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LEG WORKOUTS AT HOME

PERSONAL BACKGROUND

As a teenager, my legs were developing much faster than my upper body, most likely due to running up and down a basketball court every day. I only began weight training to bring my arms / chest / back / shoulders into a reasonable proportion with my lower body.

One leg was (and is) slightly shorter than the other, by about 1/4″. This created a noticeable “hitch” in my walk and later made marching in R.O.T. C., dancing, etc. more difficult.

I only mention this to suggest that a “cookie cutter” approach to improving one’s physique is impractical. This is another reason that I am now doing articles on body part specialization….and giving options rather than dogma.

One more disclaimer: professional or obsessive bodybuilding is not within the content of my posts. And certainly enhancement by “juicing” is foreign to this subject matter. There seems to sometimes be a thin line of distinction between one who wants to improve his / her physical health and appearance vs. a narcissist who spends time flexing or preening before a mirror.

But if you are changing your body for the better at any age, you will certainly like what you see in a mirror, especially if you are “pumped up” after a good workout.

Let’s pause briefly to admire Heidi Klum’s slender legs.

Back to my earlier background, with apologies for rambling. As I was able to approximately equalize my upper body to my legs, I began to do heavy squats and calf raises. Later, as I went to gyms, I generally would alternate upper body days with leg days, doing abdominal exercises every day.

My leg work included leg presses, leg extensions, leg curls and calf raises, as heavy as possible. These were on Nautilus and similar machines.

At this point, I rarely go to gyms, though I have a free YMCA membership. I spend about an hour each morning on my workout before breakfast, doing abdominal work every day, but otherwise spacing muscle groups day to day. This suits me much better because I am then free to begin my day without the travel time and waiting time at machines associated with gyms.

Of course, we need sufficient equipment for home workouts, though not much money need be spent.

GENERAL LEG ANATOMY

For purposes of this instruction, we will be simplifying leg parts to the following:

  • quadriceps (thigh muscles, in front of leg)
  • hamstrings (or leg biceps, in back of leg)
  • gastrocnemius and soleus (calf muscles)
  • glutes

QUADRICEPS

Bodyweight exercises:

  • Squat with pause – squat to a comfortable low level. Hold that position for about 10 seconds. Then rise and repeat.
  • Jump squats – squat down, with feet outside shoulders, knees behind toes. Then jump up. Land in squat position and repeat.
  • Wall sit – stand about a foot in front of a wall. Lean back against the wall in a sitting position, with back flat. Hold position for about 30 seconds. It’s not easy!
  • Forward lunge – with feet together, take a big step forward and lower your body to the floor, knee above your ankle. Then push forward with the extended leg to a standing position. Repeat with the other leg.

    Resistance cords:

    • Squat – stand on the middle point of your cords, approximately at the arch of each foot. Hold the handles with each hand. Take up the slack if necessary by pointing the handles upward. Otherwise, hold the handles at your sides with arms straight. Bend your knees to a squat until your thighs are parallel with the surface.
    • Leg press – sit on the floor, with one leg bent and that foot flat on the floor. The other leg is bent, but with the resistance cord securely at the arch of that foot. Then press forward against the resistance with both hands holding handles. Your foot should be in line with your hip as you press that leg forward. Then repeat with the other leg.

    Dumbbells:

    • Walking lunges – note forward lunge description under “Bodyweight exercises” above. Do this with dumbbells in each hand. Move forward for a short distance as you lunge and rise to a standing position. Then proceed with the other leg leading.
    • Sumo squat – while standing, place a dumbbell on its end as you straddle it. Then squat downward and grab the dumbbell as you rise up, chest forward. Then squat again and replace the dumbbell. Repeat.

    Bullworker:

    • Leg presslie on the floor with one leg pointing upward and that foot placed securely within the cable of a Steel Bow or Bow Classic. Cable should be placed at the arch of your foot. Press that leg upward from a bent knee position against the resistance. Keep arms still. Repeat for the desired reps – maybe 10. Then repeat with the other leg.

    HAMSTRINGS

    Bodyweight:

    • Inchworms – begin in a push – up position. Walk feet toward hands with legs straight until stretch in back of legs is felt. Then walk hands forward until original position is reached. In a small space, you may be inching forward and backward or in circles.

    Resistance cords:

    • Lie down on your back, with one leg extended upward, your hip at a 90 degree angle. Place the middle of your resistance cord around the arch of your foot. Take up slack if necessary by shortening the length of the cord and by holding by the cords and not the handles. Pull on the cord to create and increase tension on the hamstrings. Hold for 30 seconds.

