There are a lot of moves for the upper body, but what about calisthenics exercises for the lower body? Bodyweight training is usually criticized by people lifting weights because of being inefficient for the legs.
Well, I’m going to show you the best bodyweight leg exercises here, the basic ones. But, you will also learn moves that are so effective as if you were doing weight training.
1. Bodyweight Squats
The squat is a compound move that works the largest muscle groups of the lower body, such as the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps. The muscle groups that are found within the upper half of the legs. The best exercise to develop your thighs and butt.
Because of its complexity, it improves not only the strength of the entire body but also your endurance. This way, you can perform athletic moves better as well.
On top of that, because the most massive muscles of the body are targeted, it helps to burn fat.
Now let’s learn how to do bodyweight squat correctly since that is the only way you can enjoy the benefits of it.
- Get into a squat position, so put your feet shoulder-width apart and place your arms next to your body. Keep your back straight, your heads up and your feet on the ground during the entire movement.
- Now, start lowering your body towards the floor with upright head and torso. Do not use your hands in any way for help. For example, do not put on your thighs. To avoid, you can put your hands behind your neck instead.
- Go as low as possible! The deeper you go, the harder to keep the balance. Go as far as you can without falling over. How deep you can go depends on your fitness and flexibility. With practice and stretching, you will be able to go deeper with time.
- Now start pushing your body weight up just by using the power of your legs. Do not use the momentum. And, get back to the starting position.
Try to make the entire move continuous. So, do not stop at the top and bottom.
So, this is the simple bodyweight squat which is the base of a lot of other more advanced calisthenics leg exercises. If you can do 30-40 reps, you can start switching harder moves.
What are these?
Mostly single leg and plyometric variations.
For example, squat jumps or box jumps that boost the explosive power of the lower body and has cardio benefits. Or, Bulgarian split squats or pistol squats when you squat with only one of your legs boosting the power of the leg and core.
You can learn many advanced calisthenics squat variations here for a more advanced lower bodyweight training to build mass.
After squats lunges are the most beneficial calisthenics exercises for the lower body. They are perfect for strengthening the largest muscles, and even your core since it is harder to keep the balance. It is an ideal move to enhance your endurance and cardio.
Here is how to perform forward lunges correctly.
- The starting position. Put your feet hip-distance apart. Now step forward with a straight back and looking forward.
- Lower your body until the thigh of your front leg, and the calf of your rare leg is parallel to the ground.
- Now, by using the power of your front leg, and without momentum, push your body back to the starting position.
- During the entire movement, keep your back straight and do not look down. Try to make the exercise as continuous as possible.
For example, you can do reverse lunges when you step backward. Or, you can step to sides. Also, you can increase the intensity and perform jump lunges for a tough plyo training burning a lot of calories and boosting your cardio. The variations are limitless.
3. Glute Bridges
The previous two exercises mainly target the front muscles of your legs, now let’s focus on the ones at the rear. These muscles are your glutes and hamstrings. They are essential not just for having an attractive lower body, but they take place in such activities like running and jumping.
The bridge is an excellent exercise to target those areas. Let’s see how to do it.
- Lie on the ground and bend your knees, but keep your feet on the ground. Place your arms next to you.
- Now, start lifting your hips. Go up until your torso gets into a straight line. For this, you need to tighten your glutes, abs, and back.
- Hold this position for a few seconds and slowly, in a controlled way, get back to starting place.
When you lift your body up, do not push from your heels. Use the power of your glutes and hams. You can avoid it by placing your feet closer to your butt.
Just like previous ones, there are many variations you can choose from. For example, the single-leg glute bridges that are much harder to perform because of the imbalance.
4. Calf raises
Calf muscles are usually neglected because we think the other leg exercises are enough. But that is not true. Muscular calves are essential to perform such athletic movements like running or jumping effectively. Plus, poorly-developed calves makes your legs look like sticks.
Calf raises are simple yet effective calisthenics exercises that you can do anywhere. You just need a slightly elevated platform, for example, a step.
Let’s see how to do it.
- Step on the elevated platform and go back a bit until half of your feet on the ground. You will feel a stretch in your calves.
- Now, from this lowered position, push your body weight up on to your tiptoes as high as you can. During the move, keep your back straight. If you do it right, you will feel the contraction in your calves.
- At the top keep this position for a few seconds.
- Now, slowly lower your body back to the starting point. Go as deep as you can. If you feel the stretch, you do it right. Do not stop at the bottom, start pressing your body back to the top immediately.
If you find it easy, you can do single leg calf raises instead.
An Example Calisthenics Workout for Legs
Now you know the most beneficial calisthenics exercises for the lower body, so here is a sample workout presented by Chris Heria. It lasts for only 10 minutes but gives a complete leg training.
Here is another calisthenics leg workout.
If you want to do more difficult bodyweight leg workouts, check out this tutorial.
What if these calisthenics leg exercises are too easy for you?
Well, if you have tried all the advanced variations and you feel they do not support your development, you can use weights. Grab dumbbells but even better equipment is weight vest since it is much more comfortable.
What can I do if I cannot go deep during squats?
I had the same problem, but with practice, it is going to be better. But, I also do calisthenics hip exercises (video) that helped me a lot to loosen up those muscles.
You have shown a lot of moves for quads, glutes, and hams. What about inner thighs?
If you want to focus on those areas, there a few calisthenics inner thigh exercises you can try, for example, the adductor plank. Here you can learn these moves (video).
I hope this guide will help you to create your lower bodyweight workout. And, now you are less skeptic about the effectiveness of no equipment leg strength training. If you have any questions and other workout tips, feel free to ask below.