Strong legs truly are the foundation of any impressive physique, and they also happen to be one of the most practical body parts due to their massive contribution to overall strength.
Moreover, training legs is hard. The pain that comes from a gruelling leg workout is akin to nothing else, and there is a good reason why the vast majority of trainees skip this body part altogether.
However, there is a sub-section of people who want to train legs but are hesitant because they assume that weights are needed in order to be conducive to growth – but this just isn’t the case.
You can build strong legs without ever touching one weight If you so desire, and this is what we are going to be taking a look at today.
In this article, we will be giving you a full calisthenics leg workout for you to follow that will allow you to build huge legs without ever touching weights, as well as covering all the information you need to know when it comes to building muscle and getting stronger. Let’s jump right into it.
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What Are the Best Calisthenics Legs Exercises?
There are a few calisthenics leg exercises that manage to outperform most of their peers, and implementing said exercises into a routine is going to allow you to get the most bang for your buck.
Moreover, the three exercises we have included hit all parts of the leg, allowing you to develop them in their entirety. Let’s take a look at some of the best calisthenics leg exercises.
When it comes to building legs, the squat is everything. Every solid leg program will feature some variation of the squat, and when you factor in its incredible ability to stack on mass, it comes as no surprise that this is the case.
There is a near-endless list of squat variations, all of which have their own merits. However, even just the standard squat is a god-tier exercise in its own right, and including this in your leg training program is absolutely essential.
Calves are often one of the most neglected muscle groups, with the vast majority of people forgetting to train them. Although, this is entirely to their detriment.
Large calves truly fill out a physique, and not training them is going to make your legs look incredibly disproportionate. Luckily, chucking a few sets of calf raises in at the end of your workout requires very little effort at all, and you would be shocked at just how much muscle growth such a simple exercise can facilitate.
While lunges might not be the best calisthenics legs exercise when it comes to their ability to add blocks of muscle onto your physique, they manage to hit an area of the leg that can be quite difficult to reach with other leg exercises; hamstrings.
Lunges activate the hamstrings much more than other leg exercises, and this makes adding them into your program a must.
Beginners Leg Workout
First up, we are going to give you a simple beginner workout that would be well-suited to people who have never trained legs before.
A beginner leg workout would look something like this;
- Bodyweight squats: 12 reps x 5 sets
- Walking lunges: 12 reps x 5 sets
- Calf raises: 20 reps x 6 sets
3 minutes of rest in-between sets.
This workout is incredibly basic, but it is all you need to build a good foundation. This routine is more than enough to develop your legs, and once you can do it with ease, you can begin to add in more difficult exercise variations or look at increasing resistance through accessories.
Advanced Legs Workout
The upcoming leg workout is for those of you that have already trained your legs either in a gym or through calisthenics at home and want to make things a little more difficult.
It is important to be honest with yourself – if you are unable to complete any of the exercises we are about to showcase with good form, then it may be best to go back to our previously mentioned beginner legs workout.
Here is an example of an advanced legs workout;
- One-legged squats: 12 reps x 5 sets
- Weighted lunges: 12 reps x 5 sets
- Weighted platform calf raises: 12 reps x 5 sets
3 minutes of rest in-between sets.
You may be thinking that our advanced legs workout is very simple; too simple to be an advanced routine, right? Well, no.
You do not need to do a million different exercises in order to build big legs, and the only thing you will be doing by adding in more exercises would be increasing the amount of recovery you need.
Studies have shown that the effects of each set performed for a specific body part diminish greatly after 5 sets – so any more than this will pretty much be a waste of your time.
With this workout, you can progress endlessly. Simply increase the weight of your weight vest or begin to add in resistance bands to increase the load indefinitely, and unless you just want to change things up for a little variation, this routine is all you need to build massive legs through calisthenics.
As you may have already noticed, throughout this article we have mentioned a few accessories that can help substantially when it comes to building huge legs through calisthenics. One prime example is resistance bands.
Resistance bands allow you to increase the resistance of any exercise without weights, meaning that you will still be able to use basic exercises to progress even once you have surpassed them in terms of strength.
On top of this, resistance bands are also incredibly portable. You can fit resistance bands and carry them around in even the smallest of bags, and you will have a portable gym with you wherever you may go.
We already have an extensive list of some of the best resistance bands in the industry that you can view here if you are interested in picking some up for yourself, and you will come to find that progressing with calisthenics is much easier once equipped with a pair of solid resistance bands.
Another incredibly useful tool for calisthenics is weighted vests; just like resistance bands, they can allow you to increase the difficulty of an exercise exponentially, and this is of extraordinary importance if you want to continue to make muscle gains for years to come.
Once again, we have also curated a list of some of our top choices for weighted vests which you can find here if you fancy picking one up yourself.
Although, it is important to note that neither of these two accessories are required in order to build strong legs with calisthenics. There are always going to be more difficult variations of exercises that you can implement into your routine to increase resistance, and there is no question that you can make great gains without any additional aids.
