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Calisthenics Beginners Program – Session #3: LEGS

Don't Skip Legs

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Last but not least, I shall present the third and final part of my beginner’s calisthenics program and what would fit better than a great legs workout, acolytes!
It is functional and should train more than pure brute force.

In the focus are besides pure leg strength – mobility, control, coordination, jumping power, explosive strength, and reactive strength. A lot more than just power!

This kind of athletic training can greatly improve other activities of yours like running or soccer. But even if you are ‘just’ working out it isn’t a bad idea to give your body more input far beyond the capabilities of an ordinary leg press.

You can jump to the other two sessions and both warmups right here:

  1. PUSH and PULL
  2. UPPER and LOWER BODY warmup.


Alternatively, you can sign up for my newsletter, to get besides the newsletter itself the whole program as an easy readabile ebook.

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  • I also would love to hear your feedback! Do you like this calisthenics legs program, did it make your legs tremble, or did it helped you? Tell me!
  • You think I suck and should never post any content around the world wide web again? Tell me!

OK enough bragged right now – let’s see what this last session is about in detail!

Calisthenics Beginner Program: LEGS

You can grab the whole list of exercises as a downloadable PDF right here!


Warmup

You can find the lower body warmup over here.

It should take around 15 minutes and you don’t need any equipment. I always like to skip rope* prior to my leg days. Feel free to try that out!

First off, it consists of some cardio to get your heart pumping. After that you prepare your body for oncoming load, get some mobility done, and try to get into your body with some balance work.

Skillwork

  • Squats (3-5 sets x5-8reps)
  • Cossack Squats (3-5 sets x5-8reps)
  • Jumps (3-5 sets x10reps)

Conditioning

  • Plyometric Jumps (3 sets x5reps)
  • Jumping Lunges (3 sets x10reps)
  • Leg Raises (3 sets x8reps)
  • Single-Leg Stance (3x30s)

Cooldown

This part should take around 10 minutes. Try to breathe calmly and get some feel-good mobility done.

The goal should be to wind down.

  • ***-to-Gr***  Squat (1x60s):
    Get into a squat as deep as possible. If that’s an issue for you feel free to hold a weight in front of your body or grab a pole.
    Be active in this position and explore the movements you are possible to do.
  • Hip CAR’s (1x8r):
    Circle your hips slowly while lying on your side and with control through their entire range of motion aka CARs.
  • Pike Ballistics (1x10r + 1x30s):
    To do them get into a standing pike position. From there reach down to your toes without rounding your lumbar spine – the movement should come mainly from your pelvis tilting forward.
    Do this movement for 10r and hold afterward a comfortable position for around 30s. Feel free to be active and move while in the stretch.
    Alternatively, you can perform this exercise while sitting on the floor.
  • Straddle Ballistics (1×10r + 1x30s):
    Same as above but in a straddled position. All the guidelines stay the same here.
  • Breathing (1x60s):
    Breathe deep into your stomach
This image shows every exercise I utilize in this calisthenics legs workout.

Progressions for this legs session

If you’ve never heard of progressions before – you can read everything about them over here.
Upload that knowledge right into your prefrontal cortex, and we are good to go! 😉

Test every progression – you should feel which one is appropriate for you. Work yourself up from easiest to the hardest progressions.

The most important takeaway point here is to be brutally true with yourself. Working on a hard progression because your ego compels you to will hinder your progress in the long run.

Squat

  • Bodyweight Squat
  • Single-Leg Box Squat


The basic squat will be hard enough for most because adequate mobility is missing. That’s at least my observance nowadays.
Try to go as deep as possible with good technique. When your technique breaks down the odds are high you are missing mobility.

This image shows me in a squat outdoors.

Work on your Mobility and try to regain a solid bodyweight squat. That is the goal here – not repping out 20 air squats without blacking out.
For humans, the squat is considered a basic position. But sitting and modern society took its toll on this statement – nowadays there are many who can’t squat below parallel comfortably.
I needed nearly 2 years to reclaim a solid squat.

You can find a great tutorial by GMB on how to perform a bodyweight squat over here or on my Instagram.

Squats getting to easy for you?

You already have the mobility needed?
Alright – let’s spice the squat grind up a bit with single legged variations.

Stay one legged on a box, with one leg hanging down. If you can safely do so without faceplanting down that box – perform a single leg squat.

When performing a single leg squat there are many things to look after. One main thing will be your stability – keeping the leg straight and not letting your knees carve inwards or outwards. The stability you build will also be the hugest benefit and transfer to many other moves.

Start slow. When getting better increase the box height and squat lower – as low as your mobility allows you.

Cossack Squat

The Cossack Squat is a side squat variation. Like above – your mobility will most likely be your limit, too. Therefore, just go as low as you can without tearing your adductors. If done correctly the mobility will follow quickly – especially in the beginning.

For most a side squat will be an unknown movement. Take your time learning it and you have a great exercise in your toolbox of exercises building mobility, control, and strength aloof.

