Level up your LEG DAY with these 10 BEST lower body exercises that get results!
A lower body STRENGTH workout you can do at home with a set of dumbbells and optional resistance band.
And because we receive messages and emails daily about people struggling with lunges hurting their knees — this lower body workout contains all of the best leg exercises, NO lunges.
These 10 best lower body exercises also make a GREAT pregnancy leg workout; especially if you struggle with SPD/pelvic girdle pain and are trying to avoid lunges or single leg exercises.
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Lower Body Exercises FAQs
What Are The Best Lower Body Exercises?
Squats, lunges, deadlifts, hip thrusts — the best lower body exercises are compound movements that target multiple muscle groups. Pair these compound exercises with complimentary isolation exercises like abductor pulses and calf raises. The result is an efficient muscle-building workout that targets BOTH the larger leg muscles and smaller stabilizing muscles.
What Is The Best Leg Workout?
When structuring a leg workout, I like to include hip-dominant exercises (deadlifts, RDLs, swings) that target the posterior chain or hamstrings, glutes and low back. And knee-dominant exercises (squats and lunges) that target the anterior chain or legs, thighs, quads and core. This keeps your workout balanced and ensures you’re hitting all the major muscle groups on the front side and backside of the body.
Is This A Good Pregnancy Leg Workout Routine?
YES! I filmed these 10 best leg exercises for beginners in my second trimester of pregnancy. While this leg workout is challenging for anyone; it specifically makes a great pregnancy leg workout.
10 BEST Lower Body Exercises
All you need is a set of dumbbells and an optional resistance band to build a strong lower body at home.
These are the 10 best lower body exercises with weights; no fancy gym equipment or barbell needed.
I suggest adding this leg workout to your workout routine 1-2 times a week for best results. Strive to increase your weights each time you repeat this workout.
Targets: Hamstrings, gluteus maximus, erector spinae and lower back muscles.
Good morning exercises are a great way to improve your hip-hinging form. A great lower body exercise for beginners to master prior to working on deadlifts.
How To Do A Good Morning
Start in a standing position, feet shoulder-width apart, core engaged, hands placed behind your head. Option to add weight by resting one dumbbell, horizontally, on your upper back, neck and shoulders. Holding each head of the dumbbell with one hand.
With a slight bend in your knees, hinge forward at the hips until your torso is parallel to the ground. Core engaged and spine neutral (back flat).
You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings (back of the legs) at the bottom of the movement.
Reverse the movement, driving through your heels to stand tall, returning to starting position (torso upright).
Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, quads, lower back and core muscles.
What is the difference between a back squat and front squat? Back squats target more of the posterior chain, or the back of your body (lower back, glutes and hamstrings). Whereas, front squats target more of the anterior chain, or the front of your body (quads and upper back).
How To Do A Back Squat
Start in a standing position, feet hip-width apart or slightly wider, core engaged. Place one dumbbell, horizontally, on your upper back, neck and shoulders. Holding each head of the dumbbell with one hand.
With chest up, lower down into a squat, pushing your hips back and down until your hips align with your knees (making a 90-degree angle with your hips and knees). Knees push out towards your outer three toes.
Then exhale as you drive through your heels, squeezing your glutes to stand tall and return to the starting position.
Banded Lateral Walks
Targets: Glutes, specifically the gluteus medius (the outer part of your butt used for side-to-side movements), quads, hamstrings, and hip abductors.
A GREAT exercise to build strong and healthy hips and knees.
How To Do Banded Lateral Walks
Place a resistance band six inches above your knees. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips to create tension across the band (activating your glutes).
Bend your knees to lower down into a loaded squat position. Weight in heels, chest up.
Hold this loaded squat position as you take one lateral step to your right; stretching the band as far as you can.
Tap your left foot in, bringing it towards your right foot, maintaining a low squat position.
Then, step out with your left leg, maintaining tension across the band before bringing your right leg to the left to meet your outside foot.
Alternating Squat Thrusters
Targets: Legs, glutes, hamstring, quads, hips, shoulders, abs and core.
Squat thrusts can add a cardio element to your leg workouts, increasing your heart rate.
How To Do Alternating Squat Thrusters
Start standing, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold one dumbbell in each hand at your shoulders (front-rack position, overhand grip, palms facing in).
With your weight in your heels, sit your hips back as you lower into a squat, striving for a 90-degree angle between your hips and knees.
