12 Best Lower Body Push Exercises That Can Help Build Strong Legs

Strengthen and tone your legs with these potent lower body push exercises for improved mobility, balance and posture.

lower body push exercises featured image and leg press alternative exercises

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What are Lower Body Push Exercises?

Lower body push exercises engage lower body muscles through a pushing action. They involve extending your legs against resistance, effectively targeting the muscle groups in the lower portion of the body.

The main focus of the lower body push exercises is to build strength, power, and muscular endurance in the lower half of the body. They are fundamental in improving function, enhancing athletic performance, and supporting everyday activities that require leg strength and stability.

Target Muscles for Lower Body Push Exercises

Lower body push exercises can target the following muscles.

  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Adductors
  • Abductors

Benefits of Lower Body Push Exercises

Lower body push exercises offer several benefits for general fitness and athletic performance.

Muscle Strength and Growth

Lower body push exercises can help build strength in major lower-body muscles like the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

They target and tone the muscles, helping to strengthen and develop them. The muscle development is crucial for both aesthetic and functional purposes.

Lower body push exercises allow for significant load bearing and progressive overload. That is essential for muscle strength and hypertrophy. Muscles adapt and become stronger and more developed as you gradually increase the weight and intensity of the exercises.

lower body push exercises - womandoing dumbbell lunge

Improved Athletic Performance

Athletes benefit from lower body push exercises as they enhance power, speed, and explosiveness. These qualities are crucial in many sports and activities, like jumping, sprinting, and quick direction changes.

Strengthening the lower body muscles, particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, can contribute to faster running and movement speeds, an asset in almost all athletic pursuits.

Stronger lower body muscles through lower body push exercises can endure more prolonged periods of activity without fatigue, another crucial quality in sports that requires sustained effort.

Enhanced Balance and Stability

Lower body push exercises also engage the smaller stabilizer muscles around the ankles, knees, and hips. Targeting and strengthening those muscle groups can help maintain proper alignment and balance during static and dynamic movements.

Some lower body push exercises are unilateral movements that challenge the body to maintain balance on one leg. Such training is especially effective in improving balance and stability.

Regular lower body push exercises or lower body training can help correct imbalances between the left and right sides of the body, which are common and can lead to instability and increased risk of injury.

Joint Health

Lower body push exercises can help strengthen the muscles around joints like the knees and hips. Stronger muscles provide better support and stabilization for the joints, reducing the risk of injury and wear.

Regularly performing lower body push exercises can help maintain and even improve the range of motion in the joints. Good mobility is essential for joint health and function.

Exercise promotes circulation, which helps in transporting nutrients to joint tissues and removing waste products. The process can help maintain healthy joint cartilage and enhance smooth joint movement.

Improved Posture and Core Strength

Many lower body push exercises engage the legs and core muscles. Strengthening the muscles can lead to proper spine alignment and help you maintain good posture.

Also, strengthening your leg muscles can help them to support a more upright and aligned posture, reducing the likelihood of slouching and other poor posture habits.

Best Lower Body Push Exercises for Stronger Legs

Below are the best lower body push exercises that predominantly target the muscles in the lower half of your body.

Barbell back squats

barbell squats lower body push exercises- bench press vs. push ups - push-ups exercise

Barbell back squats are lower body push exercises and a staple in strength training, known for their effectiveness in building lower body strength and muscle mass.

Using a barbell for the exercise adds significant resistance, making it one of the best for muscle growth and strength and for enhancing athletic performance and functional fitness.

Target Muscles: Quadriceps, Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower Back, Core

Required Equipment: Barbell, Weight Plates, Squat Rack, or Power Rack (optional)

  • Steps to Follow
  • Set the barbell on a rack at about chest level
  • Rest the barbell across your upper back.
  • Grasp the barbell with both hands wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Unrack the barbell and step back from the rack.
  • Keep your feet at shoulder-width and toes slightly pointed outwards.
  • Bend at the knees and hips to lower your body into a squat. Keep your back straight and chest up and lower until your thighs are, at least, parallel to the floor.
  • Push through your heels to return to your starting position, straightening your hips and knees simultaneously.
  • Inhale as you lower the bar, exhale as you push back up.
  • Repeat 8-12 reps for a set, 3-5 sets to complete a session.


romanian deadlift vs. deadlift - strength training exercises - conventional deadlifts - best barbell back exercises

Deadlifts are fundamental strength training and lower body push exercises renowned for their comprehensive engagement of the lower and upper body muscles.

While often categorized as a pulling movement, deadlifts involve significant lower body pushing effort, particularly during the initial lift from the ground.

They are some of the best lower body push exercises for building strength and muscle mass.
Deadlifts can also enhance muscular strength and improve posture, core stability, and functional fitness.

