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Forget squats – this 20-minute knee-friendly workout is all you need to build muscles in your legs

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No knee(d) to skip leg day; try this no squat, no lunges exercise session instead.

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A mid adult African-American man in his 30s exercising at home, taking an online exercise class. He is sitting on the floor doing stretching exercises, while he looks at his laptop. He is an athlete with a muscular build.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Squats aren't only the best leg exercise but one of the best full-body workouts overall. However, doing squats repeatedly can put a lot of strain on your joints; your knees, in particular, are in danger of getting in harm's way if you don't know how to stabilise the movement correctly. Fear not, as this 20-minute home workout uses no squats – or lounges – and helps build definition in your hamstrings, glutes, quads and calves.

Speaking of shaky knees: research showed (opens in new tab) that resistance training in physically frail elderly "promoted significant enhancements on muscle strength, muscle power, and functional outcomes." Imagine what resistance training (dumbbell, bodyweight, barbell workouts etc.) can do to non-elderly people! That's right: it can get you fit, help you lose weight, build muscle, boost metabolism and more—no reason you shouldn't try this workout today.

Although this is a knee-friendly leg workout, please be careful and listen to your body to avoid injury. If you have had surgery or have knee problems in general, you best consult a medical professional before doing any workouts. For this workout, you will need a workout mat (check out T3's best yoga mat guide for some options), a towel/ball to place between knees and a pair of dumbbells (here are the best dumbbells) for the Romanian deadlifts.

As instructor Caroline explains, the timer will be on for 50 seconds of work, followed immediately by either holds or pulses of the same movement. Towards the end, the wall sits are done for a minute, whilst the Romanian deadlifts are for 50 seconds each, with 10 seconds rest in between. The exercises featured in this workout are:

  • Lying glute squeeze
  • (Pulse)
  • Lying open and close-glute squeeze
  • (Hold)
  • Straight-leg lift and lower
  • (Pulse)
  • Straight-leg lift and lower (other leg)
  • (Pulse)
  • Donkey kick
  • (Pulse)
  • Donkey kick (other leg)
  • (Pulse)
  • Lateral leg raise
  • (Pulse)
  • Lateral leg raise (other leg)
  • (Pulse)
  • Inner thigh lift
  • (Hold)
  • Inner thigh lift (other leg)
  • (Hold)
  • Single leg bridge
  • (Pulse)
  • Single leg bridge (other leg)
  • (Pulse)
  • Bridge with towel sqeeze
  • (Hold)
  • Bridge on toes
  • (Hold)
  • Single leg hamstring lift
  • (Hold)
  • Single leg hamstring lift (other leg)
  • (Hold)
  • Romanian deadlift (RDL)
  • Staggered RDL
  • Staggered RDL (other leg)
  • Wall sit (1 min)
  • Wall sit on toes (1 min)

If you liked this workout, we have some good news: there are plenty more where this came from! For starters, try this 6-minute bodyweight leg workout for bigger calves and stronger quads. Then, up your workout game with this 4-move dumbbell leg workout from everyone's favourite Body Coach, Joe Wicks. Then, back to no-equipment sessions with this 15-minute bodyweight lower-body workout. Finally, for those who want to build serious mass in their legs, this double-dumbbell leg finisher is the way to go.