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8 Exercises For Toning Your Legs Without Any Equipment

Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Resistance and strength training definitely yields results, but if you don’t have access to a gym or would rather take your leg day outside, these eight exercises will help you reach your fitness and muscle goals just the same.

Squat Jumps

Plyometric exercises in general are one of the best you can perform for activating every single muscle in your legs. They drive the power from the lower part of your body and turn on every single muscle fiber. Squat jumps are a great exercise for toning your legs, but the technique is important in order to prevent injuries and sprains. 

Start in a standing position, legs hip-width apart and facing forward. Activate your core muscles and inhale into your deepest squat position. You can place your hands in front of you and clasp them together to prepare yourself for the jump.

Exhale and drive the power from the ground up, extending your legs, dropping your arms to your sides, and squeezing your glutes at the top, like you’re trying to jump through your ceiling. Your core stays active the entire time to keep your hips and spine aligned and prevent you from curving your lower back too much.

On our descent, bend your knees and gently come back into the squat, controlling your movements as much as you can. Repeat 15-20 times.

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Sumo Squats

Sumo squats are particularly focused on your posterior chain: your glutes and your hamstrings. Many people have trouble activating these muscles when they’re performing regular squats as their quadriceps take over. Sumo squats put the focus on the back of your legs, giving your quads a bit of a break. 

Start in a standing position with your feet wider than hip-distance. You might need to adjust the actual set-up as you’re performing the exercise, but the idea is for you to feel it in your glutes and hamstrings. Open your feet to a 45-degree angle and let your knees follow.

Inhale and slowly drop down into your squat. You should be able to get deeper than your regular squat, but keep opening your knees and maintain a strong core. Exhale, extend your legs and really squeeze your glutes at the top, adding a slight pelvis tilt to burn your muscles out. Repeat 15 to 20 times.

Walking Lunges

Walking lunges activate your legs in a completely different way than regular lunges because they add a stronger element of balance. Your core will once again be very important in this exercise, so make sure you’re keeping it activated and strong. 

Start in a standing position, legs hip-width apart and feet facing forward. Inhale and step with your right leg in front of you, just like you would in a forward lunge. On your exhale, instead of bringing your leg back to meet your left, lift your left leg and bring it next to your right, grazing it on its way to step in front of you.

Continue walking for 10 repetitions, turn around and do another 10 steps back. If this seems too hard or too challenging for your balance, when your back leg comes forward to perform the step, set it down on the floor next to your other foot to reset and find your balance. With time, you’ll be able to do walking lunges without resting your foot on its way forward.

One-Legged Glute Bridges

Glute bridges in general are an amazing exercise for your legs, but putting the focus on only one leg at a time increases the intensity and makes it that much more effective. 

Start by lying on your back and bending your knees, bringing your feet a foot away from your sitting bones. Inhale and lift one of your legs into the air, exhale and lift your hips up. Place your arms by your sides, palms facing down, so you can use them as leverage to lift your hips even higher.

On your inhale, drop your hips down. Exhale, and lift them back up. Repeat 10-12 times and then switch your legs. Additionally, you can make it even more challenging by leaving your hips up on your last rep and performing tiny pulses to really burn out your glute muscle. If you do so, add 10-15 little pulses.

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Donkey Kicks

Another great isolation move, donkey kicks help tone your legs one kick at a time. The setup is extremely important in order to really isolate your legs and prevent your lower back from taking over.

Start in an all-fours position on the floor, palms right under your shoulders and knees right under your hips. Activate your core and bring your belly button up, avoiding a curve in your lower back. Inhale and bend your right leg, exhale and lift it up towards the ceiling. Flex your foot so that you fully activate your glute. Inhale back to the floor and exhale up. Repeat 12-15 times before switching over to your left leg. 

If you want to make the movement bigger, on your inhale, instead of bringing your knee to the floor, you can curve your spine and drive the knee towards your nose. Just be careful, when you’re exhaling and kicking the leg back up, activate your core so that you’re not straining your lower back too much.

And lastly, if you want to intensify the burn, hold on your last kick and perform little tiny pulses so you can feel it in your glute. Go for 12-15 reps.

Squat Pulses

Pulses are tiny movements that might look easy, but really put your muscles to the test. Since you’re not doing the full movement, your muscle stays contracted and gets fatigued much quicker.

Start in a standing position, legs hip-width distance and feet facing forward. Inhale and drop into your basic squat. Hold in your lowest position and start performing little, tiny pulses up and down, feeling your legs getting fatigued with each burn. Aim for 30 before giving your legs a break, but if you feel like they’re giving up sooner, simply extend your legs. Shake them out if needed and repeat two more times.

Split Squats

Split squats are great for isolating your legs while your upper body stays straight and practically immobile. Your balance is getting tested here as well, so activating your core and focusing on keeping your hips squared will be on the top of your list. 

Start in a standing position, legs hip-width distance, and feet facing forward. Step with one of your legs back, maintaining a straight spine. Bend your back leg 90 degrees and bring your knee two inches off the floor. Inhale and on your exhale extend your back leg. Inhale bend, exhale extend. Repeat 12-15 times before doing the same with your other leg.

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Leg Lifts and Circles

Borrowed from Pilates, this leg exercise combo is known to make even the toughest gym-goers wince as the burn gets intense.

Start by lying on your left side, elbow bent, using it as leverage to propel your upper body from the floor. Place your right arm on the floor in front of you to help keep you stable and prevent your upper back and hips from moving. 

Extend your legs and stack your right on top of your left. Inhale and lift your right leg up, flexing or pointing your foot to keep it engaged. Exhale and bring the leg back down. Take it slow and do 10-12 elongated lifts. On your last lift, keep your leg elevated and hold it there for a few seconds, feeling your glute start to burn.

Keep breathing and start moving your leg in small clockwise circles, performing 10-12 rounds. After you’ve finished, do 10-12 circles counterclockwise. On your last exhale, lower your leg down, turn to the other side, and repeat it all with your left leg.

There are plenty of lower body exercises that can help tone your legs just by using your own body weight. Add these eight moves to your next home workout and get ready to feel sore the next day. And if you’re looking for some extra motivation, check out these fitness apps and try some of their programs.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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