Target Muscles: Hamstrings, Glutes, Lower Back, Quadriceps, Core Muscles, Upper Back and Traps

Required Equipment: Barbell, Weight Plates

Steps to Follow

  • Place the loaded barbell on the floor and stand with your feet roughly at hip-width and the bar over your feet.
  • Bend at your hips and knees to reach the bar.
  • Grasp the bar with a firm, overhand grip (or mixed grip for heavier weights).
  • Push through the heels and lift the bar while extending your hips and knees. Keep your back straight and chest up.
  • Drive your hips forward to stand up straight when the bar passes the knees.
  • Reverse the motion to return the bar to the floor, maintaining a flat back.
  • Inhale as you lower the bar, exhale as you lift.
  • Repeat 6-10 reps for a set, 3-4 sets to complete a session.

Kettlebell Swings

kettlebell exercises for beginners - woman doing kettlebell swings for back fat exercises

Kettlebell swings are lower body push exercises that combine strength training with cardiovascular endurance.

Although primarily considered a hinge movement, they involve a significant push element through the hips, engaging and strengthening the lower body.

They are some of the best lower body push exercises for building power and explosiveness in the hips and legs.

Kettlebell swings target a range of muscles and are some of the best lower body push exercises for enhancing athletic performance, burning calories, and improving functional fitness.

Target Muscles: Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower Back, Core Muscles, Shoulders, Arms

Required Equipment: Kettlebell

Steps to Follow

  • Stand with your feet at shoulder-width, with the kettlebell on the floor and in front of you.
  • Hinge at the hips and bend the knees slightly to reach the kettlebell and grasp it with both hands.
  • Swing the kettlebell between your legs, then thrust your hips forward to propel it up to chest level.
  • Allow the kettlebell to swing back down in a controlled manner, hinging at your hips again.
  • Continue the swinging motion, aiming for 10-20 swings for a set and 3-5 sets to complete a session.
  • Inhale on the downswing and exhale on the upswing.

Wall Sits

wall sit calisthenics exercises

Wall sits are some of the best isometric lower body push exercises.

Wall sits involve holding a position without movement, effectively targeting and strengthening the lower body muscles.

Wall Sits do not involve dynamic movements like many other lower body push exercises, but the sustained contraction during a wall sit provides a significant challenge to the muscles.

Wall sits are simple, and they don’t require any equipment. Rehabilitation settings use the exercise to strengthen leg muscles and improve muscular endurance.

They are excellent for those looking to enhance lower body strength and endurance without equipment or extensive space.

Target Muscles: Quadriceps, Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves

Steps to Follow

  • Stand with your back against a wall, feet at shoulder-width.
  • Slide down the wall until your knees are at 90 degrees.
  • Maintain the position for 20-30 seconds, ensuring your back stays flat on the wall.
  • Aim to complete 2-3 sets of 20-30 seconds in a session.

Calf Raise

best calf exercises - smith machine calf raise

Calf raises are lower body push exercises that help with aesthetic muscle development and improve ankle stability and balance.

The exercise focuses on the calf muscles in the lower leg.

Target Muscles: Gastrocnemius, Soleus

Required Equipment: Dumbbells, barbell, or a calf raise machine (All optional)

Steps to Follow

  • Stand upright with your feet at hip-width.
  • Hold the weights at your sides or position the barbell on your back.
  • Rise onto the balls of your feet, lifting your heels as high as possible.
  • Slowly lower your heels back to the floor.
  • Exhale as you lift your heels, inhale as you lower them.
  • Repeat 15-20 reps, 3-4 sets.

Hip Thrusts

best hip exercises - barbell hip thrust - deadlift alternative and best squat alternatives

Hip thrusts are powerful lower body push exercises for strengthening and building the glute muscles.

Target Muscles: Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower Back

Required Equipment: Weight bench, barbell or dumbbell

Steps to Follow

  • Sit on the floor with a weight bench behind you and a barbell over your hips.
  • Lean back against the bench so your shoulder blades are close to the top of it.
  • Drive through your feet, extending your hips vertically with the barbell.
  • Hold the top position briefly, ensuring full hip extension.
  • Lower your hips back down to your starting position.
  • Perform the desired number of repetitions.
  • Inhale as you lower, exhale as you thrust upwards.
  • Complete a session of 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps

Leg Extensions

lower body push exercises - man doing calf isolation exercises on a leg extension machine

Leg extensions are popular isolation exercises for targeting the quadriceps, the muscles at the front of the thigh.

You perform the exercise with a leg extension machine, which allows for focused and controlled strengthening of the quads.

Leg extensions are some of the best lower body push exercises that define and strengthen quads, making them popular in rehabilitation and bodybuilding contexts.

