Really Strong Legs Without Heavy Weight

In Uncategorizedby Matt

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It’s a false belief that strong legs can only come from heavy squats and loading lots of 45s onto a leg press.
While those things can be fun, sometimes we wonder if we really need to use a lot of weight to build strong legs. Do we really need to test the strength of our joints to test the strength of our muscles?  It does make sense to require a lot of weight, after all some of the biggest and strongest muscles in the human body take residence in the legs.Even so it’s entirely possible to build strong and powerful (sexy too!) legs with minimal weight.

– Pistol Squats

I fell in love with pistol squats (or single leg squats) a year ago and I haven’t used heavy weight since. The combination of balance and control unlocks loads of power and strength you never even knew you had. Plus lifting most of your body weight with only one leg is a lot more challenging than it may seem. It always seems to hit new angles that traditional squats and leg presses miss. I’ve seen lots of heavy squatters give pistols a try and then feel sore the next day.

– Lunge for distance

I got a wake up call, back in my heavy squat days, when I decided to lunge the length of a soccer field as a warm up. I only made it half way across and collapsed in the grass with both legs on fire. While it may seem like it’s more for endurance than strength, it’s important to always remember that endurance and strength are still linked to one another. Improve your endurance and your strength will also improve and vise versa.-Isometrics

Speaking of endurance, it’s always fun to challenge someone to a wall sit or an isometric squat for time. It always starts off easy but quickly builds into a great workout that will challenge anyone. Just using your body weight is fine, but you can add some weight to really make it interesting. Go easy on it though, a little goes a long way and going too heavy can quickly compromise form.

– Isometrics combined with movement

If, for some strange reason, isometrics are not much of a challenge (like you’re a super natural being) then try combining isometrics with movement.
I find the best way to do this is to do 10-15 seconds of movement followed by the same duration of isometric. See if you can repeat the cycle 2-3 times. It’s a great workout for even the super natural.

– Jumping

Strength is more than just moving a lot of weight; it’s also about how much force can be generated in a short period of time. This is where jumping comes in handy. You can jump up, forwards or any direction you like. Be sure to land softly and go easy on the vulume at first.


If you’re not new to exercise a light sprint might fit you’re desire. Like jumping, go easy at first. Make the sprints short (no longer than 20-30 seconds at the most) and don’t go all out. It’s not any more necessary to sprint all out any more than to lift the heaviest weight you can possibly lift. Once you get into your grove you can start timing yourself for distance and really putting the hammer down.

– Hill or stair work

Quite possibly the easiest way to work the legs is to go up. Up stairs, up hills, up mountains or up ramps. You can walk, run, sprint of lunge up the hills any way you like and best of all it’s impossible to cheat. The incline makes you work harder just by working you more against gravity.

– Pushing something heavy

Okay so technically this involved using a heavy weight, but it’s not weight that’s loading your body directly. You can push anything you like from furniture to cars. You can also find special weight sleds built just for this purpose. You can push the object slowly, quickly or any combination. As a bonus you can also push into it, or pull it while moving backwards giving you 2 different leg workouts in one.

Any one of these ideas will help you improve let strength and endurance. You can use them alone or in combination to any other heavy lifting you may do. Some of these make great off day leg workouts or a workout for a de-loading phase of a program.