Lots of people in the fitness industry claim you cannot build legs with a calisthenics leg workout. They make a lot of jokes about people who only train bodyweight exercises, “chicken legs” is what they would have.
Well, this is a bit true…,
However, it is easily possible to build and have jacked legs while training calisthenics. Want to know how? Keep on reading. In this post, we discuss why/how it is possible to get strong legs in calisthenics. We make this clear with a list of hard exercises, and we advise you on how to train for more mass.
Why it is possible to build strong legs with calisthenics.
A stereotype of people who practice only bodyweight exercises is that they have small legs. It is because a lot of people think it is hard to train your legs with only bodyweight exercises. And that is a bit true. It is much easier to train your legs with free weight instead of your own bodyweight. Doing just bodyweight squats will not get you far. It is just too easy for your body. That is why you need to focus on more challenging exercises. You need to really challenge your legs if you want to make progress. I have made a list of some difficult leg exercises you should definitely include in your calisthenics leg workout.
Some hard exercises to put in your calisthenics leg workout
- Jumping lunges/squats: Just regular bodyweight squat or lunges are really easy, too easy. Therefore you need them harder. A way of doing this when you do not have weights is to make them more explosive. After doing an intense session of jumping squats/lunges you will definitely feel your legs. With this exercise, you will get stronger legs as well as improving your balance and explosiveness.
- Bulgarian split squat: This exercise is more a lunge than a squat. You place one foot on an elevated object. Do the squat until your front foot reaches an angle of 90 degrees, and then lift yourself up again. You can change the difficulty by simply changing the height of the elevated object. After this exercise, you will feel your hamstrings burn. A great exercise!
- Pistol squats: The famous pistol squat, also known as the one-leg squat. The king of the bodyweight leg exercises. Really hard to do if you just have started calisthenics. This exercise requires a lot of strength as well as balance. Probably the best leg exercise if you do not have any equipment with you.
Choose a couple of exercises to create a hard calisthenics leg workout
How to unlock the pistol squat
Okay, but how do you do this difficult leg exercises, the pistol squat. It might surprise you, but this exercise is not all about having strong legs. People who can squat with twice their weight on their shoulders can often not perform a pistol squat. It requires a lot of balance and flexibility. Having the technique right is the hardest part of the exercise.
Besides focusing on getting stronger legs and flexibility, there are some exercises to achieve the one-leg squat faster. For instance, you can do an assisted squat where you use your hands or a resistance band. This way, you do not have to focus on the balance. Therefore it is easier. You can also try the exercise with one leg on a higher surface. It makes the pistol squat a lot easier. The last pistol squat drill you can do is with an object/weight. If you hold that object with straight arms in front of you, you will have a sort of counterbalance. This way, it is much easier to find your balance. Doing these exercises will eventually lead to you succeeding at the pistol squat.
Everybody had different fitness goals, also in calisthenics. Some people want to get big with calisthenics, and you have people who want to achieve power moves like the planche and the front lever. It is the reason why so many people do not have or either want big legs. Skills like the planche are already extremely difficult to do in the first place. A lot of leg mass means more weight. These people want to as light as possible, so the skills are easier to perform.
Tips you can implement in your calisthenics leg workout to gain mass
However, If you do not belong to these people and you want to get BIG legs. Then you need to train hard for it. There are a few factors and rules you need to apply in your calisthenics leg workout to maximalize your potential.
- Always go for a full range of motion. If you are doing the wrong technique or the half motion of an exercise, you will not progress not as fast as you would with the right technique or full range of motion. Always remember to put quality above quantity.
- Train your legs a minimum of two times per week. If you want to get big legs with calisthenics, it is crucial to train them often. One training session will not get you far. Therefore aim for at least two times a week.
- Minimize your rest. When waiting between your sets, try to rest as little as possible. If you want big legs, you need to fatigue them as much as possible. So try not to rest for more than 60 seconds.
- Stretch after workouts. Stretching is almost as important as your workout itself. It helps to improve the form of exercise. Researchers claim that this helps muscle growth. When stretching, it gives your muscles more space to grow. Therefore, they will get bigger.
If you incorporate all these tips, you will eventually notice results with your calisthenics leg training. And of course, if you train your legs using free weights, results will come much faster. But if you do not have access to a gym. Then this would be a solution.
Building massive legs in calisthenics is possible. However, you need to focus on challenging leg exercises like the pistol squad, and you need to train them often. But in the end, if you have access to a gym, I would recommend you to exercise your legs with free weights. You will notice results much faster than if you would do with bodyweight leg exercises.
Jari Dohmen has a B.A. in physiotherapy and has been involved with Calisthenics since 2013. Around the time Calisthenics began to proliferate in the Netherlands, he was already keenly interested in both the physiotherapeutic and general lifestyle benefits Calisthenics possesses. Jari started Calisthenics Worldwide (CWW) in 2016, after numerous internet searches for Calisthenics topics that sparked his interest yielded barely any information. Today, CWW is one of the largest and most widely recognized Calisthenics blogs in the world. Become part of the Calisthenics community by commenting on this article.