19 Best Home Exercises For Legs To Build Strong And Muscular Legs Fast

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Building Monster Legs at Home

So, you’re thinking about taking your leg workout home. Maybe you want to save money or you are just sick of the day-in-day-out gym slog. Whatever your motivation, your objective should be the same: have an intense, effective leg workout where every minute counts.

You might just find that doing your leg workout at home is actually better. That’s because you are forced to do a variety of movements, stabilize your own body, and go through the entire range of motion that you’re capable of.

Common leg machines at the gym only hit a handful of muscles in your lower body in one plane of movement through a limited range of motion, but there are a couple of dozen muscles each of your legs. Studies show that longer range of motion is the key to building stronger, more muscular legs.

When you work out without the confines of a gym machine you can build stronger, fitter legs by doing movements that challenge your muscles in a variety of ways. Some free weight exercises have been shown to be more effective than their machine counterparts! You’ll also get the perk of working all those small stabilizing muscles simultaneously which can help improve your balance and coordination. Win-win!

Once you’ve realized you can get a leg workout at home that’s as good or better than the gym, the question becomes, “which exercises should I do?”

The Best Home Exercises to Get a Killer Leg Workout

Let’s build you a lower body workout! First, a little anatomy. There are four main groups of muscle that you want to target in your lower body:

  • The glutes (your buttocks)
  • The quadriceps (the fronts of your thighs)
  • The hamstrings (the backs of your thighs)
  • The calves (the back of your leg under the knee)

You want to make sure you’re hitting every muscle group in your workout routine. You can accomplish this by picking one or two exercises from each muscle group, plus a couple of great compound movements. You can also zoom in on a specific area if you want to build it up more.

Next, think about your goals on the spectrum of strength and power. If you’re not clear on this distinction, here’s a helpful definition. In a nutshell:

  • Strength training is done with higher weight lifted and slower movements. An example of this is weight lifting.
  • Power training is done with lower weight and faster, explosive movements. An example of this is plyometrics.

If you’re a beginner or just looking for overall conditioning, prioritize strength movements. If you’re more advanced and/or training for a specific type of activity that requires explosive bursts of movement, then do power training with some strength training to complement your gains.

You don’t need loads of equipment to do these exercises. You can do most of these with no equipment at all, or simple items like dumbbells, a Swiss ball, or resistance bands. Because you’re generally doing lower weight at home you’ll do higher reps. But don’t think it’ll be easy!

Let’s get into it. Choose a couple of exercises for each muscle group plus a couple of compound movements for your next leg workout. As always, keep your core tight and engaged as you do any of these exercises.

Exercises for the Glutes

These exercises will target your gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus for a well-rounded burn.

Glute Bridge

Glute bridges are a great movement to wake up those posterior muscles and improve your mind-muscle connection. When doing a glute bridge – or any glutes exercises – really think about contracting the muscles you’re working. It will help you maintain proper form and is scientifically proven to help increase your gains.

To do a glute bridge:

  • Start laying down with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Let your arms rest by your sides with palms down.
  • Make sure your neck and spine are in alignment.
  • Press through your heels and lift your hips toward the ceiling while contracting your glutes.
  • Hold the bridge for 5-10 counts, then lower down.
  • That’s one rep.

Complete 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps. You can do this with bodyweight only, or, to add some resistance, put a band around your knees.

You can also make this move more challenging by doing a single leg glute bridge. Start from the same position but lift one foot off the ground so your shin is parallel to the floor. Complete the glute bridge by pressing up only on the heel on the ground.

You can see a video of how to do a glute bridge here.

Clam Shells

Clam Shells hit that elusive gluteus medius which is a muscle that helps stabilize your pelvis and rotate your hips.

To do a clamshell:

  • Lay on your side with your knees bent and stacked.
  • Align your hips with your heels so your knees are slightly in front of your body.
  • Rest your head on your bottom hand/arm and place your top hand on your hip.
  • Keeping your heels together, lift your top knee up while your bottom knee stays on the mat.
  • Lower your top knee back down.
  • This is one rep.

Complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps on each side. If you’d like to add resistance put a band around your knees. This is what a banded clamshell exercise looks like, or do the same motion without the band.

