Intense Bodyweight and Calisthenics Leg Workout
Are you excited? You should be because it’s leg day! Honestly, I haven’t had a specific “leg day” in decades. Not since I was doing the Body-for-Life program when I was in my early 20s. I just can’t fathom spending my entire workout time in the gym just on legs.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. But it’s just sort of turned into this trendy phrase that people, especially influencers, like to brag about on their social media pages. That’s not how I role. I’m authentic and tell the truth and always give you the advice you deserve to have.
And I can honestly say that I do NOT like leg day. And that’s probably because I also do not particularly love working the legs, period! Remember, I’m brutally honest and don’t pull punches. Again, that’s just a personal thing and it does not reflect the importance of working your legs, because they ARE important.
Heck, you need them to be strong and sturdy to carry your upper body around to all the places you frequent on a daily basis. Not to mention, if you play or participate in any form of sports or activities where the legs are involved, they need to withstand the rigors they will be put through.
My main issue is that my legs are long and I am mechanically disadvantaged when it comes to performing exercises. I still do them though, but I blend them into workouts with other body parts. That takes the sting away a bit.
With all this being said, I still can whip up GREAT workouts for the wheels at the drop of a hat. I’ve had many satisfied clients over the years who happily reported to me a day or two after a workout that they were having a hard time sitting down to go to the bathroom.
Sorry if that was a bit gross, but having normal bowel movements is part of nature and it’s good for you. Don’t run from it! Ok, PSA and TMA session over, so let’s get back to our regularly scheduled program.
The crescendo today is going to be a bodyweight workout for you to do at home or at any location where you have a little bit of space. So don’t change your dial and stay focused on the task at hand. First, let’s address the anatomy of the legs so you know what you are working and why.
Major Muscles of the Lower Body
Although this is going to be called a leg workout, I’m going to actually sweeten the pie and make it a “lower body” workout. Quite simply, you are going to work all the muscles from your waist down. This includes the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves.
Although I’m sure you have at least a bit of physical literacy, I’m going to expand on all of these areas so you know exactly which muscles are where.
Your “quads” are the thick muscles on the front of your thighs. Your hamstrings oppose the quads and are found on the upper back part of the legs. Your calves are on the back of the lower legs between your knees and ankles, and your glutes are also known as the buttocks—the muscles that you sit on.
OK, now you need to know the motion that each one of these muscles cause. That’s how you build programs. You work around the responsibility of the muscle’s movement and build yourself a routine that makes sense.
The obvious goal is to incorporate as many movements of the joints as possible to cause contractions of the beforementioned muscles. When you do that, you create a solid protocol that will reap the best benefits. And, you can do all this with just bodyweight.
Bodyweight Leg Workout - The Exercises
The quads contract when you do knee extension, or a straightening motion of the leg. Adversely, knee flexion is where you reduce the angle from your heel to your butt and this works your hamstrings.
Hip extension is when you kick or simply move your upper thigh backwards and that works your glutes. If you were to move your thigh at an angle to your side, it’s called abduction and that works the side of the glutes, known as the abductors.
Moving your leg inward (adduction) will work your inner thigh muscles known as the adductors.
As for the calves, when you point your toes downward, this is called plantar flexion, which works the gastrocnemius or upper part of the calves. If your knee is bent 90 degrees and you point your toes downward, you will hit the lower part of the calf known as the soleus.
All good so far? Good! Now let’s put together a workout for you to target all of these muscles.
Lower Body Workout Protocol
OK, here ya go. You have two options. Either perform all of the exercises below in a vertical column and repeat three to five times, or perform 3 to 5 sets of each and then move on to the next one. See below for more details on how to perform the drills.
Rest as long as needed between sets, but try to keep it no longer than 60 seconds. If you do the drills in a vertical loading style, feel free to turn it into a circuit workout and use short rest breaks or even take no rest at all. Maybe start off with short ret breaks and then by the time you get to your last set, try to go through with no rest at all.
