You don’t need to rely on lifting weights to build strength and muscle – not even on leg day. Calisthenics training is a fantastic way to build strength throughout your entire body.
There’s a plethora of awesome calisthenics leg exercises, so it was hard to narrow this list down to just five. Some of my favorite exercises like the pistol squat and drinking bird did not make the cut.
That said, the following moves are the most universally proven for building strength and muscle – and that’s the whole point of this list. They are presented in approximate order of difficulty.
Legs get to it!
The Classic Bodyweight Squat
Unquestionably the most fundamental strength building exercise for the legs, the classic bodyweight squat hits all the muscles of your lower body, and may be a mobility challenge as well. Working your way up to 40-50 consecutive bodyweight squats will set you up with a fantastic foundation to progress your lower body strength training.
The walking lunge requires a bit more body awareness than the standard squat. It also introduces a balance component, and is a great way to hit your leg muscles from different angles. Walking lunges are the perfect complement to bodyweight squats.
This asymmetrical squat variation is a beautiful merger of strength, flexibility, balance and control. It’s also a great way to target your inner thighs and can be an early lead-up step toward one-legged squats. You may have seen this move referred to as a “cossack squat” or “side-to-side squat” but no matter what you call it, it’s a fantastic exercise for the lower body.
One Leg Box Squat
Having a box, bench or other object beneath you is the perfect way to begin training single leg squats. It’s common for beginners to lose their balance at the bottom of a one leg squat. As such, the box can provide safety and stability as you build the strength and control to perform a freestanding, unassisted one leg squat.
The hover lunge is more of a pure strength exercise than other single leg squat variations like the pistol squat and shrimp squat, which have a much greater mobility component, hence their exclusion from this list.
You can think of this almost like a lunge where your rear foot remains hovering in the air. You’ll need to lean forward a bit more than in a standard lunge in order to stay balanced while on one leg. Reaching both arms forward helps with the balance as well. Be careful to lower yourself down with control – especially during those last few inches – to avoid any impact on your rear knee.
Watch the video below for more: