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Leg Workouts for Women

Mix-and-Match Workout: Minimal Equipment

From Bulgarian split squats and skull crushers to a glute bridge and chest press, a simple bench is the best way to elevate your game.

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So far in this series, we’ve focused on workouts using only one piece of equipment. But if your home gym is a bit more expansive, so too are your training options. Let’s say you have an exercise bench to go along with your dumbbells; this opens up a few variations of standard floor movements.

The below workout revolves around one stellar free-weight exercise: the Bulgarian split squat. It’s essentially a one-legged squat, in which the rear foot is elevated on a bench behind you to increase range of motion and isolation in the front leg. Bulgarian split squats are a go-to exercise for elite-level athletes and strength coaches looking to enhance lower-body strength and development and eliminate imbalances from leg to leg.

Accompanying Bulgarians in this workout are a handful of other hard-hitting moves: alternating chest presses for the pecs and shoulders, pullovers for the lat (back) muscles, skullcrushers for the triceps and bodyweight glute bridges for the butt. This workout, designed by Shayla Rog, CPT, transformation coach and owner of Operation: Badass, is sure to give your glutes a boost. 

Check out more installments of the Oxygen Mix-and-Match Workout series!

Bodyweight Warm-Up

Instructions: This is an “activation circuit” that Rog recommends doing at the start of all her mix-and-match workouts. Perform the below three exercises as a circuit (one after the other without resting), completing the circuit two times. Rog’s website offers video demonstrations of the three exercises (first three exercises shown).

Exercise Reps
Bird Dog 10 (each side)
Frog Pump 10
Arm Circles 10 (each way)

The Mix-and-Match Dumbbell and Bench Workout

Instructions: This routine can be done with as little as one pair of dumbbells and an exercise bench. If you have multiple resistances, go a little heavier on chest presses and pullovers than you do on skullcrushers. With Bulgarian split squats, start light to see how it feels because this is a very taxing move that can produce very sore glutes and thighs the first time out. 

On supersets, go directly from the first exercise to the second without resting. After the second exercise in the pairing, rest 60 to 90 seconds and repeat the superset. After your third time through the superset, go straight to the next exercise (dumbbell Bulgarian split squat).

Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat 1 15 (each side)
Alternating Dumbbell Chest Press
— superset with —
Dumbbell Pullover
3

3
10 (each side)

15
Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat 1 15 (each side)
Dumbbell Skull Crusher
— superset with —
Elevated Glute Bridge*
3

3
12

15
Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat 1 max reps

*To increase intensity, incorporate a three-second hold at peak contraction at the top of each rep. 

Do: “Focus on slowing down and controlling the eccentric (lowering) portion of these movements,” Rog says.

Don’t: Worry if you don’t have a bench. Lie on the floor instead for alternating chest presses and skullcrushers. For Bulgarian split squats and pullovers, a sturdy chair can be used instead of a bench.

Intensity Tip: On your last set of Bulgarian split squats, when you can no longer do reps with the dumbbells, drop them to the floor and do a few more reps with just bodyweight. Warning: This will burn! 

Exercises

Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

 

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Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides and place one foot on a bench behind you and the other foot flat on the floor below you. The front foot should be far enough forward so that when you lower down, your knee doesn’t extend over your toes. Bend your front knee to lower yourself straight down toward the floor. When your front quad reaches parallel, press up to the start position. Complete all reps, then switch legs and repeat. “If you find your bench is too high for Bulgarian split squats, you can substitute regular split squats with your back foot on the ground,” Rog says.

Alternating Dumbbell Chest Press 

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Lie faceup on a flat bench holding a pair of dumbbells just outside your chest with your arms bent. Press the dumbbells straight up until your elbows are just short of locked out. Perform a dumbbell press with one arm (lowering to the start position, then pressing back up) while keeping the other in the top position, then repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep. Alternate arms every other rep.

Dumbbell Pullover

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Lie faceup on a flat bench holding one end of a dumbbell in both hands. Start with your arms extended straight up with the dumbbell directly over your face (hands holding the top end of it). With only a slight bend in your elbows, lower the dumbbell down and behind you until your arms are roughly parallel with the floor and you feel a good stretch. Reverse the motion to pull the dumbbell back to the start position. 

Dumbbell Skull Crusher 

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Lie back on a flat bench holding a pair of dumbbells. Begin with your arms extended toward the ceiling, dumbbells over your face and palms facing each other. Keeping your elbows in tight and upper arms stationary, lower the dumbbells toward the sides of your forehead. When your hands reach head level, contract your triceps to extend your elbows and return the dumbbells to the start position. 

Elevated Glute Bridge

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Lie faceup a foot or so in front of a bench running sideways. Place the middle of your feet on the edge of the bench and start with your hips on the floor and knees bent 90 degrees. Contract your glutes to lift your hips off the floor in a “bridge” motion until your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Keep your knees bent throughout and your arms on the floor for stability. Squeeze your glutes hard at the top, then slowly lower back down to the floor.

Check out the rest of the Mix-and-Match workouts here.

The Oxygen Mix-and-Match Workout series — designed by Shayla Rog, CPT, transformation coach and owner of Operation: Badass — is designed to be used exactly how it sounds: “Mix” any or all of these workouts into your schedule however you want, “matching” them to whatever equipment you have at home (dumbbells and a bench, resistance bands, medicine ball, bodyweight only, etc.). 

Because all mix-and-match workouts hit more or less the whole body (upper and lower), you can cherry-pick these routines without having to worry about favoring any particular muscle group and causing imbalances. Beginners can do two or three mix-and-match workouts per week; advanced individuals can do up to four or five weekly. Take at least one rest day after every one to two sessions for proper recovery.