Your leg and butt muscles are the biggest muscles in your body. That means, you get the most bang for your buck when you work them. Benefits of working these large muscles versus small muscles, include increased:
Insulin sensitivity (leading to better blood sugar control)
Cardiovascular health (those large muscles really get your heart pumping!)
Calorie burn during and after the exercise
Strength for activities of daily living (like getting out of the car or chair, or going up the stairs)
Here are three leg exercises (video and descriptions below) that you can do without any equipment. Modifications are included. These single leg exercises are great, because they can fix muscle imbalances (you may be stronger or favor one side) and they improve balance and core strength all at once.
If you are new to these exercises, I recommend doing one set of 10x, and increasing slowly to 3 sets of 10x. If you are an experienced exerciser, I recommend doing 4 sets of 10x. If you wish to make it more challenging, you can either do your reps very slowly (3 count up, 3 count down) or add some dumbbells or a medicine ball for weight.
If you have knee problems and this bothers them, ensure that your positioning is good and that your hip, knee and toe are in line if you are looking head on. Also, decrease your range of motion (how much you bend the knee) to where you don’t feel pain. These exercises will help with knee pain, as they will help to build all the big supporting muscles around the knee. Don’t push through pain. If it hurts, modify. If it still hurts, stop and consider consulting a physical therapist.
Bulgarian split squat (Modify- decrease range of motion and/or just put your back toe on the floor instead of elevated).
Single leg squat (Modify- decrease range of motion by sitting on something higher and/or using your other foot for some assistance). Don’t “plop” down, but use control.
Single leg bridge (Modify- put both feet on the ground).