Question on Legs

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    Being interested in bodyweight training, naturally I’ve watched lots of videos online about it. What I notice is there’s always lots of comments regarding legs. For one example I was watching one video of this guy doing various bodyweight exercises, including pistol squats and other leg workouts. However one commenter made some remark about how he shouldn’t skip leg day or should bulk up his legs or some rubbish.

    My point/question is, if you’re doing bodyweight exercises then you are asking your upper body to do things that the lower body naturally does everyday. As a result if you’re going to increase in size it’s likely to be in your upper body especially. Not to say you won’t develop your legs too. Of course if you’re just training for functional strength you’re not going to get super huge. Maybe people are used to seeing bodybuilders with big, defined legs that match the upper body. Perhaps though with bodyweight and strength training, you’re going to develop a more natural difference in size between upper and lower body.

    Is there any truth to what I’m saying? These are just my thoughts, I’m not saying I’m right as I’m far from experienced and informed in bodyweight training, fitness etc. It just seems to me that people confuse strength training with body building, and they produce different physiques.


    Robby Taylor

    Your instincts are correct. Strength does not necessarily require size. The downside to big legs for a bodyweight athlete is that it makes all of the upper body moves more difficult. This is especially true for levers, when your legs are held outward to increase resistance. However, we can not skimp on leg strength. One of the reasons why pistols are such a great exercise for the bodyweight athlete is because it relies largely on neural efficiency to get stronger, yet you can still sculpt well defined, functionally strong legs. The key here is that, yes, back squats and front squats can also build functional leg strength, however to be strong at an exercise you must perform the exercise at least with some regularity. My point is that any of these squatting patterns can be used to develop a solid level of leg strength applicable to daily life, pistols will just be the most difficult for the CNS and the most difficult to build mass with. However, if you want strength beyond the basic pistol, there are various ways to make it more challenging. As Al regularly demonstrates, doing them with your hands behind your head or, even harder, behind your lower back. Doing them barefoot. Doing them facing uphill. You can always add weight, keeping it close to your body. My favorite is a front pistol squat with a barbell.

    I think, as a bodyweight athlete, if you do just 2 leg exercises, it should be pistols and one leg deadlift (ideally straight leg). Adding even light weights to these moves is massively beneficial in gaining strength and neurological control that carries over well to other neurologically demanding bodyweight skills. Not to mention the mobility benefits of doing just the bodyweight variations of these exercises.

    Shrimp squats are good too, but you got pretty much everything covered with the other 2.

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