      Dumbbells:

      • Deadlift – hold dumbbells in each hand. Bend over with knees slightly bent and dumbbells at your sides. Then gravity will take over as the dumbbells almost reach the surface. Rise and repeat.
      • Good mornings – place a dumbbell behind your head as you grip it with both hands. Then bend over. The effect will be different from that of the deadlift since the center of gravity has changed.

      Bullworker :

      • Deadlift on ground – sit on floor with both feet securely within the lower cable of either the Steel Bow or Bow Classic, knees slightly bent and back straight. Then rise against the resistance, using your lower back.

      CALF MUSCLES

      Bodyweight:

      • Calf raise – stand near a wall for support. Raise your heels by pressing downward at the balls of your feet. Be sure that your ankles, knees and hips are in alignment. Do 10 – 20 reps.
      • Use stair step – as you do the above movements. This will add a longer and better stretch.

      Resistance cords :

      • Place the middle of the cord securely under your feet as you sit on the floor. Be sure that you have sufficient tension. Then press against the resistance to engage the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of the calves. Do one leg at a time or both. Either is okay.

      Dumbbells :

      • Calf raise – hold dumbbells in each hand in a standing position. Let them hang by your sides. Raise heels by pushing your toes down – explosively. Flex calf muscles at the top of the movement, then lower your feet. Continue as long as you can.

      Bullworker :

      • Calf extension – from a seated position, place one foot at a time securely within the lower cable of the Bow Classic. Pull back on the upper cable. Point your toes against the resistance. Be sure to keep toes pointed throughout. Perform as many reps as you can and then switch to the other foot.

      Note the calf development below –





      GLUTES

      Bodyweight :

      • Straight leg kickbacks – set up on your hands and knees. Flex your feet, heels back and toes forward. With arms straight, extend one leg back. Squeeze your glutes as your leg is raised and kicked back. Feel your hips extend and your glutes engage. Hold for a couple of seconds. Do 10 -20 reps and then repeat with the other leg.

      Resistance cords :

      • Donkey kicks – with hands and elbows on the ground, hold both handles of the resistance cords. Place the center of the cord securely behind one foot. If necessary to add tension, grip the cords below the handles. Then extend the keg being worked backward. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat 12 – 15 times and then switch to the other leg.

      Dumbbells:

      • Single leg deadlift – stand with feet together and a dumbbell in each hand. Shift weight to one leg and extend the other leg backward, hinging at your hips until that leg is parallel (or close) to the surface. Your upper body will extend forward and the dumbbells will lower naturally. Move back to the beginning position and continue with reps to your level of comfort. Then repeat with the other leg.

      Bullworker :

        • Standing deadlift – with Bow Classic, place both feet securely on the lower cable and knees bent. With straight back, pull upward on the top cable. Do 10-12 reps.



        Note shapely lady below –







        EQUIPMENT RESOURCES

        Full set of resistance cords with all accessories

        Lighter dumbbell set with stand

        Heavier adjustable dumbbells, 5 to 52.5 lbs.

        Bullworker – entire line shown

        Nordic Track treadmill

        CONCLUDING

        I have included my Nordic Track treadmill as an option for leg training. It is my primary leg developer, or maybe “leg slenderizer” would be more accurate. Calf exercises are also part of my leg workout. I don’t do too much for my thighs since they seemed to develop naturally. Bottom line for this – construct your workout on the basis of your personal needs, not on those of someone else.

        By all means, don’t ignore your leg development or maintenance. Nobody looks good with a large upper body and pipe stem legs.

        Please leave me questions or comments in the “Comments” box below. Or e-mail me: richard@myworkoutathome.com. Thanks for your attention. Be well!



















































        Richard

        16 Comments

        1. Exactly the reason I need this leg workouts is because over the years I had workout intensely on building my upper body parts and it seems that I an getting too cimbalanced with my legs so, I don’t want an excessive trainings on my leg. Though I have some apps that I work with but I wanted more. I will incorporate this to my training routines. Thanks

          • Thanks for the comment. My earlier physique issue seems the opposite of yours, I.e. I had leg development before upper body, which is the only reason I began weight training.

        2. Thanks for this article! I agree that training legs is important. So do you have any recommendations on structuring this workout? Like would you just do every exercise you listed, or pick one for each muscle? 

          How wide am I supposed to put my feet on squats and deadlifts? 

