5 Exercises That’ll Give You the Ultimate Leg Day From Home

5 Exercises That’ll Give You the Ultimate Leg Day From Home
Credit: Halle Berry Instagram

Whether you love or hate leg day, the truth of it is that building strength in this part of your body is not only incredible for fitness (hello, improved running ability) but in a functional sense, strong legs are vital for walking, lifting and just building up power in your body more generally. If this is an area of your fitness that you’d like to work on, here are some of the best exercises you can do for your legs.

As has been the case with previous pieces in this series on your arms and core, I chatted with Kate Kraschnefski, Head of Training at the Australian Institute of Fitness for some tips on leg exercises that’ll work best for your bod.

Here’s what she had to say.

5 of the best exercises for your legs

Glute bridges

“The hip hinging movement is really important to work in order to ensure you get excellent activation of the gluteal muscles, aka booty,” Kraschnefski said.

How to do this leg exercise

“Lie on your back on a mat. Lift your hips up into the air and aim to create a straight line between your knees and shoulders. Hold at the top and give the glutes a good squeeze. Lower back to the ground and repeat. Aim for 10-15 reps, 3-4 sets and rest 30-60 seconds in between.”

Kraschnefski shared that over time, you can build on this move by introducing some weight like a medicine ball or dumbbell. Alternatively, you can also give single-leg bridges a shot.

“If you have mastered this and have access to a gym, you can progress to barbell hip thrusts, which are a similar movement but with your shoulders on a bench,” she added.

“Ask a qualified PT to give you a demo.”

Bulgarian Split Lunges

“The elevated split lunge is a powerhouse of a leg workout, with your quads, calves and hamstrings all set to benefit,” Kraschnefski said.

How to do this leg exercise

“Find a bench or step and turn to face away so it is behind you. Step forward like you are going into a lunge, and then raise your back foot up onto the step. Keep your torso upright, brace and activate your core, and start to lower yourself towards the ground, aiming to get your thighs to around horizontal. Push back up through the heel.

“Make sure you keep a strong core and don’t lower down as far if you feel you are unstable. Build your range over time and you have the option to add a weight as you get better at the movement,” she explained.

For this move, Kraschnefski suggested trying for 12-15 per leg, in three or four sets with a 30 to 60-second rest in between.

Sumo Squats

“The Sumo squat is a great variation of the regular squat and really emphasises the inner thigh muscles as well as the glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves,” Kraschnefski highlighted.

How to do this leg and butt exercise

“Set up for a normal squat, and then take your legs a little wider, pointing your toes outwards. Lower the butt towards the ground, and keep your knees tracking over your toes. Really visualise squeezing your thighs and butt on the way up. This squat is also called a ‘Plié Squat’, as in the ballet move, so think about that action as you perform it,” she shared.

If you’d like to build on this move, you can introduce a dumbbell or kettlebell for some added weight. Just hold the weight out in front of you with straight arms as you squat, Kraschnefski suggested.

When using this leg exercise, it’s best to start out at 12-15 reps at three or four sets with 30 to 60 seconds between sets.

Jump squats

“Another variation of a normal squat, the jump squat is a great way to work the legs as well as get your heart rate up,” Kraschnefski said.

How to do this leg and butt exercise

“Start the movement like a normal squat, but instead of just raising the hips up, when you straighten your body, really drive up through the leg muscles and leap into the air. Be careful to land with soft knees,” she explained.

This one isn’t for folks with knee issues, Kraschnefski warned. If you are giving jump squats a try, she suggested 10 to 15 sets and three to four sets, with 30 to 60 seconds of rest between.

Lower body focussed cardio

“Doing cardiovascular training is important to keep our body composition healthy and assist with sculpting the lower body,” Kraschnefski said.

How to do this kind of leg exercise

“Work in 2-3 sessions of your choice of cardio per week.

“Aim to get your heart rate up to the point where you are huffing and puffing a little. If you are outside jogging or walking, you can even stop every 5-10 minutes and add a set of jump squats to really focus on the benefits to legs, as well as keep the heart rate elevated. Choosing a group fitness option like spinning will really work the legs, too.

“Try to build up to 45 minutes to an hour from whatever you can manage today. Just add a few minutes every time you head out!”

If you’re unsure about any exercise moves, you can chat with your doctor or another health professional who can offer advice on what will work for your body. But this selection of leg exercises includes some of the best you can introduce to your regular workout plan.

Give it a try (if you’re comfortable) and see if you enjoy it!

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