No Equipment Needed: Bodyweight Leg Workouts for Anywhere Fitness

Smiling fit young Black woman doing jumping jacks exercise outdoors

Key Points

  • You won't always have a gym, so a catalog of bodyweight exercises is useful.

  • Everything builds on the basics.

  • Don't overlook the calves; instead, make calf exercises a challenge.

The way life goes is such that you won't always have access to a gym. It sounds like a bummer, especially when you want to fry your legs from a good workout, but don't worry. Six months into 2023, a simple search yields over a billion results for at-home workouts. Not only are there one-off workouts but there are entire home fitness routines.

At-home workouts offer no equipment exercises to meet your needs anywhere. No equipment exercises have the bonus of not having to buy anything, which is always a perk.

This applies to bodyweight leg exercises. Your legs handle a hefty workload. After all, they support you your entire life via walking, running, jumping, or kicking.

Having said that, it's time to jump in.


These are the progenitor of all bodyweight leg exercises and a foundation for nearly all leg-strengthening workouts. To perform, stand with your feet roughly shoulder width apart, bend your knees and hips, and drop down to the floor as if your goal is to nestle your torso in between your legs. From this position, stand up.

Squats are great for leg-strengthening workouts since they target two huge muscle groups: the glutes and the quads. Lower body workouts, whether at the gym or part of various home fitness routines, it's unlikely you won't find some variation of a squat involved.

Make Squats Harder: Pistol Squats

One difficulty with lower body workouts done without equipment is making the exercises tougher. Sure, it's possible to add reps — lots of reps, but the downside is that simple bodyweight circuit training turns into a slogging marathon as you struggle to get through hundreds of reps for your workout.

The answer is to work smarter, and the pistol squat is your answer, and it's among the top-tier leg toning exercises. If you've never done a pistol squat, the rules are similar to the two-leg squat. You stand on one leg, push your butt back, and keep the foot flat. Now, you're ready to come back up. You push through with your heel and stand up.

For first-timers, there's a likelihood you'll fall flat on your butt. At the very least, you won't feel stable when you attempt it. Practice a modified pistol squat by using a box, a bench, or a chair.


Incorporating lunges makes for one of the best leg-strengthening workouts. Bodyweight circuit training and lunges are a ubiquitous pairing second only to Taylor Swift and Matt Healy.

Like squats, you can add reps to make lunges more difficult. On the other hand, incorporate modifications to up the intensity of the lunge.

There are three styles of lunges to do when standing on flat ground:

  • The forward lunge

  • The reverse lunge

  • The lateral lunge

All of these start in a neutral position wherein you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your hands at your sides.

To perform a forward lunge, step forward. At the end of the range of motion, both knees are bent, and the loaded leg flexes at the hip joint. Push off the loaded foot and return to your starting position. Repeat with the other foot.

The reverse lunge is similar, except you step backward, keeping the working leg stationary.

Another tip, courtesy of Canadian trainer Meghan Callaway, is to "imagine you have a foot on each track of a railroad track to ensure proper alignment."

One other point of note: don't let the knee on your back leg touch the ground.

The lateral lunge is similar to the reverse lunge in that your working leg is stationary. For this lunge variant, keep one leg planted, push your butt back, and step off to the side with your other leg. Return to your starting position and repeat on the other side.


The step-up is a close relative of the lunge and a worthy addition to any home workout program. If you don't have a step, use a chair. If you're a giant, use a table.

The common theme for these exercises is using all of your foot, not the front portion, to exert the force on the weight. This applies to the step-up.

Your mobility is also a factor in performing the step-up. If your step is too high, you might not have the mobility to do the exercise properly, and you'll be prone to using your non-working leg for additional assistance, and that's a good way to cheat yourself out of potential muscle gain.

Use too small of a step, and you deprive yourself of any meaningful work on the working leg.

To perform the step-up, first, acquire a step. A step stool, actual stairs, a chair, or a step ladder will suffice, but make sure whatever you use is within your ability to do so.

Use your working leg and place it on the step. Push with your heel and elevate yourself until you're standing on the step.

To avoid adding undue assistance with the non-working leg, lift your toes off the ground and perform the movement.

Jumping Jacks

Bodyweight training programs in physical education classes all around the United States have incorporated jumping jacks for students. Whether they're done to teach the value and importance of cardiovascular fitness or to tire out the students remains to be seen, but they're a great total body exercise to add to your home workout program.

In addition to the cardiovascular benefits, they also work the calf muscles by virtue of pushing off the balls of your feet.

Start in a neutral stance, jump up a few inches, and spread your feet to land. At the same time, move your arms off to the side and end with them over your head. Clapping is optional. Imagine you're making a snow angel, without the snow, without lying down, and with an increased heart rate.

Plyometric Lunges

This exercise is a difficult variation on the standard lunge, and it's one worth working towards. Make sure it's within your ability to perform this before you attempt it, and if possible, practice on a soft surface to avoid any collisions involving a hard floor and your knee.

Start in the bottom position of a lunge; one foot flat out in front, one foot behind you, supporting some of your weight on the ball of that foot, and push off with both feet to jump.

While airborne, land the opposite way in which you started. If you start with your right leg behind you and the left leg in front, your endpoint is with the left leg behind you and the right leg in front of you after you complete the rep.

Exercise caution for this one; it's not for a novice.

Calf Raises

Your calves do a lot of work as it is. They support and move you around daily, so they're used to carrying your weight. This makes it difficult to provide enough of a challenge for them, but it's not impossible.

First, find a small step or elevation on the ground. A single step on a flight of stairs or even a cinder block will suffice.

Next, stand on it with the first third of your foot, and lower yourself as if you're reaching your heel to the floor. Notice the stretch in your calf.

From this bottom position, stand on your tiptoes. Lower yourself and repeat.

To make it harder, perform with one foot.

Make it harder than that by lowering for a count of five seconds and pausing at the bottom for five seconds.

Wall Sits

This is pretty self-explanatory, and it's something you've undoubtedly seen in gym or professional fitness classes. It's a fantastic way to give your quads an isometric contraction to finish your workout and something worth adding to your bodyweight training programs.

Lean back against a wall and slide your back down that wall. The holding position is like that of sitting in a chair but with no chair. Your knees are bent at 90-degree angles, your feet are flat on the floor, and your quads are on fire.

Modified May 5, 2023, Brian Ward discusses wall sit benefits which make for some of the best leg-strengthening workouts.

Anywhere Fitness

Now, you have a vast array of exercises at your disposal wherever you may find yourself. For a challenge, perform them all for five to ten reps in order, and see how many rounds you can do in 15 minutes.

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