Here’s how you should use calisthenics for legs training

Leg day has become a staple part of bodybuilders’ community over the past few years.

There’s a reason for that: squats and deadlifts are two great compound lifts.

However, they’re two exercises that don’t exist in calisthenics.

So what now?

We look for alternative bodyweight exercises that can be just as effective as traditional weight-lifting.

And guess what? They exist.

Just take a look at Lazar Novovic, a famous calisthenics athlete. He only uses body weight to train his legs and has a powerful and imposing lower body.

Still not satisfied? Then look at gymnasts. Gymnasts have well-proportioned bodies and need strong legs to complete flips.  Their leg training involves lots of calisthenics.

The benefits of training your legs with calisthenics

Calisthenics athletes do not have chicken legs. If you didn’t look before, verify this fact with Lazar Novovic, whose impressive body is almost exclusively developed with bodyweight.

This is one of the most common preconceived notions about calisthenics, and it’s completely wrong.

In fact, calisthenics offers much healthier benefits when training your legs than traditional weight-lifting.

1. It develops your flexibility

Let’s take a look at the deep squat.

Deep squat 1Deep squat 2Deep squat 3

I challenge you to try doing 20 squats, following this step-by-step tutorial.

Harder than it seems, right?

That’s because calisthenics develops your range-of-motion.

Most traditional weight-lifting will have you doing half-reps that will pump up the muscle but reduce the overall ROM of your hamstrings.

To successfully do 20-40 reps for 3 sets, your hamstrings need to be flexible enough to go down as low as proper form requires.

2. Calisthenics leg training helps you improve your balance

I’m sure you’ve heard of the staple calisthenics leg exercise, the pistol squat.

When I first met a friend, he was an extremely strong and active soccer player. And yet, he couldn’t do a single pistol squat.

Strength-wise, he was much stronger than me at that time (not anymore!). But balance and ROM-wise, I was much more advanced than him.

And that’s because I’d trained my legs with calisthenics exercises.

3. Your legs can do more than just look pretty

Calisthenics offers a variety of exercises that trains the body in as wide a range-of-motion as possible.

As I mentioned, this is amazing for flexibility. But developing your ROM will also mean that your muscles have applicable uses outside of just looking big and pretty.

You’ll develop explosive strength, which means that you’ll be able to exert a maximum amount of power in a short period of time.

You’ll have POWER thanks to explosive calisthenics training.

Calisthenics exercises to train your legs

After this, I’m sure you’ll believe that calisthenics can help you develop superhuman legs. Check out a few of the leg exercises calisthenics has to offer!

1. Pistol Squats

A pistol squat is a one-legged deep squat.

Once it gets too easy, you can up the difficulty level by slowing down each rep, adding a jump at the top, or completing the movement while standing on a balancing ball or a low pull-up bar (or high pull up bar if you dare).

How to do it:

  • Stand on one leg, with arms wide open for balance
  • The other leg is extended in front
  • Go down fully by bending at the hip and knee of the weight bearing leg, till the buttock touches the heel
  • Do not allow the other leg to touch the floor
  • Come up by pushing through the heel and straightening the knee
  • Repeat with the other leg

Pistol squat 1Pistol squat 3Pistol squat 2

2. Box Jumps

This is an explosive exercise, that will have very quick results on your strength, endurance and muscle growth.

If you don’t have a box, you could use anything solid enough to hold you (ie. Rocks, benches, picnic tables).

How to do it:

  • Get into a starting position with your knees hip-width apart, your arms parallel to the floor in front of you.
  • Jump up and forward onto the box, your body relaxed.
  • Use your arms for balance, and always keep your knees bent.
  • Jump back down onto the ground, your body relaxed and your legs kept hip-width apart.

Doing this movement using one leg will test your balance similarly to the pistol squat.  Progression for this exercise is simple; if it gets too easy, jump onto a higher surface, if it’s too hard, jump onto a lower surface.


3. Bridges

The bridge is known as a calisthenics replacement for deadlifts.  It works your glutes and hamstrings, as well as your shoulders and lower back, with the added benefit of working your mobility and flexibility.

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back, your knees bent and hip-width apart.
  • Place your hands, palms flat above your shoulders, right by your ears.
  • Push your hands and feet into the ground, raising your hips towards the ceiling.

If the full bridge is too difficult, try glute bridges. It is the same movement except with your upper back on the ground.  Work on your lower back mobility with similar bending stretches as well.

