Leg day is important and most people have a few go-to moves but the truth is your body can get used to leg workouts if you do them a lot—so according to certified personal trainer Chris Freytag, mixing up your leg workouts with some variations is a great idea! It’ll keep your body guessing, and you’ll never get bored.
Squats and lunges are some of the best bodyweight exercises around. They both target and tone your entire lower body and are staples in leg and butt toning exercise regimens everywhere. We love them because they’re tough, they make you sore, and there are so many variations that can keep your workout interesting.
So below are leg workouts that require no equipment, are most effective, and the variations will activate muscle groups that traditional moves may not. Incorporate these exercises into your leg day workout to tone your legs and feel stronger than ever!
Best Leg Workouts: Squat Variations
We’ve pulled out 7 of the best squat and lunge variations that will build muscle and tone up those legs! Not only are these moves super effective, but they also allow you to switch up your lower-body workout routine from just standard lunges and squats, preventing the inevitable boredom that comes from any workout routine.
Incorporate these moves into your next bodyweight exercise routine and you’ll feel the burn (in a GREAT way!).
Squat jumps are a great plyometric (jumping) movement. Traditional squats are great for building strength and toning the butt and legs, but adding a plyometric element (the jump) will help you build more muscle and burn more fat.
Additionally, balancing your body weight during this move is a major challenge for your abs, allowing you to build strength and stability through your core.
Related: 14 Days To A Better Butt Challenge
The pistol squat is a version of a single-leg squat. In this version, you extend the non-squat leg out in front of you in order to keep the weight of your body focused on your glute muscle in the standing leg.
This leg also promotes good posture during the squat.
This version of a squat focuses on all of the same traditional squat muscles of the legs and glutes and also adds calf work by lifting the heels as you lower and lift your body.
In addition, you work core stability due to the balance needed for this move.
Best Leg Workouts: Lunge Variations
Aside from all the benefits from a regular lunge (glutes, legs), this move adds core strength and a balance challenge by kicking the leg through and ending up standing on one leg with the other leg extended out in front.
You will also use your core stability to bring the leg behind you again and land back in a lunge position. You also use a slightly larger range of motion (up and down) than a traditional lunge, so you are adding more heart rate and cardio challenge to the strength benefits.
Think of the cross behind lunge as more of a single-leg squat. In essence, the leg that drops behind you should not bear any weight. You focus all of your weight on the leg in front, bending that knee and feeling the squeeze in the glute.
In addition, core strength is used to keep you standing in a tall position as you sweep your leg behind you and bend the front knee.
The side lunge strengthens and tones the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Inner thighs are notorious problem areas for so many people, and these squats target that area AND help to shape and lift your booty.
Because this variation has you going side-to-side instead of the traditional up-and-down, you’ll be targeting your inner and outer thighs more effectively. This variation is also much easier on the knees, so it’s great for anyone who struggles with a knee injury or knee pain!
Split jumps are another plyometric exercise that targets your lower body, fires up your heart rate, and allows you to torch calories and fat more quickly than a traditional stationary lunge or squat would.
This particular variation is a blend between strength training and cardio, engages your core, and will help tone up that lower body, one jump at a time!
Best Leg Workouts: Deadlift Variations
The Deadlift works more muscles than any other exercise, including your back, glutes, legs, arms, shoulders and core! This move should be done as often as squats, especially since it works more muscles than a squat.
With the right form, you can get all the benefits and avoid all the injuries. The key is in your posture!
Be sure to keep your spine aligned from top to bottom. Do not bend your back or hunch over. By keeping your eyes looking forward your spine will have a better chance at good, solid posture. In addition, keeping your abs tight and squeezing your glutes will protect your back as well.
Best Leg Workouts: Glute Bridge Variations
The Glute Bridge is one of the most effective exercises to tone the glutes and the hamstrings. This lower body workout isolates and strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, the core stability muscles, the hip muscles, the lower back muscles, and strengthens the stabilization of the spinal cord.
Glute bridges work nearly every lower body muscle including glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves as well as your core. An exercise that is a great replacement for lunges or squats if those are not friendly on the knees!
Single Leg Hamstring Bridge is a great exercise that strengthens the hamstrings, glutes, core and lower back. If you learn how to do Bridge Pose you will have a no squat, no lunge way of strengthening and lifting your booty and sculpting your legs!
When practicing the Single Leg Hamstring Bridge try and keep your hips lifted and even from right to left. It is common for one side to slightly tilt, but with strength from your hamstring, glute and especially your core, you can work on keeping your body stable and centered.
Best Leg Workouts: Leg Lift Variations
The leg lift is an exercise that will strengthen and tone your glutes, build stability in your core, and help you tone your booty for a more firm back side!
This version of leg lifts is done kneeling on all fours. Be sure to have a soft surface such as a mat to perform this move on. Don’t choose one that is too thick, however, or you may have trouble balancing.
As you lift and lower your leg, be sure to originate the movement at your glutes. In other words, squeeze your butt! This is the best way to know you are activating the glute muscle as you should be. It is often difficult for many people to get their glute muscle to “fire” – or activate.
The Pliè Leg Lift is a unique lower-body move because of the placement of your feet and the opening of your hips. Because of the difference in the feet’s positions, different muscles are worked. When you move your legs in towards your body you highly target the toning of your inner thighs.
Other added benefits to the Pliè Leg Lifts are that they create a stronger sense of balance and increase flexibility, this is due to the fact that you are putting your body into a new alignment. This new alignment increases your need to master your balance in order to keep from swaying out of the Pliè position.
Side Plank Pose With Leg Lift takes a Side Plank one step deeper. While a Side Plank Pose is a pose of strength for the abs, Side Plank Pose With Leg Lift adds a new intensity to that strength challenge.
By lifting the top leg up you not only remove some of the muscles used in that top leg that are helping to hold your body up, but you add the additional weight of that leg to the mix. Side Plank Pose With Leg Lift builds strength in your shoulder, arm oblique muscles and hip.