The Best Leg Exercises for Beginners in Calisthenics – part II

leg exercises in calisthenics

Most men and women in calisthenics want to build bigger and stronger legs. Of course, that can be a bit difficult since your legs already carry your bodyweight every day. But it is definitely possible. At Calisthenics Worldwide we keep things realistic and simple. If you want massive bodybuilder’s legs, you need to go to the gym and put them under high loads during resistance training. But if you want strong athletic legs, calisthenics is more than enough to achieve your goals. This is our second article with 5 leg exercises to build stronger athletic legs with calisthenics.

Click here to check the first 5 leg exercises you can do in calisthenics. If you have read the first article in this series, feel free to skip right to the exercises. 

About Leg Exercises

Leg exercises mostly consist of compound exercises. And those are needed to build all-around strong legs. Your main focus should be your quadriceps (which is the biggest muscle of your body), glutes (big and small), hamstrings and calves. With a lot of our exercises you can put emphasis on a different part of your leg. Make sure to focus on your weakest spot first. Because if you don’t, your gains may be slow and you won’t improve as much as possible. 

Always make sure to use the full range of motion (ROM) for maximum progress. Additionally, improve on sets and reps (4 times 15 as a maximum) and exercise slowly. Once this becomes easy for you, you can add a weighted vest or resistance band. Also, try using the variations we provide for each exercise. 

Elevated Glute Bridge 

Starting Position 

Lay on the ground your feet on a chair, bench or similar elevation. Make sure to squeeze your butt cheeks together during the exercise. Put extra pressure on your heels, but keep your entire feet connected the chair. Contract your core. 

How to Perform the Exercise 

Push your legs and pelvis up as high as you can, but keep your back straight, not hollow. Push from your heels and squeeze your butt cheeks together. You should feel tension in these areas. Slowly go back down to starting position. 

How to Progress 

You can increase difficulty by putting yout feet close together. This makes your support surface smaller. If you have a resistance band you can put it over your knee and push it outwards. Another option is a one-leg elevated glute bridge. If you use a weighted vest make sure it is in front of your body. 

Variations 

– Activate your glutes more in the movement by not pushing from your heels (beginner)

– Focus more on balance and core with the one-leg elevated glute bridge (advanced) 

Bulgarian Squat 

Starting Position 

Put one foot on a bench with toes facing downward, and make a step forward with the other foot. Keep your upper body straight and contract your abs. It is like a lunge position but with one foot on a bench. 

How to Perform the Exercise 

Put most of your weight onto the leg that’s in front of you. Slowly bend it to 90 degrees while your knee keeps aligned with your foot, not passing it or going inward. To increase ROM, your upper body remains straight but moves a bit backwards. As you come up, push only with your front leg until it is fully stretched. 

How to Progress 

First, improve your ROM or make your step forward bigger. Second, make sure your weight is all in front of you. That means no pushing with the rear leg. Third, by putting a resistance band under your front foot and holding it or adding a weighted vest you can increase the difficulty level. Train both sides equally! In all cases, make sure you keep your back straight and contracted to avoid injuries and bad posture.

Variations 

– Activate your quads more by moving your upper body more forward

– Activate your glutes more by leaning backward more 

Archer Lunge 

Starting Position 

Start by making a step left and right. Your legs should stand apart from each other with your feet facing forward. Make sure both of your feet keep touching the ground. And contract your core.  

How to Perform the Exercise 

Lean towards one side and bend that knee, while your other leg extends. You can feel a stretch in your adductors during the exercise. Bend the knee as far as possible but keep it aligned. As you go back to your starting position, push only with your bended side. Next, lean towards the other side and repeat.

How to Progress 

When this exercise is getting easy, try to do the following. While you bend your left knee and you reach the end position, stay ducked and switch to your right side until you’re leaning on the right side. Then push yourself up again. This increases mobility and the hold makes the exercise more difficult. 

Skater Lunge 

Starting Position 

Start with both feet next to each other, toes facing forward and contract your core. 

How to Perform the Exercise 

Lift up one leg and place it diagonally behind you. During this movement, make sure your front leg bends 90 degrees through the knee. Again, keep it aligned. Your rear leg should only touch the ground with your toes. When you’re going back, push yourself up again using your front leg only. It’s very easy to lose balance or lose the alignment of your front leg. So focus on perfecting that part first. 

How to Progress 

As you progress, try to stop touching the ground with your rear toes to increase the difficulty level. Alternatively, you can use a weighted vest

Crab Walk 

Starting Position 

Stand straight with your feet against each other. 

How to Perform the Exercise 

Walk left or right (you’ll do both sides) by make a big side step and bending your knees into a light squat position, which you hold. If you stepped to the right make sure you push yourself up with your right leg and close your feet together. Repeat as often as you can to one side. Then, switch to the other side. 

How to Progress 

One way to progress is by putting a resistance band around your knees. It will make you sore pretty quickly. Another option is to add weight to your body. 

As mentioned in the introduction, this is the second of two articles about leg exercises in calisthenics. Click here to read the first 5 leg exercises you an do in calisthenics. If you need any of the equipment we mentioned above, like resistance bands or pull-up bars, check out the recommended equipment we use ourselves.

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