Air Squats 10 to 12 reps
Inner/Outer Calf Raises 15 reps of each
Cossack Squats 10 to 12 reps per side
Alt Single-leg Romanian Deadlifts (SLRDL) 10 to 12 reps per side
Alternating Drop Lunges 10 to 12 reps per side
Bootstrappers 10 to 12 reps
Alternating Hip Bridge Calf Raises 10 to 12 reps of each
Air Squats are pretty self-explanatory. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, place your hands or closed fists in front of your chest and perform squats by bending your knees. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor and rise back up.
Inner/Outer Calf Raises are to be performed back-to-back with no rest. Start with your toes facing in at an angle and lift yourself up onto your toes as high as possible. Slowly lower yourself back down and repeat for the required amount of reps. Then turn your toes out at an angle and do the exact same thing.
Cossack Squats are performed by standing in a wide stance and then bending one knee and pushing your hips back as you straighten the other leg and turn your toes up. Then shift your weight to the other side and repeat the same motions on the opposite side of your body. Go back and forth in a slow and steady motion.
SLRDLs not only work your hamstrings and glutes, but they also really improve your balance. To do these, stand on one foot and keep that leg straight with a slight bend in your knee as you bend forward at the hips. Kick your other leg backward and up until it is about parallel to the floor.
Lower yourself back to a standing position with both feet on the floor and repeat with the other leg. Alternate back and forth in a slow and steady motion.
Drop Lunges target the legs, but create a higher amount of emphasis on the glutes. Stand with your feet together and place your hands near your chest. Step backward at an angle to your right with your left foot and drop into an angled lunge position.
Rise back up, step your feet back together and repeat on the other side. Continue to alternate back and forth. Make sure to keep your shoulders in line with your hips when you’re doing this drill and maintain a straight back.
Bootstrappers are some of my all-time favorites. Not only do they give your thighs a deceiving amount of work, but they also stretch your upper back and shoulders. Begin in a downward-facing dog position. Your hands should be on the ground with your body in an A-frame shape.
Keep your hands and feet right where they are and lower your butt down toward your heels by bending your knees. Stop when you get as low as possible and then push yourself back to the starting position. Repeat for a set of reps.
Alternating Hip Bridge Calf Raises are complex exercises that require you to do two things at the same time. Just not at the EXACT same time. Start in a lying position on your back with your knees bent, feet flat and hands at your sides.
Press your feet into the floor and lift your hips as high as possible. Once you get to this position, lift your heels up as high as possible. This will target the soleus we spoke about earlier.
Lower your heels and then your hips. Now move your feet out wide and do another hip bridge. This will shift the focus more toward your outer glutes. Once you rise up, perform a calf raise again.
Now lower your heels and move your feet back in to the starting position. Continue to alternate until you’ve done a total of 10 to 12 reps. That would be 5 or 6 of each variation.
Final Words of Wisdom
The ball is now in your court. Do you want to make excuses or progress? If it’s the latter, then you have yourself a nice leg workout that you can do anywhere, any time. Never let a lack of resources hold you back from building your best body ever. You have everything you need right at your fingertips.
Lastly, adding some key supplements to your diet like pine pollen, beef liver and bull testicle can go a long way in building leg strength and optimizing hormones. Remember, we never use artificial or synthetic ingredients in our products. They are pure and as natural as it gets!
Until next time,
Feel free to hit me up with any questions or comments.
This is Kevin David Rail, follow me on IG at trainer_rail and FB at https://www.facebook.com/kevin.rail
About the Author: A Life and Career Dedicated to Healthy Living
Kevin David Rail is a fitness nutrition specialist with certifications through ACSM, ACE, NASM, ACSM, AFM and a BS in Sport Management/Fitness and Wellness. He was featured in the documentary films Fasting and The Motivation Factor for his expertise as a health and fitness professional. Kevin has helped hundreds of people change their lives through expertly designed meal plans and training programs that maximize size, strength, and fat loss.
P.S. If you have not done so yet, make sure to download the My Inferno Body app, which comes with workout and exercise libraries, pre-made programs, fasting protocols, gut health guides and a signature cookbook. All bases are covered to push your health and wellness to the next level!