Frog Bridges

Frog Bridges is an intense glute activation exercise. You’ll definitely feel the burn on this one. To do a Frog Bridge:

  • Lay on your back with the bottoms of your feet touching and your knees out to each side (forming a diamond shape).
  • Let your arms lay at your sides with palms down.
  • Make sure your neck and spine are in alignment.
  • Keeping your feet together, squeeze your butt and press down through the outer edges of your feet and lift your glutes off the ground.
  • Lower down.
  • This is one rep.

Complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Watch Brett “The Glute Guy” Contreras demonstrate a Frog Bridge here.

Lateral Band Walk

Lateral Band Walks are a great way to warm up your glutes…and then light them on fire. The trick to make this exercise really effective is to get low. It looks simple, but, trust us, you’ll be feeling it.

You’ll need a resistance band to do this exercise. To do a Lateral Band Walk:

  • Step into a resistance band with both legs and place the resistance band just above your knees.
  • Stand with your feet together, then lower your glutes like you’re sitting back into a chair. You should stay this low throughout the exercise.
  • Take a step to your left, then bring the right foot to meet your left foot.
  • This is one rep on one leg.

Complete 2-3 sets of 15-20 steps per leg. Watch a Lateral Band Walk with the perfect form here.

Fire Hydrants

Make like a dog and lift your leg to do the Fire Hydrant exercise. This is a simple movement that work the hip abductors – including the gluteus minimus and medius – which are responsible for movement of the leg away from the center line of the body.

Here’s how to do a Fire Hydrant:

  • Get on all fours with your knees under you hips, your hands under your shoulders, and your feet flexed with toes on the ground.
  • Keep your spine in a neutral position.
  • Keeping your right knee bent at 90-degrees and your hips square, lift the leg out to the side from your hip (like a dog lifting its leg on a fire hydrant).
  • Lower the leg to the starting position.
  • This is one rep on one leg.

Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps per leg of this exercise. Really focus on form and mind-muscle connection while you do this exercise. Check out a video of how to do a fire hydrant here.

Exercises for the Quadriceps

Your quadriceps femoris is a group of four muscles on the front of your thigh. The four muscles are the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and the rectus femoris. Strengthening your quads will give you that nice, chiseled look plus functional strength to support your knees.

Squat

This classic move is one of the best and most versatile ways to strengthen your quads. You can adjust your footing to hit the quads from different angles but for now we’ll focus on the basic squat as a base. Here’s how to do a squat:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  • Keep your spine in a neutral position and your chest up.
  • Bend at the knees and hips to lower your glutes down like you were going to sit down in a chair. Stop when your thighs get parallel to the floor (if this bugs your knees, then don’t go down quite so far).
  • Squeeze your quads and press through your heels to stand back up.
  • This is one rep.

Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. You can add resistance with a band (put it under your knees and hold each end) or by holding a dumbbell or kettlebell. Here’s a video on how to do the perfect squat.

Step-Ups

Step-Ups are a fantastic exercise to isolate and strengthen each leg. You can do this on stairs in your home, on a plyometric box or platform, on a weight bench, or any other sturdy, weight-bearing elevated surface. Here’s how:

  • Stand at the lower level with feet hip-width apart.
  • Place your hands on your hips to isolate the work to your legs. Keep your spine neutral and engage your core.
  • Lift your right leg and step up onto the raised step without using momentum.
  • Step back down.
  • This is one rep on one leg.

Do 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps per leg. You can increase the difficulty by stepping onto a higher step, or holding dumbbells while you do the exercise. Here’s a video on how to do a step-up correctly.

Walking Lunge

Walking lunges are another great workout for the quads. Lunges also hit other muscle groups, but the quads are the dominant muscles used. To do a walking lunge:

  • Start in a standing position with feet together.
  • Take a large step forward with one foot.
  • Keeping your upper body upright and your hands on your hips, bend the front knee to lower down until the knee is bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Make sure that your front knee doesn’t go past your toes.
  • Press through the front foot to rise up to a standing position and draw the back leg up to meet the front leg.
  • Continue the same process on the other leg.
  • This is one rep.