Then, drive through your heels, squeezing your glutes to stand tall. As you stand, perform a single arm squat thruster, pressing the dumbbell in your right hand straight overhead.
Bring the weight back down to shoulder height and perform another squat.
This time, as you stand, alternate to perform a squat and single arm thruster on the left arm.
Goblet Squat To Bench
Targets: Legs, glutes, quads, hips adductors and abductors and core.
How To Do A Goblet Squat To Bench
Start standing about one foot in front of a chair or bench; feet shoulder-width apart. Hold one dumbbell vertically at your chest in a goblet-hold.
Bend your knees and sit your hips back towards the bench (as if sitting down in a chair).
Once your butt reaches the bench, with legs bent at 90 degrees, rest your butt on the bench for a moment. Simultaneously, lift your heels off the ground for a moment.
Then, re-plant your feet on the ground and press through your heels to stand tall, driving your hips forward to return to standing.
Seated Abductor Pulse
Targets: Hip abductor muscles (which includes the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae or TFL).
How To Do A Seated Abductor Pulse
Start sitting on a chair or bench, knees bent at 90 degrees, feet flat on the ground.
Place a resistance band about six inches above your knees to increase intensity.
Push your knees out away from your body, stretching the band until you feel your outer glutes and hips working.
Then with control, bring your knees back to starting position before pulsing out again.
Sumo Squat and Clean Squat
Targets: Legs, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, adductors (inner thighs) and core.
How To Do A Sumo Squat and Clean Squat
Start in a wide stance, feet outside of hips, heels in and toes pointed out (sumo squat stance). Hold one dumbbell horizontally in your hands between your legs.
Bend your knees to lower down into a sumo squat, pushing your knees out towards your outer three toes as you drop your hips parallel to your knees.
Pause for a moment at the bottom of your sumo squat, then drive through your heels, squeezing your glutes and inner thighs to return to standing.
As you return to standing, ‘clean’ the dumbbell up towards your shoulders. Think about getting under the dumbbell to catch it — this is a dumbbell clean.
Then, lower your hips down to perform another sumo squat, this time holding the dumbbell at your chest.
Deadlift and Calf Raise
Targets: The posterior chain or backside of the body. Specifically targeting the hamstrings, glutes, hips, calves, lower back and core.
How To Do A Deadlift And Calf Raise
Start standing feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your thighs (overhand grip, palms face your body).
Hinge forward at the hips, pushing your hips back as you lower the dumbbells down along the front of your body. You should feel a stretch in the back of your legs (hamstrings). Focus on keeping your back in neutral alignment with your neck and shoulders throughout the entire movement (straight line from head to tailbone). Keep a slight bend in your knees to avoid ‘locking out’ the joint.
Then, drive through your heels, squeezing your glutes as you drive your hips forward to return to standing.
As you stand tall, perform a calf raise; lifting your heels off the ground.
Lower your heels back to the mat to return to the starting position with feet flat on the ground.
Hand Switch Lateral Squats
Targets: Glutes (gluteus medius), quads, hip adductors (inner thighs), hamstrings and core.
How To Do A Hand Switch Lateral Squat
Start standing, feet wider than shoulder-width (lateral squat stance), with toes facing forward or slightly turned out. Hold one dumbbell in your left hand.
Sit your hips back, bending your right knee while leaving your left leg straight. Think of performing a single leg squat with your right leg while your left leg remains straight. Dumbbell comes to the inside of the right foot; knees and toes are pointing forward.
Then, drive off your right foot to reverse the movement, pushing back to center. As you hit center, switch the dumbbell to your right hand.
Immediately push to the left side, bending your left knee while leaving your right leg straight. This time, think of performing a single leg squat with your left leg while your right leg remains straight.
Repeat alternating the hand switch lateral squat.
Targets: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, hips and calves.
Squat jacks are a lower-body strength and power exercise that improves hip mobility and cardiovascular endurance.
How To Do Squat Jacks
Start in a standing position feet hip-width apart, core engaged, shoulders over hips.
“Jack” your feet out wide as you drop your butt down into a wide squat. Aim to bring your hands to touch the ground if that’s available to you.
Explosively stand tall, squeezing your inner thighs as you “jack” your legs back together, and return to standing.
Think, wide at the bottom, narrow at the top.
Modification: Option to make this a low impact leg exercise by omitting the jumping jack and instead performing side-to-side squat tap downs.
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