To make it more difficult, you can do it with one leg, one arm, or one leg and one arm.


4. Depth Jumps

Depth jumps originated from the Russian trainer, Dr. Verkhoshansky.

How to perform it:

  • The movement begins on top of a small box, rock, bench, etc,
  • Take a small leap down to the ground
  • When you land, keep your body relaxed. Don’t tense your knees, or they will absorb too much of the impact.
  • As soon as you land, immediately jump forward or up as far as possible.

This movement was originally known as shock training, because of how quickly your muscles need to react and jump.  The depth jumps, similar to box jumps, will train your lower body explosiveness, and build mass in the entire legs, including the calves.


5. Sprints

Sprints have a fat burning and muscle building effect.

Typically, you do sprints in intervals, for example, sprint for ten seconds, then walk/rest for twenty seconds, and repeat.

The intensity of the sprinting will keep your heart rate high throughout the entire rest period.

One of the main things Sprinting has over long distance cardio is EPOC, meaning you continue to burn calories after your workout.

But the benefits of sprinting don’t end there.  Sprints work the entire leg, helping build up lower body muscle, lose fat, and improve nutrient partitioning.


So, there you have it.  You now know five ways to build lower body muscle and strength using calisthenics.

So even a calisthenics athlete shouldn’t skip leg day!

I recommend training your legs at least twice per week if you do split workouts.

If you train with full body routines, make sure to pick an exercise to do every workout for at least five sets.

How do you train your legs? Share your routines in the comments or in our Facebook group!

But what if I can’t do some of these exercises? 

Create an optimal training routine just for you

This is a problem a lot of us run into. We’re given routines – usually based on a standardized level – beginner, intermediate, advanced. Calisthenics Academy used to do that too – because it’s very hard to create a personalized training for each and every person unless we spend a significant amount of time with them.

There was just one problem with this approach (actually there are a lot of problems with it) – it hindered our athletes’ progress. We’ve written extensively on the matter in the blog post, The end of beginner/intermediate/advanced – that is hurting your training.

It simply explains why a lack of personalization is hurting your training.

Imagine if some of these exercises above were too hard for you. Your body will try to compensate with a poor form, movement dysfunction and possibly risk injury if it’s too challenging.

If some of these exercises were too easy they wouldn’t challenge your muscles to grow – you’d simply be wasting your time.

This is why we created Calisthenics Academy: to offer a fully personalized training program reflecting exactly where your level is for optimal performance.

Take the assessment to see how do you stack up on the 8 fundamental calisthenics moves

calisthenics training assessment

calisthenics training assessment

Share the results and comments in our Facebook Group

Professional trainer, ex cross-fitter and a long time calisthenic practitioner. I started with Convict Conditioning and achieved levels of strength which enabled me to take part in street workouts championships. Check Out our Resources and Start Building Real Strength just using your Bodyweight!
How to Blast Your Biceps Without Touching a Single Weight with Calisthenics

How to Blast Your Biceps Without Touching a Single Weight with Calisthenics

Guys, have you ever watched action movies and wished you had a set of pythons or guns bulging out from under your t-shirt? Ladies, have you ever desired tone, fit arms that look great in tank tops?

If you have, you’ve certainly come to the right place.

My experience in the gym training others has led me to believe that having bigger biceps is the main, #1 goal for any guy just starting to train.

I KNOW that when I first started training I was OBSESSED with getting bigger arms, especially biceps. Unfortunately, doing curls for the girls for hours on end never helped me to reach my ultimate goal.

BUT, despite what many “experts” may tell you when I started adding bodyweight training to my regimen, I noticed a significant increase (at least 2 inches) in the size of my biceps.

And not only were my arms bigger, but they were also more toned and defined. So for you females who definitely don’t want huge, masculine arms, bodyweight biceps training can most definitely help you attain the “toned” look you’re probably going for.

In the article below, I’ve listed the best bodyweight exercises that can and should be used to build stronger, bigger, and more defined biceps muscles with calisthenics bicep workout. I have divided the sections by experience level so anyone, regardless of skill, can get started today.

I hope you enjoy. Let’s begin!


You may or may not have seen some pretty gruesome YouTube videos like the one below of horrific bicep tear injuries doing “safe” exercises like bicep curls.


The last thing you or I want is to be sidelined from training, sports, or physical activity because of a nagging arm injury. For this reason, it’s absolutely CRUCIAL that you warm up. Even before training your biceps.

