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4 leg exercises with little or no equipment

May. 22, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
(Mike Morones/Staff)
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This week's demonstrator, Army Reserve Capt. Ryan Hanna, 29, is the creator of the Sworkit workout generator app. Find out more at (Mike Morones/Staff)


You really can do leg exercises without the isolation-style or massive leg press machines found in most gyms. No more leg extension or leg curl machines. No need to find a leg abductor/adductor combo or hoist a 45-pound Olympic bar.

The minimum requirement for this workout is a closed-loop band, one dumbbell — men should start with 30 pounds, women 15 pounds — and a physio ball.

Ski squats

These are super leg isometric and burn like hell.

Execute it: Place a physio ball between a wall and the small of your back (it will end at the upper back as you work through the positions). Stand with your legs about hip-width apart and your feet slightly out in front of you. Your knees should be behind your toes when bent at 90 degrees. Pick a time interval — I like to start with 20 seconds — and hold each of the five phases for that amount of time.Phase 1 equals a 1/4 squat. Phase 2 is a 1/2 squat. In Phase 3, your knees will be at 90 degrees. Phase 4 is just below 90 degrees, and Phase 5 is a deep squat. You will really have to shake out your legs after this.

Glute leg lift

This one focuses on the gluteus medius, which helps pull the thigh away from the body’s midline.

Execute it: Lie on your side, legs stretched out, with your arm on the floor and your head resting on your arm. Roll forward slightly until you are at a 45-degree angle with the floor and hold that position. Raise your top leg about 2 feet and point your toes down toward the floor. Lower your top leg and touch the floor behind the heel of your lower foot. Raise your top leg back to the start and repeat. Start with 25 reps on each leg and work up to 50. You will feel the burn.

Squat jumps

These will develop the solid glute muscles when you explode vertically out of the squat. It will also help define your quads.

Execute it: Stand with your legs about hip-width apart and your hands at your sides. As you start to squat, lean forward at your hips, keeping a neutral back, and start to swing your arms toward the rear until they’re close to parallel with the floor. Then explode upward, pivoting your arms back toward the ceiling and reaching as high as you can. Be sure to land in a semisquat to take the pressure off your knees. I like to reset from the top and do the complete process with focus on maximum explosion and muscle tension.

Reverse lunges

Do these with the band and a dumbbell to add great core stabilization.

Execute it: Loop the band through itself to anchor it to a doorknob or bar. Put one arm through the loop so the band sits just over your shoulder. Walk forward until you feel tension on the band. For extra credit, hold the dumbbell on the same shoulder. Step back (same side as the band) about 3 feet and rest your knee on the ground. The opposite leg should form a 90-degree angle at the knee. Drive straight up — not back — and bring the rear foot even with the front. Complete your reps on the first side, then transfer the setup to the other side and repeat.

The core stabilization occurs as the band tries to pull you to one side. The dumbbell adds difficulty by forcing your obliques to stabilize and keep your body in line. Moving the dumbbell to the side opposite the band puts additional force on the leg you are driving up.

Bob Thomas is director of the Navy Wellness Center in Pensacola, Fla. Email him at

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