The 8 Best Calisthenics Leg Exercises For A Powerful Lower Body!

Incorporating leg training into your workout program is a crucial component of achieving overall fitness. Neglecting leg day is not recommended due to the multitude of benefits associated with training your legs.

Calisthenics leg exercises engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, promoting functional strength that translates to real-world movements and activities. Learn how to build big and strong leg muscles using your own body weight!

The Challenge of Building Strong Legs with Calisthenics

The leg muscles are some of the largest and strongest muscles in the body, and thus require a lot of resistance to stimulate growth and strength gains. Bodyweight exercises don’t provide as straightforward a way to overload the muscles over time as barbells do. However your legs grow by adapting to the stress you place on them, they don’t care if you use barbells or bodyweight. Therfore It is definitely possible to make good progress by continually challenging your legs with harder intensity and exercise variations using bodyweight only.

Top 8 best calisthenics leg exercises

When it comes to training your legs with calisthenics, the key is to focus on exercises that target the major muscle groups of your lower body – the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. You should pick 1-2 exercises for each muscle group and pick a variation the is hard enough so you can perform no more than a maximum of 30 repetitions. When you can perform more than 30+ repetitions you should move on the a harder progression to progressively make your workouts harder so your body adapts to the stimuli.

1. Bodyweight Squats

Bodyweight squats are a great beginner exercise they are easy to learn and perform, and will help you develop the necessary strength to perform more complex movements.

Image by bublikhaus on Freepik

How to do the bodyweight squat:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing slightly outward.
  2. Lower your body by bending your knees and pushing your hips back.
  3. Pause briefly when your thighs are parallel to the ground or when you reach a comfortable depth.
  4. Push back up through your heels to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

2. Lunges

Bodyweight lunges are a simple yet effective calisthenics exercise that can help to build strength and muscle mass in your legs, particularly your quads and glutes

Image by halayalex on Freepik

How to perform the lunge:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Take a big step forward with one foot.
  3. Lower your body down by bending both knees until your back knee nearly touches the ground.
  4. Keep your front knee directly above your ankle, and make sure your back knee doesn’t touch the ground.
  5. Push yourself back up using your front leg and return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat the exercise with the opposite leg.

3. Pistol Squats

The pistol squat is an advanced variation of the bodyweight squat. Besides looking cool, pistol squats are great for improving lower body strength, balance, mobility, and core stability.

Pistol squat demonstration

How to perform pistol squats:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lift your foot off the ground and extend it forward, keeping it parallel to the ground.
  3. Squat down on your other leg, bending your knee and pushing your hips back, while keeping your left leg extended forward.
  4. Lower your body until your thigh is parallel to the ground or until you reach a comfortable depth.
  5. Keep your chest up, your back straight, and your weight on your heel.
  6. Push back up through your heel to straighten your leg and return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, and then switch legs.

Pistol squat is a challenging exercise, use assistance if necessary by holding on to something until you build enough balance and strength to do the full pistol squat.

4. Calf Raises

The bodyweight calf raises are a simple yet effective exercise that can help strengthen the calf muscles, improve ankle stability and enhance balance.

How to perform the calf raise:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointing forward.
  2. Slowly rise up onto your toes, lifting your heels.
  3. Hold the contraction for a second, and then lower your heels until you feel a nice stretch in the calf.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

5. Single Leg Calf Raises

The calf raise can also be done as a single leg exercise to make it harder

How to do the single leg calf raises:

  1. Stand on the edge of a step with your heel hanging off the edge and your toes on the step.
  2. Lift one foot off the step.
  3. Slowly rise up onto your toes, lifting your heel as high as you can.
  4. Hold for a second, and then lower your heel back down below the step.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions on one foot, and then switch to the other foot.

6. Glute Bridge Raise

The glute bridge raise is a bodyweight exercise that primarily targets the gluteus maximus muscles, as well as the hamstrings, lower back, and core

How to perform the glute bridge raise:

  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart.
  2. Place your arms at your sides.
  3. Lift your hips off the ground, squeezing your glutes and driving through your heels.
  4. Pause at the top of the movement, and then slowly lower your hips back down to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

You can progress the exercise by adding weight, by performing single-leg variations and elevating the leg.

7. Nordic Curl

The nordic curl has become a very popular exercise recently for good reasons, besides being a superb exercise for strengthening the hamstrings, research has also shown that nordic curls reduces the risk of hamstring injury.