It doesn’t even take that long. Simply perform the following circuit of three exercises three times before starting your main training, and you will be ready to avoid injury, which should ALWAYS be the #1 goal when training.

1. Band Pull-Aparts (15 reps)

2. Push-Ups (any style) (10 reps)

3. Shoulder Dislocations (with band) (25 reps)

Top 3 Overall BW Biceps Exercises

1. Chin-Ups (Beginner-Advanced)

Chin-ups are far and away the best bodyweight movement for building bigger and stronger biceps muscles.

And it’s not even close.

If you’re training exclusively with bodyweight movements and you’re NOT doing chin-ups, then you’re doing your arms a major disservice.

In this calisthenics bicep workout, chin-ups are essentially doing bicep curls with your own weight. The best part about them, and why they’re the #1 overall movement is because they are so adaptable. They can literally be done anywhere.

They can be done in the gym, at home (if you have a bar), or even in the park (using a sturdy tree).

The key to performing a CHIN-UP is to start by having your palms face you, instead of away from you (pull-up). This places the load of the movement on the biceps as opposed to the shoulders/back.

Another key tip is to not use momentum to “throw” yourself and your chin over the bar. Correct chin-ups are to be done somewhat slowly (see the video) and under control, making sure to REALLY use only your biceps to lift and lower your body.

Sometimes you may see people swinging themselves up over the bar to get that one last rep. DO NOT DO THIS.

The idea is to train the biceps. By using momentum, you’re essentially eliminating the biceps muscle from the equation.


2. Hindu, or Dive Bomber Push-Ups (Intermediate)

While regular push-ups will certainly train your arms slightly, the biceps are definitely not the main load-bearing muscle in them. However, Hindu push-ups place a much greater load on the entire arm (including the biceps), raising them to #2 on my list.

Start in a normal push-up position, then shift your weight back onto the ball of your feet while raising your hips toward the air. Your hands and feet are carrying most of your weight while you’re in a downward dog – or inverted V position. From here, shift your weight forward onto your arms while slowly diving towards your hands. Your arms slowly bend during the movement.

You complete the movement by pushing your arms back up and raising your head and trunk up as far as you can. At this point your head should be the furthest from the ground, your arms should be locked out, and your hips/butt should be nearly touching the ground with your back arched.

To really emphasize the biceps muscles, do the movement as slowly as possible, accentuating each part of the exercise as much as possible.


3. Inverted Palms Facing Inward Bodyweight Row (Beginner)

I know you’re probably thinking, “I thought rows worked the back muscles?” And you’re mostly right. BUT again, by changing the position of your hands, you alter the muscles used.

By having your palms facing back towards your head, you’re turning the inverted row into a modified version of a chin-up working mainly the biceps, and partially the back.

Watch the video for the proper setup and form, but please make sure that during the exercise you keep your glutes (butt) squeezed as tight as possible to protect your lower back.

Top Advanced Bodyweight Biceps Exercises

If you’ve never trained in calisthenics before, I highly advise you to first check your level by taking the Calisthenics Academy Assessment. If you choose to still attempt these exercises, please use caution and proceed with care. And don’t force the success of any one of these!

1. Single Arm Chin-Ups

Almost exactly the same as chin-ups, this exercise is done using only one arm. These are obviously much, much, much harder than normal chin-ups, and if you can even do one rep, you deserve some MAJOR props.

In fact, if you think you can do these, video yourself and post it in the comments section of the article. I want to personally congratulate you!

It may sound obvious…with these, you do your reps on one arm, rest, and then switch arms. While doing them, you can place your off or non-working hand around your working wrist.

2. Reverse Push-Ups

If you’re familiar with the extended bridge pose in many yoga practices, then it will be easy for you to visualize reverse push-ups as they’re very similar.

To perform a reverse push-up you start by laying on the ground with your knees comfortably bent. Next, you place your hands on the floor by your head with your fingers facing towards your body (like you were starting a back flip).

Now would probably be an appropriate time to mention that if at any point during this movement or set-up you feel any sort of pain in your shoulders or wrists you should IMMEDIATELY stop the exercise and skip trying to do reverse push-ups. The possibility of injuring yourself just isn’t worth the risk.

Back to the spiel. If you can comfortably place your hands in this position, the next step is to push your body up into an arc so that only your hands and feet are touching the ground.

