Many home gyms don’t come with the leg accessories. If you have the space and the money for the extra part, you still only get a couple of exercise options. A better way whether you have a home gym or not is to perform leg exercises without weights. Squats and lunges are effective, well-known exercises, but they’re not the only ones. Even these exercises can be tricky if you have joint problems, balance issues, or a small area in which to work out.
Seated Leg Raises
When you stand up and swing your leg forward, it’s pretty easy. Momentum gets it up past your waist and even into a high kick if you have the flexibility. But try that same movement from a seated position and you’ll feel your quadriceps straining to lift your leg inches from the floor.
Starting Position: Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Place your palms on the ground at your sides and use your arms to help keep your back straight.
Action: Lift your right leg toward the ceiling without leaning back. Hold for a second and lower to the ground. Do 6 to 8 lifts, and then repeat with your left leg. If this is too hard, alternate legs, but don’t lean backwards. You can try this exercise both with your toes pointing forward or up at the ceiling.
Tip: It can help to exhale as you lift your leg. Inhale when you lower your leg. Don’t drop your leg, but slowly place it on the floor.
An excellent way to give your hip flexors and your outer thighs some work is do V-raises with your legs while seated. This exercise also works your abs. It is critically important to keep your spine elongated and not to round your lower back during all leg exercises without weights, but especially the V-raises because of the potential pressure on your lower back.
Starting Position: Sit with your legs spread wide like a “V.” Place your arms at your sides, slightly behind your torso. Lean back slightly and without rounding your back. Use your arms to help you balance and to support a straight back.
Action: Simultaneously, raise both legs toward the ceiling. They should go much higher than they did during the first leg exercise. Exhale as you lift your legs and use a controlled speed. Don’t try to “throw” your legs upward. Slowly lower them to the floor as you inhale, but stop when your legs are an inch from the ground. Continue to raise and lower them for 8 to 12 repetitions before resting them on the ground.
Tip: Resist the urge to lean farther back to lift your legs higher. That won’t help your legs get a better workout. Also, keep your legs as far apart as is comfortable to get the outer thighs involved.
Supported Leg Extensions
Many people are familiar with variations of leg extensions, including lying on your stomach and raising your legs up away from the floor. This is an excellent beginner leg exercise without weights, but for a greater challenge and range of motion, try hanging your legs off your bed. The more of your legs you hang off the edge, the harder the exercise.
Starting position: Lie face down on your bed sideways and slowly inch your over the edge. Hold them close together.
Action: As you exhale, raise your legs up toward the ceiling and higher than your mattress. Lower them slowly back toward the floor as you breathe in. Try 6 to 8 leg extensions to start and then work up to 12 to 15.
Tip: You control the range of motion. If your bed is low enough that your toes touch the floor, and then you can lift them all the up and down with control, do it. If you only want to raise and lower them a short distance, that’s a good place to start. The important points to remember are that your legs should be under your control, not that of gravity or momentum, and also at no time should your lower back hurt. Regress to lying on the floor if using a bed hurts your lower back. You may also need to strengthen your core. Try exercises for stronger abs, obliques, lower back, and glutes.
Perform leg exercises without weights two to three times a week to see improvement in leg strength and tone. You can also use these exercises for an in-home workout once or twice a week, and then hit the gym another day.