Aim for 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps each. This exercise gets its name because you’re “walking” forward as you complete each rep. Be careful with your knees. The front knee shouldn’t go past the toes. Make sure to lower your back knee down gently so it doesn’t hit the ground.

Watch how to do a walking lunge here.

Plie Pulse

You may not be familiar with this exercise if you’ve never been to a barre class. Yes, men go to barre classes, too. Don’t let the tiny movement fool you. This move will absolutely scorch your quads. It’s a great finisher to really max them out after another quad-dominant move. Here’s how you do a plie pulse.

  • Start in a standing position with your feet wider than hip-width apart and your toes pointed outward.
  • Keep your spine straight and bend at the knees to lower down until your thighs are about parallel with the ground. Remember not to lean forward.
  • Push through your heels and “pulse” up about 2 inches, then immediately lower down again.

Continue pulsing for about 60 seconds to complete one set and go for 2-3 sets. As you get fatigued the tendency is to not go back down as low as when you started. Be aware of this and stay low to get the best results from this exercise. Here’s a video (of a dude) to show you how to master this move.

Exercises for the Hamstrings

Get that nice hamstring definition and strength for your favorite sports with these simply at-home exercises.

Deadlift

A deadlift is a versatile exercise that you can mix up with weights, foot position, resistance bands, or leg isolation to add progressive load over time. Start with just the basics to get the form down.

  • Start in a standing position with feet hip-width apart and toes pointing forward.
  • Keep a slight bend in your knees as you hinge forward from the hips with a straight back.
  • Only bend until you feel a stretch in the quads. As soon as you do, start raising yourself up by pushing the hips forward and squeezing the hamstrings and glutes as you do.
  • Return to standing.
  • This is one rep.

Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps of deadlifts. You can get a good workout just focusing on your hamstring mind-muscle connection, but once you have your form perfected then you can start to add resistance. You can do that with a band like this or with dumbbells like this.

Remember always to protect your back when doing any type of deadlift. Your back should never curve, arch or slump. If you do this you put yourself at a much higher risk of injuring your spine.

Swiss Ball Leg Curl

This one exercise is worth keeping a Swiss ball at home. If you’re unfamiliar, a Swiss ball (sometimes called a stability ball) is an inflatable exercise ball. You can figure out which size you need based on your height here. [https://www.livestrong.com/article/290889-what-size-stability-ball-should-i-buy/]

The Swiss ball leg curl is an exercise that attacks your hammies. You get the benefit of a leg curl with core strengthening and the added challenge of stabilizing yourself on the ball. Here’s how to do it.

  • Lay on the floor with your arms at your sides and hands down.
  • Bend your knees 45-degrees and place your heels on a Swiss ball.
  • Press through your heels to lift your hips up into a bridge position.
  • Keeping your hips up, straighten your knees and roll the ball out away from your body.
  • Keeping your hips up, Bend the knees to roll the ball back toward your body and bring your knees back to the 45-degree angle.
  • This is one rep.

Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps of this exercise. Make sure you’re warmed up well before you start. This move looks simple, but it is a killer. Here’s a video to show you what it should look like.

Kettlebell/Dumbbell Swing

Any weight (i.e. kettlebell, dumbbell, plate with a handle, etc) will do for this move. The key is to get your movement going from your legs and not your shoulders. Your arms are pretty much along for the ride on this one. The thrusting motion from your hamstrings and glutes will provide the momentum for the weight to “swing” while you keep holding onto it.

  • Start in a standing position with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and holding a weight with both hands.
  • Keep a micro bend in the knees as you hinge at the hips and push your glutes back.
  • The weight will naturally go lower as you bend – be sure to keep your back in a straight, neutral position.
  • Forcefully (but with control) thrust your hips forward to come back to standing position and allow the weight to swing forward.
  • This is one rep.

Follow the pendulum motion of the weight to create a rhythm for this movement. Never just go with the momentum, though. Maintain control of the movement and consciously use your hamstrings to power forward on every rep. At the top of the arc the weight should never go higher than shoulder height.

Do 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps for this exercise. This is a great example of how to do a proper kettlebell swing.

