A bit ago I did a post with the 10 Best Bodyweight Upper Body Moves and today I wanted to take a second and go over 10 of the best lower body moves.
Bodyweight exercises are great to have on hand this time of year – when we are traveling, busy with family and the holidays and generally a little bit lazier about going outside on the weekends because it is cold.
The 10 Bodyweight Lower Body Exercises below don’t require much space and can easily be done in the comfort of your own home! (Shoot…they could even easily be used to create a home workout that the whole family can do together while gathered around for the holidays!)
1. Single Leg Deadlift (with slow eccentric) – Stand on one foot with the knee of that standing leg slightly bent. Hinge over at your hips, sweeping the other leg back toward the wall behind you. Pretend you are driving the heel of that foot straight into the wall behind you. Lean forward with your upper body as you hinge forward, keeping the back nice and flat. Make sure that as you hinge, you are sitting into the heel of your standing leg. Do not lean forward and come up onto your toes. To stand back up, drive through the heel of your standing leg and squeeze your glute at the top. Try not to tap the other foot down at all or at least not till you are fulling standing. Complete all reps on one side before switching to the other leg. To make the move harder, slow down your hinge over. Take 3-5 seconds to hinge over before you quickly stand back up. You can even slow down the stand back up or hold for a second or two while hinged over.
2. Single Leg Deadlift Hop – Stand on one leg. Hinge over, pushing your butt back and leaning your chest forward. Swing the leg off the ground back toward the wall behind you. Keep your back flat as you hinge over. Hinge over quickly, bending the standing leg just a little. Then quickly drive back up to standing, bringing your chest up nice and tall. As you drive up, explode up off the ground and drive the back leg forward, bringing the knee up. Then land back on the same leg and hinge back over before jumping back up. As you hinge over and drive up, you may want to swing your arms as if running with the opposite arm and leg working together. Make sure that as you hinge over your weight is in the heel of your standing leg. You want to also drive off that heel to really power your hop up.
3. Balance Lunge – Place your back foot up on a table, bench, chair or box. Hop your front foot out so you are in a nice wide stance with your back foot up on the bench or table. Then sink down, dropping your back knee toward the ground. Really sit back into the lunge. Make sure you aren’t going forward and that your weight is in your front heel and your front knee is not going past your toe. You should feel a nice stretch in the front of the leg that is back when doing this move. Beginners may want to use a super low box or do the move from the ground as a split squat.
4. Single Leg Squat – Choose a variation of the single leg squat that is right for you. Beginners may use a table or chair while more advanced lifters may use a doorway or a super low table or chair. If you can do a full pistol squat or use a plate weight to counter balance you, do that variation. Choose as hard a variation as you can do. To perform the basic single leg squat to a table, you will start by standing on one leg. Hold the other leg straight out in front of you. Lower yourself down until you are sitting on the table. Then driving off the heel on the ground, stand back up. Do not lean way forward or touch your raised foot to the ground. If you use a table, the more you allow yourself to sit down, the easier the move will be. The more you just lightly touch the table and come right back up, the harder the move will be. Also the lower the table you use or the lower down you go on any variation, the harder the move will be.
5. Towel Lunges – Side Lunges, Reverse Lunges, Curtsy Lunges…All can be made more difficult by putting a towel under the foo that is moving. For more details about the towel lunges, click here (and some other great towel exercises!).
6. Skater Series – You can do a hold, side touches or even backward touches. For the hold, place your feet no more than a couple of inches apart. Sink down as low as you can, sitting your butt back while keeping your chest up. This squat is very similar to the chair pose in yoga. Do not let your back round and try to sink as low as possible, getting as close to parallel as possible. Hold in that low squat. To do the touches, once you sink down as low as possible with your chest up, you are then going to tap one toe at a time out to the side. You should stay low in the squat and not shift your weight. Keep your weight centered over the standing leg. Straighten the other leg out to tap the toe to the side. Do not let your weight shift as you touch. All your weight is in the standing leg. Alternate toe touches to each side until the time is up. For the backward touches, you are then going to tap one toe at a time backward. You should stay low in the squat and not shift your weight backwards as you lunge back. Keep your weight centered over the standing leg. Straighten the other leg back and just tap the toe. Do not let your weight shift into the foot touching back as you touch. All your weight is in the standing leg as if you are holding the isometric squat still. Do not come out of the squat as you touch back.
7. Glute Bridge (Off Table/Chair) – Beginners should do a single leg bridge from the ground or even a two leg bridge if they can’t get their hips up as high with the single leg bridge. Intermediate exercisers may want to do a two leg glute bridge with their heels up on the table. The single leg glute bridge off the table is an advanced progression. To do the glute bridge off the table, place your heels up on the table. Your butt should be right against the edge of the table. Bend your arms to 90 degrees with just your upper arm on the ground. Lift one leg up and point the toe toward the ceiling. Do not bend that leg or use it to help you bridge up. Drive through the heel on the table and press your hips up as high as you can. Squeeze your glutes and keep your core tight as you bridge up. Hold for a second or two and then lower down. Complete all reps on one side before switching.
8. Kneeling with Jump to Squat – This is an advanced move. It may be a challenge for many beginners to even do a step up from kneeling. To do the kneeling jump to squat, start on your knees with your knees about hip-width apart. Flex your feet. Sit your butt back and swing your arms back a bit so you are slightly hinged over. Hinge back and launch yourself from your knees up onto your feet in a low squat. Then stand all the way up. Once you are standing tall, step one foot back and come back to kneeling. As soon as you are kneeling again, hinge a little and jump back up to your feet. If you have a nice mat, you can jump back to kneeling, but this is not recommended unless you have a really nice mat.
9. Reverse Hypers – Lie face down on a table. Make sure your hips are right at the edge. Hold on to something in front of you if you want. Keep your upper body relaxed. Squeeze your legs together and point your toes out. Lift your legs to basically parallel to the ground, keeping your legs straight. Do not hyperextend your back and lift way higher than parallel. You do not want to feel this in your low back. Hold for 2-5 seconds and then lower down. Keep your core tight and really squeeze your glutes as you lift. If you don’t have a table to lie on, you can do this from the ground. Lie on the ground and relax your upper body. With your legs straight and heels together, lift your legs up as high as you can. Squeeze your glutes and get your quads off the ground.
10. Lunge Matrix (or part of it) – The lunge matrix basically tells you that you can lunge in every direction – forward, forward at an angle, to the side, back at an angle, straight back, back and crossed behind and even forward and crossed in front. If you think as yourself as lunging on a clock, you can literally lunge all the way around the clock. Sometimes I like to combine two or three lunges in a sequence. Or you can do a 360 lunge series, combining all seven and lunging around the clock!
Of course any jumping moves are also great options to help you challenge yourself without any weight. Squat jumps, skater hops, split squat jumps, tuck jumps are all also great options!
What are your favorite lower body moves to do at home?