Looking to take your leg workouts up a notch? Check out these nine hardest calisthenics leg exercises that will challenge even the most experienced exercisers! 👊
These exercises can be done without weights, making them perfect for at-home workouts or travel.
🎯 The exercises on our list are your conventional pistol squats, lunges, and shrimp squats. While those are hard exercises as well, the other 9 exercises for you are the top-tier specialized leg exercises only attained if you work specifically for it. As a result, there are also not a lot of athletes who are able to perform these exercises.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- 💥 The foundations for the hardest leg exercises
- 💥 Safety concern
- 💥 & the 9 Hardest calisthenics leg exercises
We didn’t include the weighted variation of the advanced foundations as any exercise can be considered difficult if given with a challenging weight.
In the hardest exercises list, we chose the exercises that require the most strength demands while putting your body in very mechanically disadvantageous positions. Stabilizing your body is required before you can perform the movement.
Before we cover the hardest calisthenics leg exercises, it’s vital to mention the foundation of these movements. While most people think the calisthenics leg exercises work just the muscles below the waist, the reality is that the entire lower body must work together to produce force. This includes the hips, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and core. By developing a strong foundation across all of these muscle groups, you’ll be able to safely and efficiently perform calisthenics leg exercises.🦵
👆We’ve listed the advanced foundations you need to master first before moving towards the hardest calisthenics. These advanced exercises are the base form and technique for the hardest exercises. Use the 📍proper progressions to build the base for more advanced movements.
🔥 Pistol squat
The pistol squat is a one-legged squat that is performed with the other leg extended out in front of the body. This exercise can be done with or without weight, making it perfect for those who are just starting out or those who are looking for a challenge. 💯
✊To perform this exercise, start by standing on one leg with the other leg extended out in front of you. Lower your body down into a squat, making sure to keep your weight in your heel and your back straight. Once you reach the bottom of the squat, press through your heel to return to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions before switching legs.
- Foot flat on the ground
- Allow the knee to move past the toes
- Upper body upright and good posture
- Non-working leg hovering just above the ground
- Working leg going down straight and not collapsing one side
Easier: Assisted pistol squats, eccentric, lunges, two-legged version
Harder: Weighted, slower tempo
🔥 Nordic curls
Nordic curls are a highly challenging leg exercise that can be done without weights. This exercise targets the hamstrings and the glutes, which are the muscles on the back of the thighs. The complete nordic curls without assistance and in a full range of motion will challenge you for a long time, so regressing to other easier exercises can massively help you out in the beginning.
✊To perform this exercise, start in a kneeling position with your palms flat on the ground in front of you. Place your feet under something sturdy that will not move, such as a couch or a table. Slowly lower your body down, keeping your back straight and your palms on the ground. Once you reach the bottom of the curl, press through your palms to return to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
- Full hip extension and upright torso
- Comfortable anchor at the legs
- Full-body tension
- Glutes and hamstring engagement during the movement
Easier: Assisted, less range of motion, hinge at the hips, assisted
Harder: More range of motion, assisted
🔥 Quad extensions
Quad extensions are a great exercise for targeting the quadriceps, which are the muscles on the front of the thighs. This exercise can be done with or without weight, making it perfect for those who are just starting out or those who are looking for a challenge. It also trains the quad mobility while acting as an isolation movement for quad muscle growth.
✊To perform this exercise, start by kneeling high shoulder-width apart, upright body, and extended hips. Raise your arms in front of you for additional balance. Lower your upper body backward by hinging at the knees and keeping the hips extended throughout the movement. Go the lowest as your mobility permits. Rise back up again just before you are fully vertical then go for more reps.
- Extended hips
- Core engaged
- Posterior pelvic tilt
- Keep your weight backward
- Knees shoulder-width apart
Easier: Assisted, less range of motion
Harder: More range of motion, weighted
🔥 Sissy squats
This is a great exercise for targeting the quads, which are the muscles on the front of the thighs. Sissy squats are quite controversial, because of the OUTDATED understanding of leg biomechanics that “the knees shouldn’t go past the toes.” Sissy squats, it’s intended to push your knees past your toes to enable quad activation. People claim that it’s bad for the knees, but it’s actually the opposite. It strengthens the knees given the wider range of motion.