Resistance Band Leg Curl

Pulling this exercise off at home is simple. All you need is a heavy anchor object and a resistance band. To set up, wrap one end of the resistance band around the anchor object. Lay face down on a mat and loop the other end of the resistance band around one of your feet so it’s just above the ankle.

Bend the leg looped into the resistance band from the knee while the other leg stays straight on the ground. Then lower to the ground to complete one rep on one leg. When you’re done, repeat with the other leg.

Aim for 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps per leg. Here’s a helpful video to show you how to set this up at home.

Exercises for the Calves

Don’t leave your calves out of the mix! Aside from their aesthetic appeal, fit calf muscles help stabilize the feet and ankles and give you more overall power in your lower body. Here are three ways to work your calves at home.

3-Way Calf Raise

Hitting your calves from multiple angles ensures that you’re working both sides of the gastrocnemius muscle and the soleus [https://www.mountainpeakfitness.com/blog/calf-achilles-lower-leg-silas]. Do 1 set of 25-50 reps for each of the positions below.

Standard Calf Raise

  • Start in a standing position with feet hip width apart and toes facing forward. Hold onto a stationary object for balance if necessary.
  • Contract your calves to raise up on your toes.
  • Hold for 1 second.
  • Lower back down to starting.
  • This is one rep.

Calf Raise with External Rotation (a.k.a. “Duck Feet”)

  • Pointing your toes outward (external rotation) targets the inner calves more.
  • Start in a standing position with feet hip width apart and heels turned in with toes facing about 30-degrees outward like this. Hold onto a stationary object for balance if necessary.
  • Contract your calves to raise up on your toes.
  • Hold for 1 second.
  • Lower back down to starting position with heels together and toes turned out.
  • This is one rep.

Calf Raise with Internal Rotation (a.k.a. “Pigeon Toes”)

  • Pointing your toes inward and heels outward targets the outer calves.
  • Start in a standing position with feet slightly wider than hip width apart and toes turned in with heels facing about 30-degrees outward like this. Hold onto a stationary object for balance if necessary.
  • Contract your calves to raise up on your toes.
  • Hold for 1 second.
  • Lower back down to starting position with heels turned out.
  • This is one rep.

Compound Exercises for Multiple Muscle Groups

Finish off your leg day workouts with these compound movements.

Bulgarian Split Squats

When you isolate a squat movement to just one leg it lights up your quads, hamstrings and glutes like none other. Check out this video for a guide to doing this punishing move. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps for each leg.

360-Degree Lunges

Sometimes called “Around the World’s”, 360-Degree Lunges are a front, side, and reverse lunge on one side followed by a reverse, side, and font lunge on the other side done sequentially to get one rep. It hits every major muscle group plus those little stabilizers for a deep burn. This is a great visual guide to the move. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10 reps – and remember one rep is three lunges per leg! You’re welcome.

Speed Skaters

Speed skaters are a power move that will really burn your legs out at the end of your sweat session. Traditional cardio (and most strength training) keeps you in a front-back movement pattern. Speed Skaters take you through a side to side plyometric movement that’s great for conditioning and keeping your body well-rounded.

Here’s a video on speed skater form. Aim to do as many of these as you can for 60-90 seconds for one set, and do 2-3 sets. This will get your legs burning and your heart racing.

How Many Leg Days Should I Have Each Week?

The rule of thumb is that should have a minimum of one and a maximum of three leg days per week. Assuming that you’re truly working your legs to the max each time, you should have at least one day of rest between each day of leg training. However, if you’re doing lighter volume then you can work on your legs more often.

Is It Bad To Do Cardio On Leg Day?

Not necessarily. It’s a good idea to do some light cardio like walking or gentle plyometric moves for about 5 minutes to warm you up. Beyond that, focus on strength training first and cardio second. The reason for this is that you need to have excellent form for your strength training moves. You’re less likely to do that after you’ve wiped out your legs in an intense cardio workout, which can make you more injury prone.

How Long Does It Take To Start Seeing Toned Legs?

If you’re consistent with your workouts (and aren’t un-doing your strength gains with a crappy diet), then you can expect to start seeing some visible results within 2-4 weeks.

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