If there is one thing calisthenics stars often catch flak for, it’s being unbalanced and failing to focus on lower body or legs. After all, for decades the staples of lower-body training have been heavy squats and deadlifts. So how do you replicate the massive muscle-building power of these movements without heavy weights? It doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some simple ways to build serious leg muscles with only your own bodyweight.
SQUATS, THE CALISTHENICS WAY
First thing first, if you cannot yet do either pistol squats or shrimp squats (also called skater squats), you need to make learning these movements a priority. They are the key squatting movements to take you to another level of lower-body muscle mastery.
For pistol squats, you lift one leg straight out in front of you, parallel to the floor. Then bend the other leg and squat down to the floor, before pushing powerfully back up. In shrimp squats, you perform a lunge movement backwards without allowing the back foot to touch the floor. You may either touch the back knee lightly to the floor or stop slightly above, then come back up.
Once you have mastered these movements, it is time to combine them. Superset rounds of pistol squats and shrimp squats for serious muscle building across the whole lower body.
JUMPS & SPRINTS
Adding power movements to your workout is a great way to kickstart your growth. Sprints and jumps are some of the most powerful movements in calisthenics and of course both are primarily lower body movements.
Simply add jumps to your warm-up routine and add in sprints either at the end of a lower-body strength training day or on a day when you are doing cardio. This is a simple way to get more from your lower body training without having to invest too much extra time.
VOLUME IS KING
Training is all about the accumulation of volume and this is even more true with calisthenics. To get more lower body volume in, you can either add in more repetitions during your sessions or even outside them.
To add more to your existing sessions, add sets of a lower body movement during your rest or recovery time between upper body movements. Don’t go crazy, and don’t do this to the point it negatively affects your actual time spent training these areas. This is supplemental after all!
Our preferred strategy is to pick a lower body movement, for example the pistol squat, and practice it several times a day. Don’t go to failure, or even to fatigue. Pick a number of reps that is ‘easy’ to do and do it whenever you think to during the day. I have known people to do up to twenty sets per day. Over time that adds up to a lot of extra reps and a lot of extra muscle and strength.
THE TAKE HOME
Between these strategies, you have plenty of tools to take your lower body training to the next level. Try incorporating one or two ideas at a time, and see how far your new legs can take you.