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12 Effective Leg Exercises For Beginners

12 effective leg exercises for beginners

You’re here because you’re looking for leg exercises for beginners. You’ve just started working out, and you need a variety of exercises to keep things interesting. At Sports Samurai, we understand. As a beginner, working out your legs can be overwhelming if you don’t have the knowledge to properly exercise them. And that’s why we’ve produced this article.

12 effective leg exercises for beginners

It’s important to exercise your legs, but unfortunately, they often get neglected. You understand this, otherwise, you wouldn’t be here. In case you would like to learn more about leg muscles, read more here.

As humans, we use our legs in various ways day-to-day, including taking the stairs or lifting a heavy box from the ground.

All of our beginner leg training exercises can be done at home or in the gym. The first 6 will be bodyweight exercises only, and then we’ll move onto 6 weighted leg exercises too.

Let’s get right into it.

Our 12 Leg Exercises For Beginners

Bodyweight Leg Exercises

These exercises use only your bodyweight for training, so no equipment is needed. They’re perfect for beginners.

Squats

leg exercises for beginners - Squats

Squats target the quadriceps and hamstrings which make up your thigh region. They improve your lower body mobility as well as keeping your joints healthy.

If your aim is to strengthen your legs for running, read our core training for runners article.

How to do it:

  1. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart. You should feel like you’re standing straight naturally
  2. Your feet should be parallel and pointing outward slightly. Just stand as you would normally do – try not to overthink this!
  3. Begin by squatting down while keeping your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat yourself down until your knees form a 90 degrees angle. Keep your back as straight as possible
  4. Bring yourself up and repeat the whole process

Mistakes to look out for:

  • Your knees cave in. Your knees should be in line with the rest of your legs and not cave in. A hint: push your knees outwards with each repetition
  • Hunching your back. You should keep your back straight while doing squats
  • Heels off the floor. This is a common mistake among beginners. Keep your heels on the floor

Jump squats

leg exercises for beginners - Jump squats

This exercise is similar to the squat exercise above but comes with a slight variation. You add a jumping motion into your normal squat.

How to do it:

  1. Start in the same position as squats and lower yourself down
  2. As you bring yourself up, jump as high as you can while keeping your legs straight
  3. Land on your two feet and repeat the whole process

Mistakes to look out for:

  • The same as we mentioned above with regular squats
  • Legs are not straight when jumping. You should keep your legs straight when you jump so that you land on your two feet

Lunges

leg exercises for beginners - lunges

This exercise targets the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. Lunges are a great exercise to help with weight loss, balance and stability, and many more.

How to do it:

  1. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Stand naturally
  2. You can start with any leg and bring that leg forwards or backwards. You can do it either way
  3. Land at the ball of your foot with both of your knees bent
  4. Push through your heel to return to standing. Return to your original position (both legs together, standing upright)
  5. Repeat the process with the other leg, and keep alternating between the two legs

Mistakes to look out for:

  • Bending your back. Your back should be straight because this exercise only uses your lower body. Keep your chest up when doing lunges
  • Not bending the lowering knee. You should bend your knee so that the muscles are being worked on

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Side lunges

leg exercises for beginners - Side lunges

This is a variation to the lunges exercise above.

How to do it:

  1. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Start with your right leg and take a big step to your right. Bend your right knee to push your butt back while keeping your left leg straight
  3. Keep your upper body straight while doing this
  4. Slowly bring yourself to the original position by pushing your right leg up
  5. Repeat with the other leg

Mistakes to look out for:

  • Bending your other leg. You should keep your other leg straight to work on those muscles
  • Bringing yourself all the way down. You should only bend your knees to a 90 degree angle and not all the way down

Calf raises

leg exercises for beginners - Calf raises

This exercise targets the muscles of your lower leg. It strengthens your ankles and can help to prevent lower leg injuries. Your ankle stability will improve after some time.

How to do it:

  1. Keep your feet apart slightly wider than shoulder-width
  2. Rise to the ball of your feet while keeping your knees straight
  3. Squeeze your calf muscles and pause for 2 seconds before coming down
  4. Come down gently

Mistakes to look out for:

  • Knees are not straight. You should keep your knees straight and use only your calf muscles for this exercise
  • Not pausing for a few seconds at the top. You should pause at least 2 seconds to work on your calf muscles

Glute bridges

leg exercises for beginners - Glute bridges

This exercise targets your hamstrings, gluteus maximus (your butt), thighs, and your core. It improves your overall strength and it can also ease lower back pain.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with hands on the side, knees bent and heels flat on the floor under the knees
  2. Raise your hips so that a straight line is formed from your knees to shoulders
  3. Squeeze your abdominal muscles and hold it for 3 seconds
  4. Bring yourself back to the original position gently

Mistakes to look out for:

  • Not squeezing your abdominal muscles. You should squeeze the abdominal muscles to improve your core strength.
  • Raising too high. You should aim to create a straight line from your shoulder to your knees

Weighted Leg Exercises

The next 6 exercises require you to use weights. If you have these at home, feel free to do them here. Otherwise, you may be limited to performing these weighted leg exercises in the gym for beginners.

