Whether you love them or hate them, leg workouts deserve a spot in your weekly exercise plans. After all, strengthening your legs can bolster your balance, improve your posture and even boost your metabolism.
You don’t need to go to the gym to train your legs either. This workout from David Wiener, training and nutrition specialist at fitness app Freeletics, will help you build muscle and power without any equipment at all.
“Leg workouts can be intense, but they don’t have to be,” Wiener says. “On the Freeletics app we have numerous lower body workouts, suitable for any fitness level which you can incorporate into your workout regime without feeling like it’s a chore.”
David Wiener is a training and nutrition specialist for the fitness app Freeletics. He is also a level 3 personal trainer and believes that integrating fitness into your everyday life is vital for your health and wellbeing.
Freeletics' 20-minute bodyweight leg workout
Wiener’s session includes a circuit of five moves: squat jumps, lunges, squats, split lunges and table twists. To try it for yourself, perform all exercises for 40 seconds each, resting for 20 seconds between every one.
Wiener says you can complete one round of this five-move circuit to add a bite-size bit of movement to your day, or repeat it a further three times for a 20-minute session.
If you’re new to any of the exercises, read on to find out how to perform them with good form, and what the benefits are of each one.
1. Squat jumps (40 seconds on, 20 seconds off)
“This exercise is great because it’s a total body workout, but especially good for the lower body. It can help build muscle and enhance strength, as well as boost your cardiovascular fitness, tone your lower body, strengthen bones, boost your circulation and burn many calories.”
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed slightly outwards.
- Keep your back straight and lower yourself by bending your knees until your hips are below your knees.
- Jump straight up so both feet leave ground and then return to the starting position before repeating.
2. Lunges (40 seconds on, 20 seconds off)
“Lunges are a great exercise to increase the muscle mass in your lower body while building up your strength and toning. Not only this, they also help to improve your posture, balance and range of motion.
"A lot of [leg] exercises put strain on your spine, but lunges give your spine a chance to relax while working many of the larger muscles in the lower body.”
- Stand upright with your hands on your hips.
- Throughout this move, keep your shoulders directly above your hips.
- Step forward with one foot and bend your back knee so it touches the ground below your hip.
- Push through your front foot to return to the starting position.
- Then repeat, swapping the leg that steps forward each rep.
3. Squats (40 seconds on, 20 seconds off)
“A normal squat has similar benefits to a jumping squat but doesn't provide so much of a cardio hit. This won't burn as many calories as a jumping squat, but it's still a great exercise to put your quadricep group of muscles to work.
"There’s a misconception that squats put too much pressure and strain on your knees, but squats will actually strengthen your knees and make them less prone to injury as you get older.”
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing slightly outward.
- Lower your torso by bending your knees, keeping your back straight and your weight towards the heels of your feet.
- Lower until your hips sit below your knees and hold briefly.
- Then, rise back up to the starting position. Repeat this pattern until the time runs out.
4. Split lunges (40 seconds on, 20 seconds off)
“Much like the normal lunge, split lunges are a great way to work your quads, glutes, hips and hamstrings. They are a unilateral exercise (meaning they only train one side of your body at a time) they are proven to increase your balance and posture too.
Many people have tight hip flexor muscles, but another advantage of performing split lunges is they will help you improve the mobility of these muscles.”
- Stand upright and step forward with one foot.
- At the same time, bend your back knee to touch the ground below your hip.
- Keep your shoulders stacked above your hips throughout this movement.
- Explosively jump up, landing so your legs have swapped positions.
- Make sure your feet leave ground at same time.
5. Table twists (40 seconds on, 20 seconds off)
“Table twists are simple to perform and will stretch out all the major muscle groups in your body, helping to boost flexibility and enhance range of motion.”
- Start with your hands below your shoulders, heels below the knees, and hips on the ground.
- Push up until your hips are in line with your shoulders and knees.
- Reach one hand up and behind you.
- Return to the starting position, keeping your arms straight throughout.
- Swap sides with each rep.
What are the benefits of this leg workout?
Your legs support your body throughout the day, but strengthening your lower body has several important benefits. "[Strengthening your legs is] beneficial and vital for making daily tasks, such as walking, easier on us," Wiener explains.
"Performing these exercises not only improves your stability, but it is a chain reaction on the rest of your body for helping improve your strength and posture." Plus, working this area of your body can help hit your other fitness goals.
"Your lower body is where most of your largest muscles are, which means they are burning more calories [when active than smaller muscle groups], which is great for weight loss," says Wiener.
"The better developed your lower body is, the faster your resting metabolism will be, meaning you will be burning calories long after partaking in exercise. [Which is why this lower body session] will help you build muscle in your lower body."
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Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.
Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.
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