze your abdominal muscles and pull your belly button towards your spine. Hold your position for 20 to 30 seconds and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 20 to 30 times.
Doing bridges shouldn’t cause your back to hurt. If you back hurts while doing this exercise, make sure that your aren’t raising your hips too high. Sometimes you may notice that your hips are starting to sag, if this happens slowly return to the starting position and start over.
The glutes (minimus, medius and maximus) are the largest and strongest group of muscles in your body. These muscles work together in unison so that you can move your legs away from your the center of your body, rotate your hips, and move your legs back and forth. Strong glutes not only make everyday tasks easier to do but it also decreases your risk of injuries and improve performance whether you are walking or playing sports.
Adding fire hydrants can help keep your glute muscles strong , work your core, reduce the back pain, and decrease your risk of injury. This exercise is very simple and it will remind you of a male dog peeing on a fire hydrant.
Always warm up before performing this bodyweight leg exercises. Place a mat on the floor and get down on your hands and knees. Your hands should be placed directly under your shoulders and your knees need to be under your hips. Tighten your abdominal muscles while looking down at the map. Slowly lift your leg away from your body at a 45-degree angle while making sure to keep your knee at a 90-degree angle. Then lower your leg back to the starting position. Repeat 20 to 30 times on both sides. As you get stronger, you can add weights, resistance bands, or add donkey kicks.
Donkey kicks are another effective bodyweight leg exercise to strengthen your glutes. Instead, of moving your leg in a 45-degree angle away from your body, gently squeeze your glutes and lift your leg while straightening it. Then gently lower your leg back to the starting position. It is important that you breathe out while you are kicking your leg backward. Also, never raise your leg higher than your hips.
Step-ups are a simple, yet effective, bodyweight leg exercise that doesn’t get much attention. It is often used during physical therapy or rehab to help strengthen your hips and leg muscles. Whether you are walking or running, your quads don’t get much use and can become weak if you don’t take the time to strengthen those muscles.
You will need to purchase an adjustable aerobic step platform or a box jump (see affiliate ad above) to safely perform this bodyweight leg exercise. To perform a basic step-up you need to place your feet flat on the ground in front of the platform or box shoulder width apart. Then use one leg to step-up onto the platform or box and follow the stepping motion with the second leg. Then step-off the box using the same motion as you started with. Repeat 20 to 30 times for each leg.
Most of the other bodyweight leg exercises, like squats or lunges, focus on both legs at a time. A step-up shifts the focus to one leg at a time so that you aren’t building muscle in your quads unequally. As you gain strength, you can add weights to the motion as well. Start with dumbbells by your side and continue the step-up routine.
These bodyweight leg exercises focus on stabilizing the major muscles in your lower half of your body. Your hips, low back, glutes, quads, and hamstrings are the foundation that supports your body so that you can move. As you age, you naturally begin losing muscle mass if you don’t take preventative steps to strengthen your muscles.
Weak muscles in your low back, hips, and legs can increase your risk of injury, fatigue, bone loss, and back pain. Staying active and focusing on strength training exercises that target major muscles groups that support the lower half of the body can help prevent falls or injuries before they happen. The bodyweight leg exercises mentioned above will help you target the major muscle groups and make performing everyday tasks easier.