However, for simplicities sake as well as just for general ease of life benefits, resistance bands and weighted vests are going to make your calisthenics journey so much easier, and they may end being the difference between you enjoying calisthenics or despising it.
Can You Build Big Legs Without Using Weights?
Before jumping into the true contents of this article, we first need to go over a common misconception that most people hold; it is perfectly possible to build muscle without weights.
The reasons why most people who are looking to build muscle use weights will be explained in the following paragraph, but when it comes to the question of whether or not building muscle is feasible through calisthenics, the answer would be a resounding yes.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you would not have to follow the same protocols that most regular gym-goers follow. A stringent diet, consistent workout routine, a focus on progressive overload, and a hard work ethic are all the bare minimums when it comes to building muscle, and this exact same set of rules also applies to calisthenics.
However, if you fulfil all of the above criteria, then you will be able to build big legs without weights with no problems at all, and there are many examples of people out there who have done exactly that.
The Fundamentals of Building Muscle
The fundamentals of building muscle are always the same. No matter if you are hitting the gym five days a week or going to your local calisthenics park, there are a few things that you need to do in order to actually facilitate muscle growth in the first place, and you will be drastically hindering your progress if you do not take heed to this advice.
There is going to be a lot to cover in this section, and in reality, we are going to be condensing decades of knowledge into one mere section. If you already have a pretty good idea of all the basics for building muscle, then feel free to skip this part; but if not, stay tuned to get started on your journey.
Rest & Recovery
If you want to get big legs, as well as big (insert any other muscle group here), then rest and recovery are going to be your best friend. On top of getting six to eight hours of sleep per night (studies have shown that muscle growth slows down drastically when this need is not met), you will want to have a few days of rest every week.
This can be done in a myriad of ways; 5-on 2-off, 3-on 1-off, 4-on 2-off – it really is up to you. As long as you leave a few days in-between training the same muscle group you are going to be fine, and your muscle-building ability is going to be substantially boosted as a result.
Diet is the foundation which everything else is based upon. Without adequate protein, eating in a slight calorie surplus (eating a little over your maintenance), and a generally well-balanced diet to ensure all of your needs are met, you are going to have a very tough time building big legs, and you may even come to find that progress is outright non-existent.
To find out how many calories you need per day, simply search the web for a calorie calculator and input all of your data. Once you have found your maintenance, simply add 200-300 calories on top in order to facilitate all of the extra muscle gains you will soon be acquiring.
Protein is easy; just eat one gram per pound of bodyweight. Getting this right straight from the get-go will save you years of time, and many people drastically underestimate just how important diet is.
It is not enough to just do one workout. No, in order to build big legs from calisthenics, you are going to have to train vigorously week after week, and this is exactly why having a routine is incredibly important.
We will go over a few basic routines later on in this article; so, if you don’t know where to start, then there would be a great place.
The reason why routines are so effective is simply that they take all the guesswork out of your programming as well as allow you to monitor your progress.
Having a weekly/monthly workout routine is a must, if you want to build muscle, then following a routine is going to be absolutely vital.
Progressive overload is the element of working out that allows you to continue to build muscle and gain strength near-indefinitely.
To put it simply; progressive overload means making each workout slightly harder in order to cause muscle growth, and this is usually done by increasing resistance or volume (the number of reps or sets for a specific exercise).
With calisthenics, there is a work-around to the first problem you may have encountered (that being increasing resistance without weights), and there are actually a variety of methods that you can implement to increase resistance such as more difficult exercise variations, using accessories like bands or vests, or using your environment to manipulate leverages.
If you were thinking of working out for a few months, getting big legs, and then hitting the hay, then we have bad news for you; it’s not going to happen. Gaining muscle can be an excruciatingly slow process, and it is going to take months for you to notice even the smallest difference.
This means that you have to be consistent even though you may not be seeing improvements, and this is much easier said than done.
Having realistic expectations is going to save you a ton of pain way down the line, and the sooner you realise that building muscle takes months or even years, the sooner you are going to be exhilarated with any little progress you see.
Do not be disheartened if you think that your results are lacklustre; welcome to the wonderful world of chasing that ever-elusive ideal physique.
We hope we have been able to give you a better idea as to how you can build up your legs through purely calisthenics exercise. Even with the best of knowledge, training legs is never going to be easy, and there are undoubtedly going to be a myriad of times where you just feel like giving up.
The main piece of advice we could give you is this; just keep going. When it comes to legs, your mind is going to quit much sooner than your body, and you would be surprised at just how quick your legs will grow once you get into a consistent pattern.
We wish you the best of luck throughout your calisthenics journey, and we are sure you are going to build those tree-trunk legs in no time at all.
Founder of www.calisthenics-101.co.uk. Training calisthenics since 2012.
Currently working on: 30 second one-arm handstand, muscle-up 360, straddle planche.