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Woman stretching leg

Best home leg exercises

Training legs helps to reduce the risk of injury and helps the range of motion in other muscles. Here Christina Howells, personal trainer, shows you her best legs workout you can do at home.

Perform the first four exercises in order with minimal rest. At the end of the circuit, take 1- 2 mins rest and repeat. Finish the workout with 1-2 sets of the leg lifts trio.

Squats

Squats are a fundamental functional movement, which translate into helping your body move more efficiently when performing everyday life activities. They help you lift correctly to protect your back, provide the strength and mobility to lower yourself to the ground and back, and of course, tone your legs, glutes, and core.

Position: Stand with your feet shoulder-width or slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your toes are pointing forwards or slightly turned out up to 30 degrees. Arms are by your sides.

Movement: Place your weight onto your heels as you hinge at your hips to sit down into the squat as deep as you can without compromising form. Simultaneously, raise your arms forwards to shoulder height. Your chest is lifted, and you want to ensure your abdominals are locked in to prevent excessive lumbar motion, meaning you don't want to arch your back. Be especially mindful to keep your knees in line with your toes, avoiding any temptation to let them roll inwards.

On the push upwards, maintain the same principles as lowering, keeping the feet flat on the floor, weight on your heels, chest lifted, and abdominals engaged.

Aim for 15-20 repetitions.

Step-ups

Prop: Sturdy chair.

Step-ups are fantastic for challenging single-leg strength and stability. The secret is you working the muscles of the leg on the chair rather than just pushing off the foot on the floor, which provides little strength gain to the working leg.

Position: Place the whole of the right foot on the seat of the chair. Your arms by your sides or clasped in front of the chest. Lean your upper body slightly forwards over the right foot, while maintaining a straight spine.

Movement: Focus on pushing down through the right midfoot and heel as you pull yourself up onto the chair using your right leg (avoid pushing off from the left foot). Your right knee needs to track in line with your foot, focusing on not allowing it to rotate inwards (choose a lower seat or step if you're struggling). To return slowly, lower the left foot back to the ground.

Aim for 8-12 repetitions each side.

Lateral lunges

Time to get out of the sagittal plane and welcome movement in the frontal plane! The lateral lunge improves lower body control, strength, and a range of motion laterally outside of the more traditional sagittal plane movements (forwards and backwards). The exercise provides an active stretch for the adductors (inner thighs) while working all the muscles of your legs. It also strengthens the gluteus Medius (outer glute muscles), which are essential hip-stabilising muscles.

Position: Standing tall, feet together, abdominals engaged, arms at your side and gaze forwards.

Movement: Step the left leg out wide to the side, placing your weight onto the left heel as you sit the hips back, lowering to 90 degrees. Your right leg is straight, and you're reaching your fingertips towards the ground, being mindful to keep your torso upright, which also means you're using your anterior core muscles. In this exercise the heels of both legs remain on the floor.

Aim for 10-12 each side.

Hamstring curls

Props: Microfibre cloth, place mats or a tea towel all make perfect gliders.

Our hamstrings often get overlooked, but they play a key role in posture and managing back and knee pain. In fact, training your hamstrings is a little like having insurance: you may not need it now, but you will certainly appreciate strong hamstrings when you need them.

Position: Lie face up on the floor, arms at your sides with palms down. Your legs are extended with heels on both 'gliders' and your feet are flexed. Tighten your core and lift your hips up into a bridge position.

Movement: Slide your heels into the bum as you raise your hips to the sky. Extend the legs back out away from you as far as you can comfortably and under control. Focus on trying to keep the exercise as one fluid motion.

Aim for 8-12 repetitions; you may want to rest halfway through.

Leg lifts trio

This leg series not only works your inner thighs but also your abdominals, obliques and outer glute muscles. They look simplistic, but they actually require a lot of coordination, balance, and focus.

Position: Lying on your side, head resting on your arm or a pillow. Check that your ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and ears are aligned. Pull your abdominal muscles in.

Movement: Part one: Extend your top leg to just above hip height and hold it there. Now raise your lower leg to meet the top leg and lower both down together.

Aim for 10-20 reps.

Part two: Raise the top leg to just above hip height and hold it there, keeping it straight. Now lower and lift the lower leg to meet it, focusing on using the inner thigh muscle. Work to maintain the height of the top leg throughout, which strengthens the outer hip.

Aim for 10-12 reps.

Part three: Now keep the bottom leg up so the adductors are working isometrically (without movement) while you raise and lower the top leg.

Aim for 10-12 reps. Repeat all three movements before changing to the other side.

For more at-home workouts, see the Monday to Friday exercise plan for inspiration.

A London-based personal trainer and lifestyle management coach, Christina Howells has a proven track record, with over 25 years of personal fitness industry knowledge. She has a BSC in Exercise and Sport Science and an MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology.

Find out more about Christina Howells.