No squats or lunges: This knee-friendly workout sculpts your lower body in 7 exercises

a photo of a woman doing a glute bridge exercise with a resistance band
(Image credit: Getty/Rapeepong Puttakumwong)

Looking to target and strengthen your legs and glutes without squats or lunges? Fitness trainer Brittany Williams has created an effective lower-body workout that will help you build strength and sculpt the muscles in your lower half. 

This workout is perfect for individuals seeking to strengthen their legs while minimizing stress on the knees. It requires minimal equipment which is always an added bonus for those of you who prefer home workouts. Just make sure you have access to a dumbbell (one of the best pieces of home gym equipment you can own, check out the best adjustable dumbbells on the market here) and a chair that is stable enough to withstand your stepping on it.

In addition to the aesthetic bonus of sculpted and toned legs and glutes, strengthening these muscle groups provides functional benefits such as improved balance, stability, and the ability to perform daily activities with ease. Strong legs and glutes contribute to overall physical strength, supporting movements like lifting, carrying, and maintaining proper posture, leading to a more resilient and capable body.

There are seven exercises included in Williams’ workout but she suggests picking out four to five of them and performing three rounds of 10-12 repetitions for each exercise, ensuring to work both sides where applicable.

7 knee-friendly exercises for strengthening your lower body 

It’s important to note that for those looking to significantly increase muscle mass in their glutes and leg muscles, you will need to focus on adding more weight to your lower body workouts as this routine is a bodyweight focused for the most part. Clueing yourself up on progressive overload and its effects on muscle growth will come in handy here.

But if you’re here because you want to develop strength and improve your lower body muscle endurance then have a look at the following moves…

Steering clear of any squats or lunges this lower body workout includes a series of knee-friendly exercises including:

  • Reverse Nordic Curl
  • Hamstring Walkout
  • Single Leg Glute Bridge
  • Rotational Step Up
  • Step Down
  • Fire Hydrant
  • Clam Hip Lift

The reverse Nordic curl is an exercise that primarily targets the quadriceps, while also engaging the core and hip flexors. To perform the bodyweight move, start by kneeling on the floor with your feet anchored or held down by a partner. Slowly lean back, maintaining a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Engage your core and gradually lower your upper body towards the ground, ensuring controlled movement. Once you reach the maximum comfortable position, use your quads to push yourself back up to the starting position. This exercise helps strengthen the quadriceps muscles and improves knee stability.

If you want to hone in on your butt muscles, then an exercise like the fire hydrant is one that targets the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, and hip abductor muscles. To perform the fire hydrant, start on all fours with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Keeping your core engaged and maintaining a neutral spine, lift one leg out to the side. Maintain a controlled motion and a 90-degree angle at the hip. Lower the leg back down to the starting position and repeat on the other side. This exercise helps strengthen and tone the muscles of the hips and glutes, promoting hip stability and improving overall lower body strength. Read what happened when this fitness writer did 100 fire hydrants a day for a week

What are the benefits? 

 Strengthening your legs and glutes offers numerous benefits, including enhanced lower body strength, improved posture, increased mobility, and better functional abilities.

From a physiological perspective, your lower body muscles play a vital role in supporting the body's structure, movement, and overall stability. By engaging in targeted exercises to strengthen your legs and glutes, you can experience enhanced lower body strength. This increased strength allows you to perform daily activities more efficiently, such as walking, climbing stairs, and engaging in various physical tasks with reduced fatigue. Strong leg muscles provide a solid foundation for movement, enabling you to maintain balance and stability during dynamic activities.

In a study published in the British Medical Journal, scientists found that integrating strength and balance-based training into the routines of a group of elderly people reduced the rate of falls in the group. This emphasizes the importance of incorporating functional exercises, like the ones featured above, to make your body more resilient and enhance functional capacity as you age.

By incorporating this knee-friendly lower-body workout into your fitness routine, you can build strength and sculpt your legs and glutes while minimizing joint stress. Remember to prioritize proper form, exercise caution, and stay consistent to achieve your fitness goals and see transformative results in your lower body muscles.

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Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.

Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.

She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.