I like to think i’m a bit of an “expert” when it comes to effective leg exercises. I LOVE, my leg workouts. I love how they make me sweat, I love that all the exercises are complex and functional, and I love how I feel the next couple days afterwards (super sore and jello-y).

When I train at the gym, I pretty much always use the barbell. Whether I’m doing squats, front squats, deadlifts, the barbell is my BFF.

However there are plenty of times that I have been sans barbell. When i’m training at my gym in my condo, when i’m training at my FRIENDS gym in her condo, or when i’m training outside with only my dumbbells. When i’m stuck without my barbells, I accept it without batting an eyelash.

And that’s because I have three secret weapons up my sleeve that are just as functional, and just as fun as my barbell exercises! These three effective leg exercises always make their way into a workout and, in addition to my squats, are key to developing a strong lower body.

Bulgarian Lunges

This exercise is hands. down. my favorite leg exercise because it can be insanely tough. It is a uni-lateral movement means you are using only one limb to perform the exercise. This is especially helpful if you have a weaker side, or have deficiencies that you may be hiding in bi-lateral exercises i.e. back squat

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How to:

  • Find a box that is about 1-2 ft high (depending on your strength) and stand facing away from it.
  • Place your left foot on the box, so you are pressing the top of your foot down onto it. Your right foot should be planted in front of you, about 2 feet away.
  • Lower your body down to the ground, keeping your weight on the heel of your front foot. Your knee should stay behind your toes, and your torso remains upright.
  • Pause at the bottom of the movement, when your front leg reaches a 90 degree angle.
  • Press through your heel of the front foot, squeeze your glutes, and extend your legs back to the starting position.

Goblet Squats

Goblet squats target your entire lower body, but most ESPECIALLY your glutes! I also love it because of the depth of the exercise – you are going lower than you would in a normal squat, without sacrificing form. Also, holding the dumbbell by your chest forces your upper body to stay upright, while working those abdominals!

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How to:

  • Grab a dumbbell that is a challenging weight for you, but one that you can perform between 6-10 reps comfortably with.
  • Hold the weight up by your chin with both hands (I like to rest it slightly against my chest), and feet wider than shoulder width apart. Toes pointed out slightly.
  • Bend at the hips and knees, keeping your chest up. Stop once your elbows are almost touching the insides of your knees.
  • Pause for a half second, then press through your heels and squeeze your glutes. Extend your legs and drive your hips through the movement

Box Jumps

Box jumps have been a staple in my workout regime ever since I started playing rugby. Why? Because they are explosive and powerful! They are an exercise that every athlete should be utilizing. Box jumps are a progressive exercise as the height can be continually increased. The tempo at which you do this exercise also changes – they can be done slowly and carefully, or turned into a cardio exercise and completed quickly one after the other.

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How to:

  • Find a box at a height that you are comfortable jumping onto, but is still challenging.
  • Bend at the hips and knees, and bring your arms behind torso, to use for momentum.
  • Jump explosively off the ground and onto the box, landing lightly on your toes. Swing your arms back to the front of your body at the same time.
  • Land softly, with a slight bend in your knees.
  • From here you can either step down, foot by foot, or jump back down landing in a squat position.

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