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Leg Exercises That Aren't Lunges

13 Exercises to Strengthen Your Legs — and None of Them Are Lunges!

There isn't one perfect way to tone and strengthen your legs. If you're trying to increase your lower-body strength, you've probably read and heard that you should be doing exercises like squats, sprints, deadlifts, and lunges.

As a trainer, I've found that people either love lunges or absolutely despise them. If you relate to the latter and need lunge-free exercises to strengthen your legs without cringing, continue reading. Don't do all 13 exercises as a workout; you will regret it. Instead, select three to five moves and begin to incorporate them into your leg workouts.

Image Source: Unsplash / Joanna Nix

Narrow Stance Deadlift

  • Select a medium-to-heavy kettlebell; 15 kilograms (about 33 pounds) should be a good start, but feel free to go lighter or heavier. There should be about half a foot of space in between your feet.
  • With your core engaged and your back flat, grip the handle of the kettlebell with both hands, holding it in front of you with your arms fully extended.
  • Engage your core as you shift your hips backward, like you are going to sit in a chair, lowering the kettlebell down to the ground. Be sure not to round your back.
  • Still engaging your core, drive through your heels and squeeze your glutes as you lift up.
  • This counts as one rep.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Tamara Pridgett

Step-Up

  • Place your right foot firmly on the bench with your left foot directly under your left hip.
  • Step up, straightening your right leg, bringing both feet completely onto the bench. Slowly bend your right knee, lowering the ball of your left foot back to the ground, keeping your right thigh engaged. For a more advanced version, you can kick the left knee up as you step up.

Barbell Hip Thrusts

  • Sitting on the floor with your legs extended, rest your back against a stable bench.
  • Place a towel or shoulder cushion on the bar for comfort (optional). Roll the barbell over your thighs until the bar is directly above your hip joints.
  • Brace your core. As you drive your heels into the ground, squeeze your glutes, lifting your hips up to full extension, meaning your hips are even with your knees.
  • With control, lower back down to the ground.
  • This is one repetition.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Tamara Pridgett

Romanian Deadlifts

  • Stand holding a pair of medium-weight dumbbells in each hand, arms at your sides, with your knees slightly bent.
  • Keeping your arms straight and knees slightly bent, slowly bend at your hip joint (not your waist), and lower the weights as far as possible without rounding your back, which should remain straight.
  • Now squeeze your glutes to slowly pull yourself up (don't use your back).

Wall Sit

  • Stand with your back against a wall, placing your feet about two feet in front of you. Feet should be hip-distance apart.
  • Bending your knees, slide your back down the wall until your knees are at 90-degree angles. Your knee joints should be over your ankle joints, so you may need to inch your feet farther from the wall to create proper alignment. Don't let your knees fall into the midline of your body or sway outward.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, and then stand up.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography

Single-Leg Deadlift

  • Stand with all your weight on your right foot, abs engaged and chest lifted.
  • Reach your torso forward as you lift your left leg behind you. Reach your arms out to the sides for balance as your torso and leg come parallel to the floor.
  • Hold this position for a moment, and reach through your left heel to engage the back of the left leg.
  • Moving in one piece, lower your left leg toward the floor as you return to standing upright, resting the left foot lightly on the ground. This completes one rep.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography

Lying Hamstring Curl

  • Start by lying flat on your back with an exercise ball under your heels. Bridge your hips up, and hold that position through the entire exercise.
  • Flex your feet and dig your heels into the ball. Place your arms straight out to your side for support — don't use them, though; they are just for support.
  • Slowly roll the ball toward your body as you curl your heels. Keep your hips in the bridge position; don't thrust them toward the ceiling as you do the move.
  • Then slowly return to the start position (straight legs, hips bridged) to complete one rep.

Single-Leg Deadlift With Kettlebell

  • Hold a kettlebell (between 10 and 20 pounds) in your right hand, and lift your right foot slightly off the ground.
  • Keeping your back neutral, lean your entire torso forward while raising your right leg, which should stay in line with your body. The kettlebell will lower toward the ground. Keep your right shoulder blade pulled down your back.
  • With your back straight, return upright, coming to your starting position. This completes one rep. Maximize this move by keeping your right foot off the ground as you go through your reps.

Single-Leg Bridge

  • Lie on your back, with the knees bent, and place your hands on the floor for stability. Extend the left leg out.
  • Pressing your right heel into the floor, lift your pelvis up, keeping your body in a stiff bridge position.
  • Slowly lower your body to the floor. This completes one rep.

Standing Booty Kicks

  • Stand tall, and place your hands on your hips.
  • Put all the weight in your right leg, keep both legs straight, and lift your left leg directly behind you. Let your glutes do all the work. Keep your left foot flexed, and work on lifting your heel as high as you can without leaning your torso too far forward. Engage your abs to help you stay balanced.
  • Then lower your left leg so it's parallel with your right, but don't let it touch the ground. Then lift it back up behind you.

Hex Bar Dead Lift

  • Load the hex bar with the weight of your choice. If you're new to the move, start by just using the bar without any additional weight.
  • Stand in the center of the hex bar with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Bend at your hips and knees as you grab the handles of the hex bar. Raise your hips up slightly, keeping your back flat, to create tension in the back of your legs (your hamstrings will feel tight).
  • Keeping your back flat and shoulders relaxed, drive your heels through the ground as you stand straight up.
  • Squeeze your glutes at the top of the lift to ensure you get full hip extension.
  • Continue to grasp the handles as you lower the weight to the ground with control. Be sure to keep your chest open and your back flat. This counts as one repetition.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Tamara Pridgett

Single-Leg Squats

  • Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and raise your right leg, flexing your right ankle and pushing your hips back.
  • Lower your body while keeping your right leg raised (a squat with one leg). Keep your knees behind your toes and your heel firmly on the floor.
  • Hold and then return to standing. This completes one rep.
  • You can use a bench to squat/sit on to work your way toward doing the single-leg squat if needed.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Studios

Leg Balance Warrior 3

  • Stand on your left foot with your right leg lifted to 90 degrees and your right knee bent.
  • Lean your torso forward as you lengthen your right leg behind you. Reach your arms overhead for balance as your torso and leg come parallel to the floor. Keep your left knee slightly bent.
  • Hold this position for a moment, and reach through your right heel to engage the back of the right leg.
  • Bring your right leg forward and return to standing upright. This completes one rep.

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