Try not to overstretch yourself by lifting heavy weights as you’ll risk getting injured. It’s best practice to slowly add weight only when you’re ready. You should be able to do all of the 6 bodyweight exercises above fairly easily before moving to these leg exercises for beginners.

Dumbell front squats

leg exercises for beginners - Dumbell front squats

This exercise is similar to the bodyweight squat exercise above, but with weight added. You’re making this exercise more difficult by adding two dumbbells, so only do this when you’re comfortable with bodyweight squats.

How to do it:

  1. Same as above, but holding two dumbbells in your hands
  2. This exercise needs more focus than bodyweight squats. You’ll have to worry about holding the weight as well as the right form with squats

Mistakes to look out for:

  • Elbow not facing out. You’ll risk injuries if you’re not holding the dumbbells properly
  • Weight is too heavy. You should only do what you can with correct form to prevent injuries

Single dumbbell lunges

leg exercises for beginners - Single dumbbell lunges

This exercise is similar to the lunges exercise above, but with weight added. The good thing about this exercise is you only need one dumbbell to do it. You’ll build a stronger lower body in no time!

How to do it:

  1. Same as above, but holding a weight in one hand

Mistakes to look out for:

  • Same as above with bodyweight lunges

Dumbbell deadlift

leg exercises for beginners - Dumbbell deadlift

This exercise works on your gluteus maximus (your butt), your hamstrings as well your lower back. It’s considered one of the best lower body exercises.

How to do it:

  1. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold one dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing you. Hold the dumbbell in slightly in front of your hips
  2. Bend down at your knees while keeping your body straight similar to a squatting position. You should feel your lower back muscle working
  3. Hold briefly at the bottom for a few seconds. Return to the original position after a few seconds

Mistakes to look out for:

  • Not keeping your back straight. This exercise aims to work on your back muscles. You should keep your back straight and not round it
  • Not holding the weights in front of your hips. The added weight works your muscles best when weights are held in front of your hips

Split lunges

leg exercises for beginners - Split lunges

This exercise is a variation of the lunges exercise. It works on your overall lower body muscles to increase strength and stability.

How to do it:

  1. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and stand naturally. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and let them rest straight on your sides
  2. Choose one leg (either left or right) and bring that leg backwards
  3. Lower down with both knees bent
  4. Push through your heel to return to the same position with the same leg backwards (do not return to standing)
  5. Keep lowering and raising yourself for the desired number of repetitions
  6. Repeat the process with the other leg

Mistakes to look out for:

  • Holding the weights unequally. You should not bend to the side while holding the weights. You will risk muscle strain if you do this

Dumbbell step-up

leg exercises for beginners - Dumbbell step-up

This exercise is a great addition to our effective leg exercises for beginners list.

How to do it:

  1. Before you begin, make sure you’re in front of a bench or any higher ground which you’re able to step onto
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each of your hands and let them rest straight on your sides
  3. Begin by stepping up the bench and hold for a few seconds. Be sure to be mindful of your steps on your way up
  4. Bring yourself down gently. Land with your feet flat on the ground

Mistakes to look out for:

  • Not bending your knees on your way up. You should bend your knees so that you work on those muscles
  • The bench or high ground is too high or too low. Find a suitable height according to your capabilities. Don’t overstretch yourself to prevent injuries

Goblet squat

leg exercises for beginners - goblet squat

This exercise is great to increase your lower body strength and work on your core at the same time.

How to do it:

  1. Same as above, but holding one dumbbell with both of your hands
  2. This exercise needs more focus than bodyweight squats. You’ll have to worry about holding the weight as well as the right form with squats

Mistakes to look out for:

  • Same as above, with dumbbell front squats

How can you work out your legs at home?

It depends if you have weights, or not. Any of our 12 leg exercises for beginners can be done at home, but it depends if you have any equipment.

If you don’t, the first 6 bodyweight leg exercises for beginners are what you need to look at. If you do, you can do any of these exercises listed.

Or… you can get creative and use items in the house to add weight. Think resistance bands, bottles of water, or even cans of baked beans!

leg exercises for beginners - work out your legs at home

How can you build your legs without weights?

In order to build your legs without weights, you can choose any of our 6 bodyweight exercises for beginners. They’re our 6 favourites and have been chosen because of their effectiveness.

It’s up to you the way you do these. You can either choose one and do 3 or 4 sets with a break in between, or do all 6 in a circuit format. There are plenty of ways to approach it.

In summary, our 12 leg exercises for beginners are:

  1. Squats
  2. Jump squats
  3. Lunges
  4. Side lunges
  5. Calf raises
  6. Glute bridges
  7. Dumbbell front squat
  8. Single dumbbell lunges
  9. Dumbbell deadlift
  10. Split lunges
  11. Dumbbell step-up
  12. Goblet squat

Conclusion

That’s all for our 12 leg exercises for beginners. By now, we hope you’re comfortable trying some of these out! In this article, we’ve gone through both bodyweight and weighted exercises, as well as going through some common questions with regards to leg exercises for beginners.

Pro Tip: Once you’re comfortable with our 12 leg exercises for beginners, we recommend moving on to more advanced exercises, such as barbell squats, deadlifts, and Romanian deadlifts.

If there are any more topics you’d like to learn about from Sports Samurai, please let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to provide you with the information you need to help with your health and fitness journey.


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