Calisthenics Leg Exercises – Strong Legs Without Weights

Some people have a hard time believing that you can get a proper strength training with calisthenics leg exercises only. I’ve watched this discussion from time to time on various online forums. Well, I am here to tell you that you can get a great workout for your legs without weights and fancy machines. You just need to learn how to do it!

In fact, in many ways training your legs with your bodyweight can be better for you than other options. Isolated leg exercises in machines can actually detrain your legs, because our legs are designed to work as an holistic system and not as separate parts. Isolated movements might be useful for an advanced bodybuilder who wants to emphasize certain distinct portions on his lower body, but it does very little for overall muscle mass and functional strength.

If your goal is to develop truly powerful and athletic legs, you would better of with a few exercises. This is provided they work as many leg muscles as possible. As with other calisthenics movements, the progression will be more challenging than adding some plates on a bar. It will challenge your balance, flexibility and core strength.

Training with your bodyweight as the only resistance is safer than with barbells. Either way, remember to not go past your limits. With patience and hard work you will get there! Here are some calisthenics leg exercise that will develop your legs.

The Hover Lunge

Stand on one foot with your opposite leg bent at the knee and hovering behind you.

Reach your arms out, lean forward and bend at the knee, hip and ankle of your standing leg, lowering your opposite knee toward the ground.

Pause briefly with your knee approximately one inch from the ground, then return to the top position, maintaining tension in your abs the whole time. Complete your set and then repeat on the opposite leg.

Reps: When you are practicing the movement anywhere from 2-6 reps is a good range. When you are ready aim for 6-15 reps on each leg.

The Shrimp Squat

The shrimp squat is another version of the Hover Lunge, except it places one of your hands behind you, clasping your rear elevated foot, rather than reaching both your arms in front of you.

This change in hand position puts more weight on your heel and shifts the balance against your favor, making the exercise more difficult.

Reps: When you are practicing the movement anywhere from 2-6 reps is a good range. When you are ready aim for 6-15 reps on each leg.

The Archer Squat

Stand up straight in a wide stance with your toes pointed out slightly to the side.

Shift your weight toward one side and begin squatting with that leg, while keeping your other leg straight. Be sure to keep the foot of your squatting leg flat on the ground the entire time. Allow the other foot to slide sideways and end up straight into a toes-up position.

Descend until your hamstrings make contact with your calf. Pause at the bottom before standing back up to the top position. Repeat on the opposite side.

Reps: When you are practicing the movement anywhere from 2-6 reps is a good range. When you are ready aim for 6-15 reps on each leg.

The One Legged Squat

Stand on one foot on an elevated surface, with your opposite leg hanging off to the side.

Reach your arms forward, as you squat with your standing leg until your hamstrings make contact with your calf. Be sure to keep that foot flat the entire time. Allow your opposite leg to drop below the elevated surface.

Pause at the bottom before standing back up to the top position. Complete your set and then repeat on the opposite leg.

Reps: When you are practicing the movement anywhere from 2-6 reps is a good range. When you are ready aim for 6-15 reps on each leg.

The Pistol Squat

Begin by standing on your left foot, with your right leg extended straight out on front of you.

Place your hands out straight in front of you, this will help your balance. In a controlled manner, bend at the left knee, hip and ankle and lower yourself down.

Lower yourself until the calf coming into full contact with the back of the thigh at the bottom of the movement. Employing a partial range of motion can be a helpful step along the way. Train both sides evenly.
Another way to progress to the full pistol squat is the assisted version. You perform the exercise the same way except sitting down on an object in the bottom position( like a bench). That way you’re employing a partial range of motion and the exercise will be easier.

Reps: When you are practicing the movement anywhere from 2-6 reps is a good range. When you are ready aim for 6-15 reps on each leg.

And Beyond….

So, what do you do when 15 reps gets easy? First of all I recommend you take some time to build up your reps. The ability to perform multiple strict reps will give you muscular fitness and control. How far you choose to go is up to you. If you can perform 30-40 controlled strict reps, you are stronger than most.

If you would like to get even stronger, you can easily add some pounds by holding a barbell or a kettlebell against your chest. Personally I think it’s even better to incorporate some plyometric work into your leg training. This will add conditioning, speed, agility and endurance to legs that are already awesome.

There are multiple ways to do this. Some exercises you can try are box jumps, short sprints, stair sprints and explosive jump squats.

If you are up for a challenge, try an explosive jump pistol squat or one legged squat. When performing the exercise, go slow and steady down to the bottom position and explode into a jump with your one leg. This will show you that only the sky are the limit for building power and strength with calisthenics leg exercises!

 

If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out. If you know other good calisthenics leg exercises, I would appreciate you leaving them below as well!

All the best,

Stefan

 

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Calisthenics Leg Exercises – Strong Legs Without Weights”

  1. The nature of my job – standing most of the time – causes a lot of leg aches at the end of the day. I’ve been looking for ways to treat this problem through exercises and I am glad to come across your article.

    I just gave the archer squat a try and wow, it feels so good at the hamstring. Never knew you could stretch them like that. I should incorporate into my morning routine and do this more often. Thanks for the tips!

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