          Also, is it safe to use a dumbbell on good mornings? I have only even seen those with a barbell. Thanks!

          • Chuck, I would recommend the position of your feet to be shoulder width or slightly wider on squats or deadlifts. Yes, good mornings are more commonly done with barbells, but I don’t include barbells in my home workout blogs – only smaller equipment. Good mornings should be safer with dumbbells than with barbells since you have a “safety valve”. You may easily drop the dumbbells if you have need to because of sudden back pain. Much more difficult with a barbell. 

            In any case, avoid good mornings if you have back pain, regardless of how you use resistance.

            I list 4 muscle groups for legs, with options for bodyweight, resistance cords, dumbbells and Bullworkers. Constructing a workout program depends upon the equipment you have and the goals you set. Also, are you doing a full body workout or do you alternate upper body with legs? 

            A good leg workout should include at least 2 sets for each of the 4 muscle groups. 

            I have always found that women are more conscious of the need to work the “glutes” than men. I have only worked glutes through compound exercises like squats, so most of my glute information was from research or from what women tell me.

        3. “Nobody looks good with a large upper body and pipe stem legs.” I found this statement very funny at the conclusion of your post because my head went straight to a friend of mine who looked exactly like you described. I have a small body that correlates well with my body. I could still take  on the riytune you added for the calf though. I think I should do my friend good buy sharing this post with him.

        4. Awesome article. I will probably print it out and use it in my home gym. Most of the one’s I have read previously don’t go into the detail about what I should be doing in each of the lifts. 

          I enjoy working out legs, but have not don’t them nearly as much as I should be. I tend to also lean towards wanting to work out my upper body, which is clearly not the right idea. 

          I checked into the nordic track trainer through your links and I must say that it seems like a good fit. Now I just need to make the space for it lol. 

          • Thanks, Travis. I share with you the preference for upper body training. But we all need symmetry, whether we are serious bodybuilders or regular people who just want to improve our fitness of physiques.

        5. Hi Richard, I take my 66 year old body to to the gym and workout with a trainer who is a body building champion. She is very detailed in her program and I enjoy my workouts. I include treadmill, weights, and Nautilus work. Because my problem areas were always my lower belly and glutes, I never used to see that the leg exercises are very important. These diagrams you have shown are very useful because it helps me understand why I am instructed to do those legs exercises exactly as she says. Most important for me are the stretches after a workout. Thanks for the information. Is there a way you suggest that I can prepare myself before a workout?

          • Thank you, JJ. Your trainer seems quite good, since she seems to promote stretching AFTER a workout, not before. However, DYNAMIC stretching is good before a workout (as opposed to static stretching). This is the rope jumping and similar movements that tennis players (such as Rafael Nadal) do before a match. See my post on stretching of July 22.

        6. I just got lucky with coming across this wonderful post. I’ve been working out for my leg now for about three months but it haven’t been working as I want, although the muscles of my leg is under developed but im willing to to give it whatever it takes. I’ll make sure I keep with these exercises in this post and with high hopes it will work.

        7. I recently got started in a home-based fitness program where the aim is to build muscles without going to a gym but by using our body weight. I think the exercises here can be used by me aside from the tutorial videos that I got in Udemy. Also, I think this is far better than the warm up exercise I’ve been using for almost a month now which is a military exercise called “military dozen” .

        8. Thanks for all the exercise suggestions, this is really helpful to me. I’ve always been a work out at home person; I love all the machines the gym can offer but I never seem to make time to get there.

          Like most women, what I really want to work on is strengthening (and shrinking lol)  my mid-section – this would include stomach, upper legs, lower back, and glutes. I had a back injury some years ago and some exercises that are listed, such as jump squats, can be extremely hard on my back and knees. What kinds of exercises would you recommend for low impact strengthening? 

          Thanks so much for your input and advice! I have your site bookmarked now so I can catch all of your new posts!

          • Shan, thank you for your comments. I also have back issues – spinal stenosis and then surgery. I do planks for abdominal and back strength. These can be low impact if you begin with maybe 15 -30 seconds and then progress later. You may know how they are done. If not, get into a push – up position but with forearms on the floor, back straight but comfortable. Hold the position. This is an isometric exercise. I agree about jump squats for those with back problems. Try the bodyweight exercises or those with resistance cords for lowest impact in general.

            My next article is about abdominals. My favorite sequence is a 6 minute bodyweight program. 

            Stay tuned. Thanks again.

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