Forget kettlebells — 5 yoga block exercises that sculpt your quads, glutes and hamstrings

A wooden yoga block being used during a stretch
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The five leg exercises below rely on a yoga block to build strength across the lower body muscles, including the quads, glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings and calf muscles. 

Coming into the holiday season, more time spent with family and friends might signal less time in the gym (maybe) or fewer choices on equipment if you’re on the road more often. If you haven’t already invested in some of the best home gym equipment, a yoga block is a little brick that goes a long way.

Below, we cover five bodyweight leg exercises you can do with a yoga block and a three-move yoga block workout that you can take anywhere. Grab your mat, put aside 30 minutes and try these moves. 

5 leg exercises you can do using a yoga block

Yoga blocks are viewed as equipment that can make postures easier, like bridging the gap between your feet or hands and the mat. But, just like a Pilates ring ab workout, yoga blocks can increase muscle activation and the resistance your muscles meet with during exercises.

For example, many yoga teachers program chair poses using a block between the thighs, asking students to gently squeeze the block as they move; this can help switch on the adductors during the yoga exercise.

We recommend pairing your yoga block with one of the best yoga mats for grip during home workouts. A book or firm cushion works just as well if you can’t get hold of a yoga block. As with all leg strengthening exercises, squeeze your glutes and thighs as you move, keep your core engaged and maintain spine neutrality. 

Of course, you can add resistance bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, or other equipment, if you prefer.

1. Yoga block prisoner squats

Sam performing prisoner squat on yoga mat with block between thighs

(Image credit: Future)

This squat variation hits all the same muscle groups while activating the inner thighs — the adductors.

  • Start in a squat position and place the block between your thighs using the widest setting
  • Squeeze the block and engage your core
  • Place your hands behind your head and pull your elbows back to open your chest
  • Begin squatting down as if sitting in a chair while pressing your inner thighs against the block and without leaning forward or bringing your elbows together
  • Keep the weight in your heels, pause at the bottom, then drive up to stand

2. Yoga block glute bridges with pulses

Sam glute bridge on mat while holding a yoga block between thighs

(Image credit: Future)

The glute bridge targets your glutes, hip flexors and hamstrings, engaging the lower back and core muscles. To benefit from greater hamstring activation, place your feet further from the body and lift your toes away from the mat to drive through your heels.

  • Lay on your back and place the block on the narrowest setting between your thighs and just above the knees
  • Press your lower back into the mat by tilting your pelvis toward you, then engage your stomach muscles and rest your head on the mat
  • Squeeze the block, then drive your hips toward the ceiling and squeeze your glutes at the top
  • Pause, maintaining a straight line from knees to shoulders, then pulse for 20 beats
  • Slowly lower to the mat, starting from your neck and lowering your butt last

3. Yoga block downward dog jumps

Kels Yogi performing downward dog jumps using yoga block during yoga block workout in studio

(Image credit: YouTube/ Kels Yogi)

The cardio-strength combined move jacks up the heart rate and uses plyometrics to fire up the legs, core, arms and shoulders. The closer you position the block to your arms, the harder the leg exercise will become. For an easier variation, move the block further away from your hands.

  • Start in a downward dog position with your hips lifted in the air and press through your hands while maintaining a soft knee bend
  • Position the block between your hands and feet
  • Engage your stomach, shoulders and arms
  • Jump both feet in front of the block, just behind your hands, then jump back to your starting position
  • As you jump remember to slightly shift your weight forward over your shoulders and avoid bending the knees too much

4. Yoga block deficit lunges

Sam performing reverse lunge with left leg on block

(Image credit: Future)

Yoga blocks bridge the distance between your limbs and the mat, but they can also create a deficit to move you further from the ground, meaning your muscles must work through a greater range of motion, working them for longer and recruiting time under tension. You’ll thank us afterward if not at the time!

  • Start with your feet hip-width apart and place the block underneath your left foot
  • Step your right foot back and lower into a reverse lunge with your right toes tucked under
  • Keep your spine tall and your stomach engaged. You can slightly lean forward to increase glute engagement if you prefer
  • Lower until your right knee lightly taps the mat beneath you, then push through your left foot and return to standing
  • Complete reps on one side, then switch sides

5. Yoga block deficit sumo squats

Sam performing a sumo squat with hands down and feet raised on blocks

(Image credit: Future)

You’ll need two blocks to execute this squat variation, but again, you could use a book of a similar height if you only have one. Adding a dumbbell or kettlebell to this exercise fires up the legs even more, using a goblet hold or lowering the weight to the floor. Remember to squeeze your glutes throughout as the move hits the outer glutes hardest.

  • Set your blocks the distance you’d adopt for a sumo squat — wider than shoulder-width apart
  • Stand on your blocks, ensuring they are stable and won’t wobble. You could set something on either side of them if you feel more comfortable
  • Keep your stomach braced, chest up and back flat as you lower into a squat and tap the floor between your feet with both hands
  • Drive through both heels to stand

5-move yoga block leg workout to try 

Prepare to hit beast mode on your leg workout with these yoga block exercises. We recommend adding weights for even more spice, like a filled rucksack or even a couple of water bottles. But you won’t be sacrificing anything by sticking to the regime as it’s written. 

Besides, there are many ways to build muscle without lifting heavier weights. Remember to move with control, don’t rush and give your muscles a healthy squeeze as you move to maximize engagement.

E4MOM (every 4 minutes on the minute) x 7 rounds

  • Yoga block prisoner squats x 8-10 reps
  • Yoga block downward dog jumps x 8-10 reps
  • Yoga block deficit lunges x 6-8 reps per leg
  • Yog block sumo squats x 8-10 reps
  • Yoga block glute bridges x max out

Here’s how it works. Perform the first four exercises back to back for the specified number of reps, then when you reach the glute bridges (remember to include the 20 pulses per rep), continue for maximum reps until you hit 3:30 on the timer. Rest for 30 seconds, then start from the top at 4:00. Continue for 7 rounds.

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.