Over the past ten years I’ve seen a lot of dumb, unsafe stuff being done in public gyms. A great majority of that dumb stuff has been centered on people training or trying to strengthen their legs.
From rounded backs supporting too much weight to compromised joints being placed in impossible balance situations, I’ve seen enough to film the gym version of “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly”.
Emphasis on bad & ugly.
Fortunately this doesn’t have to be you. In fact, you don’t even need to go to the gym to turn your legs into tree trunks!y a
We all know that one of the big disadvantages of calisthenics its a lack of leg exercises. There is really that much weight we can put on our legs with our bodyweight unless we add something additional.
[tweet_box design=”default”]With this article I really hope to change your opinion on legs calisthenics.[/tweet_box] I present a number of exercises from beginner (which most of your probably know) to way more advanced ones.
Try the advanced ones and see how much effort both on balance and strength they require. Let me know in comments how did you go. Also do you know any other legs calisthenics exercises? I would love to hear from you in comments.
So here we go:
Just because you’ll be able to do these exercises at home doesn’t mean you can avoid warming up properly. To protect yourself from injury perform the following circuit 3-5x before training your legs. Note: This warm-up could also suitably be used before you do any form of running.
Make sure you work through the exercises with pace. You should be sweating by the time you are finished.
1 – Bodyweight Squats (10-15)
2- Leg Swings
(Start swings small, progressing to larger ones at the end of the reps) (20/leg)
3- Walking Lunge
(10/leg – BIG strides)
Top Overall Bodyweight Legs Calisthenic Exercises
1) Squat (Intermediate)
EVERYONE, regardless of training experience should be squatting in some form or fashion. [tweet_box design=”default”]Squatting is an essential human movement that helps to increase the health and functionality of the central nervous system.[/tweet_box]
[tweet_box design=”default”]Bodyweight squats are extremely flexible and you can do them in several different fashions[/tweet_box] (arms above the head, arms behind the head, at sides, etc.)
You will start by standing with legs slightly wider than shoulder width. To start take a HUGE belly breath and squeeze your abs & glutes so that they are as tight as a drum (to protect your back).
To lower, imagine yourself sitting BACK, into a chair (really stick your backside out). Your spine should remain neutral (straight as an arrow) the entire time, and your knees should track straight out over your toes.
If your back archs or rounds, or your knees start to cave inward, STOP the exercise immediately to protect yourself from unnecessary injury.
2) Jump Lunges (Intermediate)
Jump lunges are exactly like doing a normal lunge, but instead of simply pressing yourself up out of the lunge, you will explosively jump out of the bottom position, switch or kick your legs mid-air, and upon landing lower yourself into the next lunge (opposite leg) in one swift motion.
If the description sounds tedious (I tried!), simply view the video for full detail. It’s not as complex as it sounds. I promise!
If at any point you find yourself losing form or struggling to keep balance upon landing, it’s time to stop and rest before moving on with your workout.
3) Ring Leg Curl (Intermediate)
While squat & lunge variations will take care of training your quadriceps, ring leg curls will surely take care of your glutes & and hamstrings.
To perform ring leg curls, set your rings or trx system so that they fall about 1 foot off the ground. Lay facing up on your back and hook your feet into the rings/TRX.
Finally squeeze your glutes/abs to protect your back and pull your legs (the rings) back towards your butt. While doing this your hips & core will push up into the air (similar to a bridge). To really strengthen the hamstrings hold the top position for 2-3 seconds.
Top Advanced Bodyweight Legs Calisthenics Exercises
1) Pistol Squats (Single Leg)
[tweet_box design=”default”]Pistol squats are far and away the absolute true test of leg strength and flexibility.[/tweet_box] Do not be discouraged if you don’t have the strength to perform them!
Begin in a standing position with your arms straight out in front of your body. Raise one leg (off leg) and slowly start to lower yourself to the ground (squatting with one leg). As you descend straighten the off leg out in front of you as well (as straight as you can).
If at any point you feel pain in the working leg’s knee, stop immediately and consider having your knees inspected by a good physical therapist.
If you can’t do pistol squats immediately have no fear, they can modified. To modify hang your rings or tie a band off to something sturdy in front of you. Then as you lower yourself hold the rings/band for support. This support will help you maintain proper form, and will also provide you with some resistance for pressing your self out of the hole (bottom position).
2) Bulgarian Split Squats
Really just a funny name to describe what is essentially a split squat with the back foot elevated.
To begin you will need to place a sturdy bench or box roughly 2 feet behind you. Then facing away from the box place one of your legs back and up on to the box/bench. Keeping your upper body straight and firm, lower (squat) down as far as you comfortably can.
Ideally you would like for your front thigh to be parallel to the ground. Do the prescribed number of reps on one side (usually 8-12), and then switch. If you find the movement too easy, add a 2-5s pause at the bottom of the squat, hold your arms straight above your head, or both.
3) Squat Jumps
To perform squat jumps start by standing & preparing yourself to squat (big belly breath, abs & glutes tight).
Squat down to the lowest position you can confidently hold, and then start jumping rapidly on your toes making sure that you DO NOT come out of the squat position.
Keep jumping for as long as you can hold proper form (usually about 30s – 1 minute).
Top Beginner Bodyweight Legs Calisthenics Exercises
1) Wall Squat Hold
Wall squat holds are an excellent way for you to build up the necessary strength in your quads so that eventually you can progress to more advanced BW squatting movements.
Start by standing with your back up against a wall, and your feet about 1-1.5 feet away from the wall. Slide your back down against the wall and into a squatting position. You will want to get as close as you can to having your thighs parallel compared to the ground.
Then simply hold this position for as long as you can without resting your arms on the top of your thighs.
These are a great exercise for any basketball players out there looking to improve their defensive position.
2) Glute Bridge
For those without access to gymnastics rings or a TRX, or for those who are not yet advanced enough to do ring leg curls, bridges are an excellent way to build up the butt/hamstrings.
Start off by lying face up on your back with your knees comfortably bent, and your hands by your side. Squeeze your butt & abs and then push (through your heels) your torso up into the air.
If you are doing the exercise correctly you will immediately feel it in your glutes (butt).
3) Assisted Bodyweight Squats
Like I said, EVERYONE should be squatting. But some may need assistance to being with, and that’s okay.
Much like assisted pistol squats, you will need a band/rope to tie off to something sturdy in front of you. Then stand and prepare yourself to squat with the rope/band in your hands. Lower yourself down using the band/rope for support. Also use the rope/band to help pull yourself out of the bottom position.
If you are a tweener, and bodyweight squats alone are a bit too hard, but straight assisted squats are too easy, throw in a 2-5s pause at the bottom position to work on strengthening the quads.
Overall there is a lot you can do with just your own bodyweight when it comes to training your legs. The main key to take away is that we ALL should be training our legs in some form or fashion.
Even though the leg muscles are often overlooked from a vanity point of view (at least for men) as opposed to upper body muscles, we still need to take care of our lower halves. After all they get us from point A to point B.
Take care of your legs, and your legs will take care of you!