Target Muscles: Quadriceps

Required Equipment: Leg Extension Machine

Steps to Follow

  • Sit on the leg extension machine with your legs under the pad and your feet pointing forward.
  • Extend your legs to the maximum, focusing on contracting the quadriceps.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Exhale as you extend your legs, inhale as you return to the starting position.
  • Aim for 8-20 reps per set, 2-4 sets to complete a session.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

lower body unilateral exercises - single-leg romanian deadlift

The Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift is a unilateral exercise that challenges balance, coordination, and strength in the lower body.

It primarily targets the posterior chain muscles and engages the core for stability. It can also help address muscle imbalances and improve stability and strength in each leg independently.

The single-leg Romanian deadlift is one of the best lower body push exercises that requires and develops a higher degree of balance and proprioception.

Target Muscles: Hamstrings, Glutes, Lower Back

Required Equipment: Dumbbell or Kettlebell (optional for added resistance)

Steps to Follow

  • Stand on one leg, holding a weight in the opposite hand if using weights.
  • Hinge at the hips, ensuring you keep your back straight, and lower the weight while raising the free leg behind you.
  • Return to your starting position, maintaining balance and control.
  • Repeat the movement on the other leg.

Donkey Kicks

hip extension exercises -woman doing donkey kicks - best glute actvation exercises

Donkey kicks, also known as quadruped hip extensions, are bodyweight lower body push exercises that target the glutes, helping to tone and strengthen the buttock muscles.

Target Muscles: Glutes, Hamstrings

Steps to follow

  • Get on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  • Lift one leg, and keeping your knee bent, push your foot toward the ceiling.
  • Lower the leg back to its starting position.
  • Repeat the movement with the other leg.
  • Inhale as you lower the leg, exhale as you lift.
  • Perform 2-4 sets of 8-20 reps per leg.

Lateral lunges

lateral lunges - squat alternatives and best bodyweight hamstring exercises

Lateral lunges are multi-directional lower body push exercises that target several muscles in the lower half of the body.

They are some of the best lower body push exercises for working and emphasizing the inner and outer thighs, glutes, and quadriceps, providing a comprehensive lower-body workout.

Lateral lunges can help improve lateral movements, balance, and stability, making them excellent for functional fitness and sports training. They can also enhance hip flexibility and help develop better lower body strength and coordination.

Target Muscles: Glutes, Quadriceps, Adductors, Hamstrings, Abductors

Required Equipment: Optional: Dumbbells or kettlebells

Steps to Follow

  • Stand with your feet together.
  • Step out to the side with one foot, bending the knee of the stepping leg while keeping the other leg straight.
  • Push off with the bent leg to return to your starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Inhale as you lunge to the side, and exhale as you return to the center.

Leg Press

lower body push exercises - hack squat vs. leg press - leg press exercise

The leg press is one of the best machine-based lower body push exercises for building muscle mass, improving leg strength, and enhancing lower body power, as it allows you to use heavy weights in a controlled manner.

It allows you to target the leg muscles with a pushing motion against weighted resistance. The movement involves pushing a weight away from your body using your legs, effectively working several muscles.

Many exercisers favor the leg press due to the exercise’s ability to isolate the legs. The movement reduces the strain on the back and core, making it a good choice for those who find squatting challenging.

Target Muscles: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves
Required Equipment: Leg Press Machine

Steps to Follow

  • Sit in the leg press machine with your back and head resting comfortably against the padded support.
  • Place your feet on the platform, hip-width apart.
  • Extend your legs to push the footplate away, then return to the starting position.
  • Return to the starting position, ensuring your knees don’t lock.
  • Ensure smooth and controlled movements throughout the exercise.
  • Inhale as you lower the weight, exhale as you push it away.
  • Repeat 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps.


hip extension exercises - weighted step-ups with dumbbells lower body push exercises

Step-ups are functional exercises that mimic everyday movements like climbing stairs, making them highly practical for enhancing functional strength and balance.

Step-ups are some of the best lower body push exercises for building muscle and strength in the area and for improving unilateral balance and coordination.

Target Muscles: Quadriceps, Glutes, Hamstrings

Required Equipment: A bench, step,  Plyo box, or platform

Steps to Follow

  • Stand facing the bench or platform.
  • Step onto the bench with one foot and push through your heel to lift your body.
  • Lower back down to your starting position.
  • Repeat the movement with the other leg.
  • Inhale as you step down, exhale as you step up.
  • Repeat 5-8 reps for a set, 3-5 sets per session.

Steps to follow

Final words from LiveLIfe

Lower body push exercises are a cornerstone of a well-rounded fitness regimen. They offer extensive benefits that translate into athletic performance and daily life activities.

Adopt the lower body push exercises discussed here to help you build stronger, more resilient legs to enhance your balance and improve your posture.


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