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?
It sucks. Plain and simple.
And there are a ton of reasons why you could be suffering from knee pain (reasons I will be getting to at a later date).
But no matter why you have the pain, it generally causes you to avoid leg exercises that could help you develop stronger, more powerful legs.
Lunges and squats generally cause pain. And even traditional deadlifts or sumo deadlifts may be uncomfortable.
But just because you have knee pain doesn’t mean you can skip leg day.
Actually when you have knee pain, you NEED to develop stronger legs, especially stronger glutes. Strengthening your glutes can often help alleviate knee pain (even though weak glutes are not necessarily the direct cause of knee pain).
Single leg deadlifts and straight leg deadlifts can both be great options. If your knee pain is a result of a previous ankle injury, single leg deadlifts can be a great way to also work on and improve your balance.
HOWEVER, I have found that one of the most torturous standing glute exercises isn’t a variation of the deadlift, it is the Anterior Reach Lunge by Nick Tumminello.
This move is so great that I love using it even with uninjured people. It seriously is a deceptively hard move and one that is sure to make your butt SO SORE the first time you do it.
How to do the Anterior Reach Lunge:
1. Start standing with your feet together. Beginners should start with bodyweight while more advanced lifters can hold weights by their sides. Intermediate lifters or people suffering from low back pain may want to do the lunge with a front reach instead of adding weight.
2. Step forward with one foot. Beginners can keep the step forward smaller. A bigger step forward will make the move more difficult.
3. Step forward and bend the front knee slightly as you hinge over. All of your weight should basically be in your front leg with your back leg used for balance and support.
4. While you are stepping forward, your weight shouldn’t continue to go forward as you hinge over. Your front heel should be firmly on the ground while your back leg stays straight.
5. Your back should also be flat as you lean/hinge over.
6. The more you lean over, the harder the move. DO NOT ROUND YOUR BACK TOWARD THE GROUND. It doesn’t matter if the weights touch the ground or if you can only lean over a little bit. It only matters that you push the butt back, keep the core engaged and the back flat as you hinge over.
7. If you do the reach instead of holding weights, you will reach your hands overhead and in front of you as you hinge over. Do not round as you reach.
8. Feel a nice stretch in your glute and hamstring as you hinge over. Make sure your weight isn’t going forward into your front toe. The heel of the front foot should be firmly planted on the ground. After you hinge over, stand up and step back.
9. You can choose to complete all reps on one side or alternate legs as you go.
Knee pain is no excuse to skip leg day, especially GLUTE DAY. For more great glute strengthening moves that could help alleviate your knee pain, check out these 10 Mini Band Moves.
P.S. For some reason this move does really make me think of the bend and snap…Anyone else get that!?!
Riding 17 miles and going for a long run weren’t enough to keep me from struggling through my first two workouts after a nice long, relaxing vacation.
Nope. Those first two workouts back always suck.
You don’t feel as strong AND you feel way more sore than you should the next day.
Yesterday, I decided to push through a back and chest workout. Why bench is definitely not my favorite thing, the worst exercises were definitely the decline push ups, TRX back flyes and decline climbers.
Barbell Flat Bench 5 sets of 3 reps
Pull ups 5 sets of 5
Decline Push Ups 3 sets of 15
1 arm dumbbell row 3 sets of 10 each side
DB Chest Flyes 3 sets of 10
TRX Back Flyes 3 sets of 10
Decline climbers 3 sets of 10
Front to side raises 3 sets of 10
TRX Inverted Rows 3 sets of 10
Tricep pushdown 3 sets of 15
Isolated Bicep curl 3 sets of 10 each side
Cable curl 3 sets of 15
Ab roller 3 sets of 10
So after yesterday I definitely wanted to avoid upper body today. So instead we murdered our legs.
Heavy Back Squats 5 sets of 3
Conventional Deadlift 5 sets of 10
Box Jumps 5 sets of 10
Cocktail Lunges 3 sets of 5 each side
KB Single Leg Squats 3 sets of 8 each side
Romanian Deadlift 3 sets of 10
Sumo Squat 3 sets of 10
And to finish the workout we did plank holds (front plank, side planks and glute bridges).
All in all two very intense first workouts back. Hey might as well dive right back into it right!?!
So yesterday I started a new cycle of creatine AND I hit a new PR on deadlift! So did Candy! YAY! 🙂
Of course, along with the new PR came about 2 pounds of water weight. haha
While I do think creatine is the reason for the weight gain, I don’t really think the creatine had any influence on yesterday’s lift since I just started it again. BUT hopefully it will help me gain a bit more strength over the next couple of weeks!
I like creatine…it is worth spending a bit of extra cash on…every once in a while.
BUT what is worth spending money on CONSTANTLY is glucosamine/chondroitin. I started having a bit of knee pain from all the spin I’d been teaching (along with all the super heavy lifting) so I decided it was time to give a joint health supplement a shot.
A glucosamine supplement should improve your joint health since glucosamine is a precursor for glycosaminoglycans, and glycosaminoglycans are a major component of joint cartilage. SO supplemental glucosamine may help to prevent cartilage degeneration and treat arthritis!
And let me tell you something amazing about the glucosamine/chondroitin supplement I took…I haven’t had ANY…I repeat ANY knee pain since!
So if you have some knee problems, give a glucosamine chondroitin supplement a shot. It isn’t a miracle pill but it DEFINITELY helped me!
Also, here is our wonderful workout from yesterday!
Barbell RDLs paired with Inverted Row
Walking lunges paired with Lat pushdowns
Leg Extension paired with High Row Machine
Leg Curl paired with Upright Rows
There is something addicting about heavy lifting. I think it’s the thrill of lifting something that weighs more than you.
But it is also an addiction to the adrenaline rush that follows a successful heavy lift (I’m so addicted that it even keeps me coming back after several failures).
And Candy and Brian have the bug too. We all can’t help it.
We can’t resist lifting heavy even if we don’t like the lift! Candy hates heavy back squats and Brian just hates doing legs in general (I happen to LOVE leg day..but then again I’m not so fond of bench) BUT we all still pushed ourselves to lift our max yesterday.
Candy got so close to a new PR of 190 and Brian lifted so much the bar was bending (which makes me nervous to spot him!). While I didn’t hit a new PR, I did manage to squat 200lbs! 🙂
We just can’t resist pushing ourselves to lift more even if we aren’t feeling it that day!
On top of the heavy squat sets, Candy and I did the workout below. Brian did his own but he did suffer through balance lunges (preacher squats, Bulgarian squats…whatever you want to call them) just for me (he absolutely HATES THEM) haha 😉
Candy and my bubble butt workout from yesterday:
Heavy squats with max out
Balance lunges with 35lbs in each hand (We love our green kettlebells)
Kettlebell Swings 60lbs
Cocktail lunges with 35lbs in each hand (Lunge forward and back for one rep)
Romanian Deadlifts 70lbs
Step Ups with 24lbs in each hand
Sumo Squats 50lbs
Side Band walks (A little abductor and glute work)
Adduction on sliders (This exercise looks very very odd. You kneel on the sliders, do small splits and then pull your knees back together.)
Yea lots of stuff..my butt and hamstrings are happy today! 🙂