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How to Get Stronger Legs Without Weights

By Kim Nunley

By using bodyweight and resistance band exercises, you can build strength and size in your quads, hamstrings and calves. During bodyweight exercises, the pull of gravity on your own weight provides resistance that your muscles have to overcome. While you're not able to bump up the resistance like you can when using weights, you can still overload your muscles by doing more reps. As resistance bands stretch, the amount of resistance they provide increases, which helps to elicit strength developments in your legs.

Training Schedule and Volume

Fit in a leg workout two to three days per week with at least a day off in between each session. Begin with a dynamic warm-up, walking briskly or jogging for five minutes and then performing an array of dynamic stretches, including high knees, butt kicks, straight-leg kicks, walking knee-to-chest stretches and walking quad stretches. Begin by doing one set of 10 to 15 reps of each exercise. After four weeks, bump up to performing two to three sets of 15 to 20 reps of each exercise. You can do all sets of each exercise in a row or jump from a set of one exercise to a set of another exercise, continuing until you have completed all sets.

Target Your Quads

To start building strength in your quads, perform wall sits and resistance-band leg extensions. Wall sits challenge you to hold the squat position with your knees bent to 90 degrees and your back resting against a wall. To do resistance-band leg extensions, wrap one end of the band around an ankle, hold the other end and then extend your knee so that your quads have to work against the pull of the band. After about four weeks of consistent training, move onto more advanced bodyweight exercises, including squats, lunges and step-ups. To make squats and lunges more challenging, add more resistance by standing on the center of the band and holding the band’s handles at your shoulders.

Hit Your Hamstrings

To work your hamstrings, perform the inverse hamstring curl, a bodyweight exercise, and the prone leg curl exercise with a resistance band. To do the inverse hamstring exercise, kneel on the floor with your heels hooked securely under the edge of a secure item like a piece of furniture. Without bending forward at the waist, extend your knees to slowly lower your torso toward the floor, using your hands to catch yourself if necessary. Then, bend your knees to rise back up to an erect position. To do the prone leg curl, lie on your stomach with one end of the band wrapped around your ankle and the other end secured to another stable object. Then, bend your knee against the pull of the band.

Isolate Your Calves

Isolate the muscles in your calves with bodyweight and resistance-band calf raises. For the bodyweight version, stand on the edge of a step or raised surface with your heels hanging off the edge. Keep your knees straight as you lower your heel toward the floor and then push off the balls of your feet to lift your heels up above the step. To make the exercise more difficult, do it one leg at a time, holding your free foot up behind you. For the resistance-band version, sit on the floor with your legs extended and the band wrapped around the balls of your feet. Push your toes out away from you against the pull of the band. You can do the exercise one or two legs at a time.

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