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The largest muscles in your body are in your legs, so you want to work them hard. But you don’t always need a heavy barbell or pair of dumbbells to truly make leg day worth it. Your body weight and some serious willpower can get the job done, too, according to Robert Dos Remedios, C.S.C.S., strength and conditioning director for College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California, who designed the following body-weight leg circuit.
Using a series of hard-hitting squats, lunges, and hip hinges, you’ll hammer all of the big muscles in your legs—hamstrings, glutes, and quads—until they burn. And since life rarely happens in just one plane of motion, this workout will also have you moving in three directions so you can build real-world strength and mobility, says Coach Dos. But those aren’t even the best parts: You can do this circuit anywhere—your living room, the hotel room, a park—as long as you have about 6 feet of floor space. That makes this workout the ultimate zero-excuse leg burner.
Do the following six exercises as a circuit. Perform as many reps as possible of one move for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, and then move on to the next move. When you’re finished the last exercise, start with the first move again. Do 3 or 4 circuits total. The entire workout should take you 18 to 24 minutes.
With your feet hip-width apart, squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor, and then jump as high as you can. Allow your knees to bend 45 degrees when you land, pause in deep squat position for 1 full second, and then jump again.
WALKING SINGLE-LEG STRAIGHT-LEG DEADLIFT REACH
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms hanging to the side of your thighs. Lift your right leg behind you. Keeping your lower back naturally arched, bend forward at your hips and lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor while you reach your opposite hand to the floor. Return to the starting position, take two steps forward, then repeat the movement with the opposite leg.
Stand with your feet about twice shoulder-width apart. Keeping your right leg straight, push your hips back and to the left. Then bend your left knee and lower your body until your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Your feet should remain flat on the floor at all times. Pause for 2 seconds, and then return to the starting position. Complete all reps and switch sides.
SCISSOR BOX JUMP
Place your left foot on a bench with your right foot on the floor. In one movement, jump up and switch leg positions in mid-air. At the bottom position, pause for 1 second before alternating to the other leg.
SINGLE-LEG HIP RAISE
Lie face-up, arms out to your sides at 45-degree angles, left foot flat on the floor with that knee bent, and your right leg straight. Raise your right leg until it’s in line with your left thigh. Then squeeze your glutes and push your hips up—your lower back will elevate. Pause, and return to the starting position.
ALTERNATING DROP LUNGE
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands on hips. Keep your chest and eyes up, shoulders squared. Cross your right leg behind your left, and bend both knees, lowering your body until your left thigh is nearly parallel to the floor. Return to start and repeat, switching sides.