Finally, do the push-ups by bending your arms and lowering the upper back to the ground (not your butt or lower half). Then push yourself back up.


3. Ring Curls

To do ring curls you will need gymnastics rings or a TRX Trainer system.

Ring curls are excellent because they give you a nice substitution for chin-ups, which can be taxing on the wrists. Ring curls also allow you to closely simulate dumbbell bicep curls by using your bodyweight alone.

Start by hanging the rings so that they hang at mid-chest. Then grab the rings and allow your body to slowly fall back (with the rings supporting you) until your body makes a 45-degree angle with the flat ground (you may need to adjust the placement of your feet to obtain this position).

With your arms slightly above your head, curl your body up using your biceps to where you are nearly in a standing position and repeat the process for your desired amount of repetitions.

While standing in the rest position, make sure to keep your body in a straight line with no sagging in the hip/butt area.


Top Beginner Calisthenics Biceps Exercises

If you try these exercises out, and you can’t do them yet…that’s OK! “Beginner” can mean a different level for each person, so give these a try. If you’re not there just yet, slowly work your way up to successfully doing them, then surpassing them. You’re awesome.

You’ve got this.

1. Assisted Chin-Up

Assisted chin-ups are done using the same form as standard chin-ups, but with the help of either a machine that you can find in most gyms or by tying off a resistance band and placing it under your feet to obtain the same effect.

Assisted chin-ups are great for beginners because they’re an excellent way to build up strength and perfect the form needed to work your way up to normal chin-ups.

Again, make sure to pick an assistance level that allows you to CORRECTLY complete the movement without swinging your body up.


2. Negative Repetition Chin-Ups

If you can’t do regular chin-ups or assisted chin-ups, negative rep chin-ups are for you.

The idea is to start in the top position of a chin-up (arms bent at the elbows – chin above the bar). But instead of pulling your body up, negative rep chin-ups are only concerned with lowering your body to the bottom position (2-5 second count). Always keep COMPLETE control of your form.

To begin, you’ll need a sturdy bench or platform to raise yourself into the top position. When you do the first rep, step back up on the platform and start again with the second rep.

These will also help build up strength in your biceps and create the proper muscle memory needed to advance your way to assisted, and eventually unassisted chin-ups.

Master these and you’ll be cranking out chin-ups in no time!


3. Dynamic Tension Curls

If you’re a complete newbie, and there’s no shame in that – we all have to start somewhere and dynamic tension curls maybe your only option for a first calisthenics bicep workout.

Dynamic tension curls are very similar to doing a dumbbell bicep curl, but instead of using a weight, you use your off hand to resist or push down the working hand. Basically, you’re curling the resistance added by your off arm. They’re an excellent starting exercise because you determine the amount of resistance added. They can also be done ANYWHERE.

For that reason, they are also a great option for more experienced people if there are no other available options to train your arms.

For greatest effect, make sure that when you do these (or any curls for that matter), you’re keeping your working elbow tucked in tightly to your body. Doing this will ensure that you’re only training the bicep and not using your other arm muscles to curl the resistance.


Arms that would make even the Hulkster jealous

Now you know how you can get a great biceps workout in without touching a single weight. Perfect one arm chin-ups and you’ll have arms that would even make the Hulkster jealous!

Please let us know what you think. Did we miss out on some great arm exercises that you use? Are you making progress with some of the exercises we listed? We’d love to hear about it. Be sure to let us know in the comments section below!


Lack of personalization is hurting your training performance. It’s a FACT.

Some of these exercises above might be too hard for you, yet you still try to do them. Now what?
Your body will compensate by using poor form, movement dysfunction and you’ll possibly risk injury if it’s too challenging. And now, imagine if some of these exercises were so easy that they didn’t challenge your muscles to grow – you’d simply be wasting your time.  This is why we created Calisthenics Academy: to offer a fully personalized training program reflecting exactly where your level is for optimal performance.

Take the assessment to see how do you stack up on the 8 fundamental calisthenics moves

calisthenics training assessment

calisthenics training assessment

Share the results and comments in our Facebook Group


calisthenics academy the ultimate calisthenics training program


Professional trainer, ex cross-fitter and a long time calisthenic practitioner. I started with Convict Conditioning and achieved levels of strength which enabled me to take part in street workouts championships. Check Out our Resources and Start Building Real Strength just using your Bodyweight!