Jen Rulon

How to Train Your Legs With Bodyweight Exercises

Training the legs is something of a hot topic among athletes. Gym goers who ‘skip leg day’ are often referred to unfavorably and for a good reason; heck, Google “Skinny Leg Meme.” Training the legs has knock-on benefits throughout the entire body, whereas leaving them out tends to make you look disproportional and odd.

The question then is why so many people leave legs out of their routine in the first place. And the answer is a) Legs are dull, and b) Legs are hard to train, and c) I bike and run. Some triathletes don’t feel that they have to do legs for their routine due to doing plenty on the bike and running. It is quite the opposite.

The simple fact is that your legs don’t have hands attached to them. And this means it’s harder to pick up a weight, thus meaning you have to load yourself up some other way and involve the whole body. That instantly reduces the number of exercises available to you and implies that leg exercises necessarily take up more space and leave you a lot more tired.

And it also makes it much harder to train your legs with bodyweight alone. But there are ways to teach the legs, even if you don’t have a gym. Read on to discover some of the best of them:

Jumping Squats
One of the simplest ways to train your legs with your bodyweight alone is to use jumping squats. This means that you’re squatting down and then jumping at the apex. This is a simple exercise, and you wouldn’t think that it would make a huge difference, but it is excellent for building up power and can quickly create a burn, thanks to the amount of acceleration involved.

Triathlon Strength Coach SpeakerBox Jumps

Speaking of which, box jumps require even more power to launch you high enough into the air, especially if you stack them high. This is in some ways just as challenging as a squat and a great way to build hamstrings, quads, calves, and hips.

Jumping Lunges

This is simply a lunge where you jump, switch legs in mid-air, and then land with your legs in the opposite position. Doing this is a great way to build strength in the hamstrings and again involves jumping to create more acceleration.

Lunge Walking

You are simply walking by, stepping from one lunge into the next. Lunge Walk is an effective workout because you’re plunging so deep in between and spending most of your time under tension.

Single-Leg Squat (Pistols)

Another way to make the squat more challenging with just bodyweight is, of course, to do it on just one leg. However, this requires twice the strength and also forces you to balance a lot as well. A more advanced version is the ‘pistol squat,’ which requires your foot to be flat on the ground while the other one is pointed straight out in front of you, toes facing up.

Side Squat

This exercise falls between a squat and a lunge and involves stepping out to one side, lunging deep, and then stepping back to the middle before repeating on the other side.

As triathletes, be mindful that we don’t want to be “trashing” our legs on leg day and do ALL of these exercises, but these are examples that you can knock out at the gym or home!

AUTHOR: Jen Rulon

I have been coaching triathletes, runners, and cyclists for over 21+ years; I received my Master's Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. And as you may have learned, there is more to life than swimming, biking, and running. It is a lifestyle, and I am here to help you cross that finish line with a smile, whether it is an Ironman Triathlon or the Ironman of Life. You can find my knowledge shared in Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, the Health and Wellness Expo in San Antonio, TX, Southwest Research Institute Human Performance Summit, Training Peaks Workshops, "Self Motivation Strategies for Women" on Amazon, Men's Journal Online, and the New York Times. I also practice what I preach—she's a 15x Ironman Triathlete who participated in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, on October 14, 2017.

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