The sissy squat is a safe exercise as long as you perform the suitable variation for your current skill level and condition. It’s just like any other exercise.
✊To perform this exercise, start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands behind your head. Lower your body down into a squat, making sure to keep your weight in your heels and your back straight. Once you reach the bottom of the squat, press through your heels to return to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
- Hips fully extended
- Weight on your toes
- Allow your knees go past your toes
Easier: Assisted, less range of motion
Harder: More range of motion
We have to mention again that building your lower body muscles, strength, and mobility is vital before attempting these hardest calisthenics leg exercises.
Brute strength alone isn’t going to cut it. You should already have good control through a range of motion to safely execute the movement.
For more help per body part, here are some exercises to better prepare your lower body.
✅ Quadriceps – Best Bodyweight Quad Exercises
✅ Glutes & Hamstrings – Best Bodyweight Glute Exercises
✅ Calves – 4 Secrets for Bigger Calves
The risk of injury is also present if you are not gradual with your progress, using bad form, and do not consider your specific conditions and current skill level.
Mastering these calisthenics leg exercises is possible if you work properly with calisthenics progressions and work specifically for these exercises.
☝️Always progress GRADUALLY with low loading and proceed cautiously. Don’t train through pain.
✨9 HARDEST CALISTHENICS LEG EXERCISES WITHOUT WEIGHTS!
Source: Massimo Kokhno compilation
☑️FULL RANGE NORDIC CURLS
A complete range of nordic curls from the starting position until your chest is close to the floor with full hip extension isn’t something you can perform within a few months of training. The full range of nordic is a very challenging, yet rewarding achievement.
☑️ONE-LEGGED NORDIC CURLS
If the full range is crazy, then wait till you see the one-legged variation. This places the full weight of your upper torso solely on the glutes and hamstrings of the single working leg. Specificity is the key if you want to master this crazy, gravity-defying skill.
☑️INVERTED NORDIC CURL
Fighting gravity through the horizontal plane is already difficult with the nordic, but the inverted position puts the exercise to a whole new level of difficulty. The inverted nordic curl is yet to be completed in footage with a full range of motion, yet partial range has been done.
☑️DEFICIT PISTOL SQUAT
You can make the regular pistol squat (which is already challenging) even more difficult but move through a wider range of motion. This is done by performing it on an elevated surface so you can move deeper in your pistol squat. The deficit puts more emphasis on your quads so it helps if you have a solid set of quadriceps. Of course, your glutes and hamstrings will still play an important role in performing the movement.
The reverse split is will make you think that the video is played in reverse. This move requires good flexibility as well as abductor strength (and a smooth surface!) to help you stand back up into position. Instead of the more common transition we see from standing to side split, this move is simply the reverse. From a side split, you need to be able to push back into standing with only the strength of your legs.
☑️DEFICIT QUAD EXTENSIONS
An amazing display of quad mobility and strength can be seen through a deficit quad extension. This is a raised quad extension so you can perform the bottom part of the exercise deeper so that your upper torso goes lower than your legs.
☑️ONE-LEGGED QUAD EXTENSION
Of course, if we have the two-legged variation, we also have this crazy one-legged quad extension. It’s very straightforward. Perform the quad extension with only one leg to support the body.
☑️ONE-LEGGED SISSY SQUAT
Going back on the single-leg, let’s cover the sissy squat. This move requires very strong, stable, and capable quads to support the whole body in a compromising position. Sissy squats in a full range of motion is already challenging enough.
☑️INVERTED PISTOL SQUAT
Here’s an interesting-looking exercise, the inverted pistol squats! You get to test your strength against gravity also in a vertical fashion, but upside down. This requires your lower body to have the strength and mobility to pull your entire weight from the inverted hanging position.
Calisthenics leg exercises are a great way to build strength, muscle, and mobility without the use of weights.
👊These nine exercises are some of the hardest calisthenics leg exercises you can do without weights, so make sure you are properly warmed up and have good foundations before attempting them. As always, listen to your body and stop if you feel any pain.
If you want to master the basic and advanced calisthenics leg foundations so you can also begin training for these hardest calisthenics leg exercises, then you need a PERSONALISED and ADAPTIVE training program.👊
Personalisation starts with an assessment to know where you currently are in your calisthenics journey.