Jumps

  • High Jumps
  • Tuck Jumps
  • Broad Jumps

These three jump variantions are not to be understood as progressions. They are all more or less the same diffiuclt. I just want you to play around with all three variantions, learning a broad variation of different jump patterns.

High Jumps are like the name suggests jumps onto an elevated object, like stairs, benches or boxes.

Tuck Jumps are jumps from standing still upwards. These challenge your explosiveness strongly. Try to get your knees as close as possible to your chest when jumping up, generate momentum with your arms and land quietely.

Broad Jumps are jumps from standing forwards. Jump as far as possible with good technqiue.

Whenever jumping be 150% peculiar with your technique, especially when landing. It makes sense to practice landing properly and absorbing the force in the beginning on its own.

Jumps are very explosive exercises. Besides their great benefits they offer an increases potential for injury if done incorrect. Or done too fast without your body acclimating to this kind of stress.

Rule #1 – never jump with crappy technqiue.

Plyometric Jumps

  • Plyo Calf Jumps
  • Plyo Jumps


To peform both of these you jump down from a lightly elevated object. Start low and increase the height when very comfortable.
After jumping down you absorb the landing’s energy and put it into another small jump immediately afterwards. 

  • First, you do this just with your calves. Do a mini jump from an object, land and absorb the forces, and do a mini jump using just your calves afterwards.
    When very secure with this progression increase the height.
  • Secondly, when mastered the landing just using your calves perform two complete mini jumps.


These types of exercises are named plyometrics. They train your reactive force. As you should have noticed – they are very unknown for many bodies.
That’s why you should never do them fatigued and till exhaustion. The whole goal is to transfer the force from your first jump into the second.

Lunges

  • Walking Lunges
  • Jumping Lunges

Lunges are fairly simple. Practice some basic reverse lunges firsthand.

When you got the technqiue down swap them with the more dynamic walking variation.

Jumping lunges are a bit more difficult. You jump from one lunge with your right leg infront into one with the left leg infront or vice versa. The goal of this exercise is to absorb the energy of each jump well and put it into the next.

Leg Raises

  • Lying Tuck Leg Raises
  • Lying Straight Leg Raises
  • Hanging Tuck Leg Raises
  • Hanging Leg Raises


I think everybody knows one leg raise variant. They are a great exercise and should be a cornerstone of every serious ab workout.

For any variation it is important to do them without momentum. Try to compress as much as possible from your abs and control this movement.

When doing hanging leg raises, don’t try to front-lever that much, to get your legs up. That’s a common mistake in calisthenics. Instead, compress and use your abs.1

Check out my post about hanging leg raises for much more information about them!

One-Leg Balance

  • One-Legged Stance
  • One-Legged Stance balancing on a bar


Many of us aren’t as secure as we should be on one leg. I noticed that when starting balance training to improve my running technique and gait in general. 2

Even more interesting is the fact that humans spend considerable amount on one leg. While walking and even more when running. That’s why it is very useful to train this position!


Try to be as active as possible and don’t be a wobbly mess. When standing on one leg is comfortable, play and move the other leg aroung, bent your leg, do whatever you are up to! 😀

You can get some ideas here!

This infopost shows the important cues for this legs workout.

Cues for this legs session

Your mobility dictates your limits

A big part of this program is to get more mobile and build a foundation of mobility you can well build up from – whatever it is that you want.

  • Getting stronger?
  • Getting even more mobile?
  • Being healthy and a functioning human being?


All that’s possible without huge weight and challenging your legs with calisthenics exercises in a broad vareity of ways.


Look after your feet

Your feet and shins act like springs. Teaming up with your hips they absorb forces.

Therefore, look after them doing their job properly, especially when jumping. Your knees should be stable and are in one line with your feet and hips. Try to be as quiet as possible when landing.


Technique first!

I bet I’ve written that point 10 points already above but I can’t stress this enough. Always be peculiar with your technique this will save you much work.
Even if you don’t get injured – unlearning wrong technique is much harder than learning it correctly in the first place.

Especially when it comes to the jumps in this program – train below your limits and be mindful of what’s going on.

Watch all the videos I linked to and really understand what every exercise is about. Just wanna avoid you some hard work and unnecessary aches.


Feeling pain?: STOP

Feeling pain in your knees, your shins, or your left earlap? Stop first, catch a breath, and have a look at it.

Does the pain get better? Ask yourself where it could come from (Bad technique? Unknown of movements? Too much?) and then go on. Try to avoid that point if you found something. If it doesn’t stop proceed to the next exercise.

There are pains you can and should push through and pains you should at no case push thorough. Pain is a very complex topic and very individual. With experience, you learn to listen to your body telling you where something might be wrong at the given moment.

Footnotes

  1. Is front-lever a verb? I don’t care! From now on, until eternity it is one. Amen.
  2. Expect you are a slackliner – in this case I didn’t say anything. :-D
Read More!
This image shows me in my Mobility Training doing Cossack Squats.
Mobility Training – let’s clarify this mysterium and get you flexible!