Fitness

This Bodyweight Legs Workout Combines Strength and Cardio

When it comes to workouts, sometimes you need a twofer: strength training and cardio, all in one. This bodyweight legs workout checks both boxes—it’ll challenge the muscles in your lower body while making you break a sweat.

The best part? You can do it in less than 20 minutes.

This workout is a great option for strength and cardio because of both the exercises it includes and its setup, ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, founder of Strong with Sivan in Baltimore, Maryland, tells SELF. The exercises work the large muscles in your lower body, like your glutes, quads, and hamstrings—and some have the added challenge of explosive components (like jumps or hops),too. You’ll be performing them in supersets, or back-to-back moves with no rest, which will further trigger that cardio component.

“Any exercise that uses large muscle groups and that you do repetitively will increase your heart rate, and you will get a cardiovascular benefit,” she says.

Plus, three of the four exercises in this bodyweight legs workout are single-leg moves. These tend to feel way more intense than bilateral moves, especially when we’re talking about bodyweight versions, says Fagan.

Now, you certainly don’t need to sweat to get in a good workout—in fact, if you’re looking specifically to build muscle or get stronger, workouts with longer rest will be your better choice—but if you have a limited amount of time and want to fit in some strengthening and cardio, this is a great way to do it, Fagan says. Plus, some people just really love sweating during their exercise. And the best exercise is the one you want to do, right?

Quick note: This workout is pretty darn hard. It’s best saved for exercisers who are already familiar with the moves and have the strength and experience to execute the traditional version of each with good form first. For instance, since this workout includes jump squats, you should be able to crank out a clean set of regular bodyweight squats before giving this explosive variation a try. Because it is high impact, due to the jumping, it’s also not going to be the best choice for those with hip, knee, or ankle issues. (In that case, you might want to try this no-jumping cardio workout.)

Ready for a challenge to both your muscles and your endurance? Here’s how to get started.

The Workout

What you need: An exercise mat for comfort and a short box or chair for the Bulgarian split squat.

The Moves

Superset 1

  • Jump squat
  • Bulgarian split squat

Superset 2

  • Lateral lunge to single-leg hop
  • Single-leg glute bridge

Directions

  • For superset 1, perform the jump squat for 35 seconds and the Bulgarian split squat for 35 seconds on each side. Rest for 1 minute. Complete 3–4 rounds.

  • For superset 2, perform each exercise for 35 seconds on each side. Rest for 1 minute. Complete 3–4 rounds.

Demoing the moves are Crystal Williams (GIF 1), a group fitness instructor and trainer who teaches at residential and commercial gyms across New York City; Cookie Janee, (GIFs 2 and 4), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; and Denise Harris (GIF 3), a NASM-certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor based in New York City.

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