Strength-training exercises for legs

These exercises develop the muscles of the legs, such as the calves and hamstrings.

Remember to check with your health care team before beginning any exercise program. Although we have provided strength-training exercises to suit most people, some of them may not be right for you.

Exercise instructions and videos on this page:

Calf raise

Muscle group: Calves
Equipment: Step, hand weights
  1. Stand upright, with a wall or chair as support if necessary.
  2. Lift your heels off the ground, keeping your knees and body straight. Breathe out while lifting.
  3. Hold the position for a moment. Return to the starting position, then repeat the calf raise.

⇑ Increase the difficulty slightly by standing with the balls of your feet on a small step (so that your heels hand over the edge) and/or holding weights in your hands. You can also add challenge by doing the exercise one leg at a time.

Chair rise

Muscle group: Quadriceps (front of thigh) and gluteals (buttocks)
Equipment: Chair
  1. Sit towards the middle or front of a chair with your hands on your knees.
  2. Stand up, using your hands on your knees for assistance if necessary. Keep your back straight as you stand up. Breathe out while standing.
  3. Sit back down slowly, then repeat the chair rise.

⇑ Add a challenge by standing without using your hands to assist, then try with your arms across your chest. When standing unassisted, stand in one movement without rocking.

Wall squat

Muscle group: Quadriceps (front of thigh) and gluteals (buttocks)
Equipment: Elastic resistance band 
  1. Stand 30–40 cm from a wall with feet shoulder width apart. Slightly bend your knees and lean back into the wall, placing your arms and palms against the wall. Tilt your pelvis so your back is flat to the wall. Tuck your chin in.
  2. Keeping your body in contact with the wall, slide down (as if to sit) until you can feel your legs working – this may not be very far. Hold for 10–30 seconds if you can.
  3. Slowly slide up until you are back into starting position, then repeat the wall squat.

⇑ Add a challenge by sliding further down the wall, but stop before the knees go over and in front of the toes – there should be no more than a 90-degree angle between hip and knee.

This information was last reviewed in April 2016
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