The notion of “skipping leg day” has become something of a joke in the workout world. Generally, it comes from the idea that many people (and mostly men) focus more on upper-body workouts because the upper body is typically more visible on a day-to-day basis. However, there’s also something to be said for the fact that leg workouts don’t tend to be that exciting, and we’d often rather be doing other things in the first place.
This is not meant to be an endorsement of that line of thinking. If you care about your overall fitness and want to maximize your potential as an athlete, working on your lower body is part of the equation. That said, it can’t hurt to have a few alternative exercises in your back pocket for those days when the same old gym routine just doesn’t get you going – or even for when you want to get a workout through recreation. So here, we’re looking at some ways to strengthen your legs outside the gym altogether.
1 – Take Up Soccer
Taking up soccer makes for a fairly significant commitment – but if you’re looking for fun ways to build leg strength, you can’t do much better. After all, have you seen soccer players’ thighs and calves? As noted by an amusing post on a site about “soccer girl problems,” the “pure fierce power of the calves” are simply going to stand out on regular soccer players. In that context, this quote was a sort of half-joke about how to spot a soccer girl at a prom, but it speaks to the general truth, which is that soccer players tend to have particularly well-sculpted legs. Even playing a game or two in a recreational league each weekend may make a visible difference for you, and give you the strength you’ve been looking for.
2 – Try Horseback Riding
A lot of people associate horseback riding primarily with professional sports. Indeed, there are races and dressage events all around the world, complete with crowds, betting odds on races, famous tracks, and really a whole culture. But you can take up horseback riding more casually on your own if you only find a stable or a professional that will provide lessons. It can take a little time to get the hang of it, but once you learn to ride and direct a horse on your own, you’ll find that it makes for a magnificent leg workout. Particularly if you’re looking to strengthen those glutes, quads, and hammies, hopping on horseback can help you out quite a bit.
3- Design Your Own Obstacle Course
This is a little bit less specific, but a little more playful as well, and can help you to design your own workout, more or less. The idea, basically, is to use whatever open space you have access to design an obstacle course that will challenge your legs in various ways. Keep in mind, the reason things like soccer and horseback riding can strengthen legs so completely is that they involve a lot of different movements and challenges (as opposed to straight walking or running). In soccer, you’re cutting in different directions, changing the length of your stride, etc. On horseback, you’re constantly tensing, relaxing, and using your legs subtly to direct the animal. Try to get the same thing out of an obstacle course, such that you’re using your legs 10 different ways in a 60-second span. You might start with a jump rope, move into hurdles, do some sideways shuffling, transition into a dead sprint, and then do some hopscotch. It can be anything you want, really.
4- Take Up Yoga
For some reason, a lot of people still think of yoga as a form of exercise meant for everything but building strength. We think about flexibility, relaxation, and even lowering blood pressure and dropping weight. But the truth is that there are plenty of yoga poses that build strength as well – including in the legs. It may not be as interesting as taking up soccer or horseback riding, but if you establish a regular yoga routine you’ll do a great deal for your legs without necessarily needing to hit the weights.