Kneesovertoesguy proponent of nordics

How to curl like the nordics:

  1. Begin by kneeling on the floor, with your feet tucked under a secure anchor, such as a heavy weight or a partner holding your ankles.
  2. Engage your core, squeeze your glutes, and keep your body in a straight line from your knees to your head.
  3. Slowly lower your upper body towards the ground by leaning forward at the hips.
  4. Use your hamstrings to control your descent, and avoid falling forward too quickly.
  5. Push back up to the starting position using your hamstrings, keeping your core engaged and your back straight throughout the movement.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

To modify the exercise, you can use a resistance band to assist with the movement or use a pad to cushion your knees. Remember to progress gradually and use proper form to avoid injury and maximize the benefits of the exercise.

8. Sprinting

Sprinting requires a lot of power from the legs, which can help to build muscle and increase strength in the lower body. Sprinting targets the type II muscle fibers, which are responsible for explosive movements and power. By engaging these fibers, sprinting can help effectively to increase the size and strength of your leg muscles.

How to run from the cops: 

  1. Begin by warming up: Perform a few minutes of light cardio to get your heart rate up and prepare your muscles for the intense workout ahead.
  2. Choose a flat, open area (or a hill): A track or a grassy field are good options. Make sure the surface is safe and suitable for running.
  3. Assume the starting position: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other. Bend your knees slightly and lean forward, placing your hands on the ground.
  4. Take off: Push off with your back foot and drive your arms forward as you begin to run. Start at a slow pace and gradually increase your speed.
  5. Pump your arms: As you run, pump your arms back and forth, keeping them close to your body. This helps to propel you forward and maintain your speed.
  6. Focus on your form: Keep your shoulders relaxed, your head up, and your gaze focused ahead. Land on the balls of your feet and push off with your toes.
  7. Finish strong: As you approach the finish line or your designated distance, give it your all and push yourself to sprint as fast as you can.
  8. Cool down: Once you’ve finished sprinting, take a few minutes to cool down by walking or jogging slowly to allow your heart rate and breathing to return to normal.

Start with shorter sprints and gradually increase the distance and intensity as your fitness level improves.

The Calisthenics Leg Workout Program: For Big And Strong Legs!

I have made a workout program you can do 2-3 times per week, with at least one day of rest in between each workout, that features all the exercises described above.

The exercises will be prescribed with RIR (repetitions in reserve) instead of a traditional fixed rep scheme.

RIR = repetitions in reserve. For example, 2RIR means if you think you can do 10 reps you do 8 reps.

The program is divided into phases, so you can stay challenged as you progress.

First workout phase

Superset 1:

Bodyweight Squats3 sets2RIR & 1RIR on last set
Calf Raises3 sets2RIR & 1RIR on last set

Superset 2:

Lunges3 sets2RIR & go to failure on last set
Glute Bridge Raise3 sets2RIR & go to failure on last set


Sprinting5 sets20 seconds sprinting followed by 40 seconds rest

Second workout phase

Superset 1:

Lunges3 sets2RIR & 1RIR on last set
Single Leg Calf Raises3 sets2RIR

Superset 2:

Pistol Squats (assisted)3 sets1RIR
Calf Raises3 sets2RIR & 1RIR on last set

Superset 3:

Glute Bridge Raise3 sets2RIR
Nordic Curls (eccentric only)2 sets2RIR


Sprinting5 sets25 seconds sprinting followed by 35 seconds rest

Third workout phase

Superset 1:

Pistol Squats3 sets2RIR & 1RIR on last set
Nordic Curls2-3 sets2RIR

Superset 2:

Single Leg Calf Raises3 sets2RIR & 1RIR on last set
Lunges2 sets2RIR

Superset 3:

Glute Bridge Raise (single leg)3 sets2RIR & go to failure on last set
Calf Raises (explosive)3 sets2RIR


Sprinting5 sets30 seconds sprinting followed by 45 seconds rest

Top tips for success:

  • Rest 60-90 seconds between each set to let the muscle recover
  • You can always regress to the previous workout phase if the next phase is to demanding, or do easier exercise from the previous phase if you are having trouble with only a single exercise.
  • Don’t shy away from weights if you have the option.

How do you train your legs? Share your knowledge in the comments!

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