When you think of leg day, do you just think of being in the gym and squatting weight?
Doing leg exercises at home, is a really easy way to start building leg strength, and doesn’t require lots of heavy lifting!
Starting with bodyweight exercises, you can make sure that you move well and master the techniques. You can then add weights and resistance bands to most of the moves to challenge you further.
A major function of the legs is to support the weight of your body with minimal energy expenditure. You have probably heard us use the phrase ‘move with ease’. This is what that means!
The second major function of the legs is to move you through space. This means walking!
There are a few major muscle groups in the legs.
The muscles around the glutes are predominately extensors, rotators and abductors of the hip joint.
However, as well as moving the thigh around the fixed pelvis, they also control the movement of the pelvis relative to the leg you are standing on whilst the other leg swings forwards. We touch on this area again in our glute exercises at home blog.
This is really important as it is an often forgotten about movement. When we are doing leg exercises, particularly single leg, we often focus on the moving leg. However, the static leg is just as important to get your glutes firing!
Next, who can forget the hip flexors!
How many times have you said, or someone around you said “you feel your hip flexors because they are tight”. Or “your hip flexors are tight because you sit a lot”?
Maybe they are actually weak…
The main muscle to flex the hip is actually ilipsoas (psoas major and iliacus). These do not come from the glute area or the thigh. They actually are attached to the back of the abdominal wall and move through the pelvis to attach to the top of the thigh bone!
So it’s not actually your quads!
The rest of the muscles in the thigh are split into three compartments which are divided by connective tissue.
In the anterior, or front compartment, you have muscles which mainly extend the knee. These include the quadriceps and sartorius.
Before you think we have forgotten…yes, one of the quads (rectus femoris) assists in flexing the thigh at the hip joint. However, please remember that ilipsoas is the most powerful hip flexor and is often overlooked!
In the posterior, or back compartment, you have muscles which work to extend the thigh at the hip joint and also bend the knee. These are the hamstrings!
These also work during rotation of the leg.
In the medial, or inner compartment, you have muscles which bring the thigh back towards your midline.
This includes the whole adductor group (longus, brevis, magnus), and 3 others (gracilis, pectineus and obturator externus).
These muscles bring the thigh back to the midline and also have other jobs which include rotation and flexion of the thigh.
Moving onto the lower leg there are loads of muscles which act to move your foot and knee! However, we won’t go into all of these here.
Everyone knows about the major calf muscle gastroc. But did you know there are actually 3 muscles which make up the calf, gastrocnemius, plantaris and soleus. The first two work to bend the knee and all point the foot.
You then have 4 deeper muscles which help to stabilise the knee and move the foot.
When we are doing leg exercises from home, it is really important to focus on the position of your feet for this reason! Depending on how you load your foot, will actually help activation of muscles further up the leg.
We are going to go into the muscles at the front of your shin. But whilst you are moving, try not to grip with your toes or pull up into the front of your shoes!
Hopefully, the major functions of the legs have not come as a surprise! If you look at the size of the legs and what they do, it makes total sense that having strong legs can make life so much easier!
From walking upstairs, lifting a heavy suitcase, running for the bus, or doing the sports you want, we need legs which are strong enough to carry you through.
The good news is that leg exercises do not need to be complicated and this is why there are so many you can do at home.
Check out our top leg exercises to do at home below. These train your muscles multi-directionally and also include some of those big compound moves which work lots of the muscles at the same time.
Remember to focus on form before adding lots of weight and if you have an acute injury or pain, always, check with us or your treating Physio to see whether these are appropriate. We are more than happy to give you some advice!
Leg workouts with weights
Anything around the home can be used as a weight for your leg exercises.
You can use wine bottles, a backpack filled with books or even casserole dishes!
Remember, anything that adds weight to your body counts as a weight. Obviously if you have kettlebells, bars or dumbbells at home then you can use these too!
The focus of all the leg exercises below are to strengthen not only your legs, but also work your core and back. They are all designed so you can do them at home with minimal space required!
We get asked all the time about lifting weights and if it will make you bulky.
The simple answer to this is no!
If you want to look ‘lean’, you need to build muscle mass. This means you need to add weight.
Some people naturally build muscle quicker than others. However, for most females, it takes a lot of heavy weight training to look bulky!
These exercises work all the big muscles in your legs, including your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calfs!
So, grab your weights, loose the fear, move any furniture you need and get those leg exercises done in your own home!!