If you’re looking for a challenging routine to really smoke your legs and glutes, a lower-body workout with no equipment might not be the first option you think of. But it’s a misconception that you need equipment like barbells, dumbbells or even resistance bands to really make your muscles work.
It all comes down to the lower body exercises you choose and how you program your workout, ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, C.P.T., owner of Strong with Sivan, tells SELF.
“You might think lower-body bodyweight exercises aren’t so challenging, but once you switch to unilateral work, that makes all the difference,” Fagan says. Not only do single-leg moves feel more intense (after all, they double the amount of time you’re working), but they also serve another important function, too: They help promote stability in your core and your pelvic region, which helps your spine, and your body overall, stay safer while lifting.
Choosing unilateral leg exercises is a simple way to make a lower-body workout with no equipment feel more intense, but how you program your routine matters, too. Supersetting or tri-setting (performing two exercises or three exercises, respectively, back to back without rest) increases time under tension, which also increases the intensity, says Fagan.
In order to get a well-rounded lower-body workout without equipment, the same guidelines apply as they would for any lower-body routine: You want to make sure you’re choosing moves that hit all the major lower-body movement patterns, says Fagan. That’s why in the workout she created below, you’ll perform a squat variation (which works your quads), a hip-hinge variation (which hits your hamstrings), a bridge pattern (focusing on your glutes), and a hip external rotation (working your hip abductor muscles).
Ready for a lower-body workout with no equipment you can do anywhere? Here’s what you need to get started.
What you need: An exercise mat for comfort, and a sturdy step or box. (OK, so that is some equipment, but chances are high you already have something that fits the bill hanging around your house. If not, you can omit the step.)
- Bulgarian split squat
- Warrior balance
- Feet-elevated glute bridge
- Marching glute bridge with leg extension
- Side-plank clamshell
- For the Superset, complete 10-12 reps per side of each exercise. Rest 1-2 minutes between rounds. Complete 3-4 rounds total.
- For the Triset, complete 12-20 reps of the feet-elevated glute bridge and the clamshell per side, and 8-15 reps per of the marching glute bridge. Rest 1-2 minutes between rounds. Complete 3-4 rounds total.
Demoing the moves below are Cookie Janee GIFs 1-2), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Hejira Nitoto (GIF 3), a mom of six and a certified personal trainer and fitness apparel line owner based in Los Angeles; Grace Pulliam (GIF 4), an aerial yoga and Vinyasa yoga teacher in New York City; and Jessica Collazo (GIF 5), a fitness enthusiast with a background in boxing and bikini competitions.