I created this bodyweight leg workout after suffering a shoulder injury during a boxing session. The injury prevented me from performing any resistance exercises involving upper body movements. Kettlebell swings, dumbbell snatches and power cleans were off the menu for a week!
Frustrating though this was (extremely frustrating!), it’s not an excuse for a day off training. You’ve got to find a way to keep up your fitness routine, even if that means reducing the intensity and training only half your body. I’m reminded of an old Royal Marines Commando poster that sums up the sentiment. It shows a recruit hanging from a pull-up bar, one of his legs in a full plaster cast. The headline caption reads: Even with a broken leg, training doesn’t stop!
So, even with a dicky shoulder, sweating doesn’t stop. That was the motivational impetus that inspired the following session plan. But before we take a look at the leg burner below, I’ve outlined some of the benefits I experienced from the workout.
Bodyweight leg workout benefits
I was surprised at just how demanding the workout was. When I cobbled it together (which took all of two minutes), the session plan looked deceptively simple. But then it is comprised of only four exercises organised into some sort of circuit.
After the first run through, my quads were quivering and my heart was knocking at my chest: Please stop! Sweat poured profusely as I picked up the pace for the second lap. These physiological responses show that the bodyweight leg workout engages a range of fitness components while stimulating multiple major body systems.
For example, bodyweight exercises promote muscular endurance, power, agility, balance, and coordination. This list is further broadened by the aerobic exercise – skipping – which involves cardio and muscle endurance (and many of those components outlined above).
Related: You needs a Skipping Rope for this workout
Burn fat & build muscle with this workout
The physiological responses described two paragraphs up also indicate that the workout possesses the capacity to burn fat and build muscle. Though I used the workout for a couple of weeks, I’m quite confident that if you found a permanent place in your routine for it, you’d notice improved muscle definition in your legs and reduced total body fat.
These outcomes are achieved as a consequence of the following three key factors. First, the bodyweight exercises target all the muscles of the legs. In addition, they are performed in volume. On completion of the workout, I amassed 880 reps.
Second, the cardio exercise selected for the workout is a superlative fat burner. Bruce Lee purportedly said that 10 minutes of skipping was equivalent to a 30-minutes of running. I’m yet to corroborate that assessment with credible research, but from personal experience I agree that skipping is more demanding than running.
Third, because the workout is performed as a circuit, training volume and, at times, intensity is high. It took me 51 minutes to complete four laps of the circuit. In that time, I didn’t take a second’s rest. Yes, I modulated my work rate, but I maintain a methodical output.
Take this leg workout anywhere
A final benefit of this workout that I absolutely must mention has to do with its minimalistic design. Some trainers I know turn their noses up at a simple session plan. If a plan isn’t packed to bursting with exotic-sounding exercises and can’t be justified in accordance with the overarching aim of the macrocycle, then the workout is certain to be ineffective and thus fail to promote physical development.
The bodyweight leg workout contradicts this assumption. At least I think so. In addition to providing a brilliant session its simplicity means that you can complete it almost anywhere. The kit list includes a box (to jump or step up on) and a skipping rope.
However, if you planned to do this workout at home (at the office or on your hols), and you didn’t have access to a box or skipping rope, you can easily modify the workout. Replace skipping with running and box jumps with depth jumps. Done!
Related: When you're done here, try this Upper Body Callisthenics Workout
How to do this bodyweight leg workout
The workout begins with a 10-minute warm-up of skipping. If you’ve decided to swap skipping for running (an option discussed above), then jog for the same duration instead. Once thoroughly warmed up, you’re ready to start the circuit. Here’s how it works.
There are three bodyweight leg exercises – air squat, alternate leg stepping lunge, and plyometric box jump. You will be ascending a ten-step repetition ladder. So, beginning at the bottom rung, you’ll perform one repetition on each of the three exercises.
On the next run you’ll complete two reps . . . and so on until your reach the top of the ladder: 10 reps per exercise. (A point of note: you’ll be doubling the reps for the lunge: 1 rep on the left leg and one on the right.)
In total, a single ascent of the ladder for the three exercises equates to 220 reps. You will do this four times through, amassing a glute-melting grand total of 880 reps!
The bodyweight exercise repletion ladder concludes with a 5-minute skip (or run). I incorporated cardio for two reasons. First, it broadens the health and fitness benefits. Thanks to the cardio this workout can strengthen your heart and reduce body fat. Second, 5 minutes of skipping helps to disperse the lactic acid that builds up during the bodyweight exercises. This enables you to maintain a consistent output without the need to rest.
Workout key points
Warm up with cardio for a minimum of 10 minutes.
When you’re ready, begin your first ascent of the bodyweight repetition ladder. The process is as follows: 1 rep air squat, alternate leg stepping lunge (one each leg), and plyometric box jump; then 2 reps air squats, alternate leg stepping lunge, and plyometric box jumps; continue on to 10 reps.
After making it to the top of the ladder, skip for 5 minutes. (Remember, if you don’t have access to a rope, or you can’t skip to save your life, run instead.)
The two points outlined above constitute one complete lap of the circuit. Now repeat three more times.
Bodyweight leg workout hints and tips
To improve transition efficiency between exercises, I found it helpful to organise the kit in one area of the gym. This way I could seamlessly ascend the repetition ladder and, once the summit was reached, jump straight into skipping without wasting a single second.
From experience, I know that lots of exercisers find box jumps a bit of a struggle. In most cases, it’s not the inability to jump onto the box that prevents people from doing this exercise. It’s the fear of clipping your foot and falling forward. If this is the case for you, either convert the exercise to step-ups or do a plyometric squat jump.
Related: Best Bodyweight Back Exercises
New exercisers may find four laps of the circuit a touch too demanding. (To be honest, I was still suffering from near-debilitating DOMS four days after my initial ‘test run.’) On your first spin of the circuit aim for two laps. If you’ve had your fun, call it a day. If not, jump back on for another whirl.
To further reduce the difficulty of the circuit, consider cutting the ladders in half. Instead of climbing to 10 reps, stop at five. Even after such a drastic reduction, you’d still amass an impressive 440 reps.
Enjoyed this bodyweight workout
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