Bodyweight Training for Functional Leg Strength

Bodyweight training that is used for building strong legs doesn’t need to be complicated. There are several basic exercises that when trained frequently can lead to super strong legs. Here is a taste of the many leg strength options available through bodyweight training.

Bodyweight Training for Functional Leg Strength


You can setup these leg strength exercises any way you want depending on your goals.

Circuit workout – Repeat the entire circuit 1-3X, 0-15 seconds of rest between exercises – go to 50% exertion on each set for a high volume session and 80% exertion for a high intensity session.

Bodyweight Squats
Reverse Lunges
Forward Lunges
Reverse/Forward Lunges
Lateral Lunges
Plie Lunges
Dragon Twisting
Jumping Squats
Plyometric Lunges
Single Leg Squats

Superset workout – make 5 pairs of non-competing exercises (ie don’t pair bodyweight squats with jump squats). Perform first exercise for 30-45 seconds, rest 30 seconds, then perform second exercise for 30-45 seconds, rest 30 seconds, and repeat for desired number of rounds. Exertion should be between 60-80%.

A1: 30-45 seconds of work, rest 30 seconds
A2: 30-45 seconds of work, rest 30 seconds
(repeat 1-3X)
B1: 30-45 seconds of work, rest 30 seconds
B2: 30-45 seconds of work, rest 30 seconds
(repeat 1-3X)
C1: 30-45 seconds of work, rest 30 seconds
C2: 30-45 seconds of work, rest 30 seconds
(repeat 1-3X)
D1: 30-45 seconds of work, rest 30 seconds
D2: 30-45 seconds of work, rest 30 seconds
(repeat 1-3X)
E1: 30-45 seconds of work, rest 30 seconds
E2: 30-45 seconds of work, rest 30 seconds
(repeat 1-3X)

Hybrid or Complex Workout – Combine all exercise into one long Kinetic Chain by performing one repetition of each exercise and immediately moving into the next exercise. Completing all ten exercises equals one set. Repeat 5-20X, and rest 0-60 seconds between sets.

Bodyweight Squats
Reverse Lunges
Forward Lunges
Reverse/Forward Lunges
Lateral Lunges
Plie Lunges
Dragon Twisting
Jumping Squats
Plyometric Lunges
Single Leg Squats

To your health and success,

Fitness Professional

P.S. For an all-in-one bodyweight training program that will train your body not only in 3 dimensions, but also through the 6 degrees of freedom, check out the Flowfit conditioning program:


4 Responses

  1. Just because you can “do” something doesn’t mean you should. The form on the squats and some of the lunges are an orthopaedic surgeon’s dream come true. That is HORRIBLE form waiting for injury. I hope no one practices the form of knees extending beyond toes like the majority of these exercises show.

    • Hey CPT Guy,

      I re-watched this video and I’m still not sure what you’re referring to. My knees stay centered over a mid-foot balance in almost all of the exercises, and a couple of them even looked more like a rear-foot balance (on heels), but it’s hard to tell with 100% certainty from the rough-cut video.

      There is a little forward lean with the shins on some of the variations, but this is normal for some exercises (e.g. forward lunges, walking lunges, etc.), and the angle of the shin (and the resulting knee positioning) is exercise-specific – not absolute for ALL lower-body strength training exercises.

      I’ve heard the recommendation to not allow the knee to protrude beyond the toes in lunge-type strength training exercises – including from personal training organizations like the NSCA. I was certified as a NSCA-CPT in 2006. I think this is a narrow-minded and outdated training recommendation, and now a myth that was perpetuated from vague exercise technique instructions – even in the very handbooks used to test for well-known CPT certifications.

      There is nothing inherently damaging about allowing the knee to protrude beyond the toes in an exercise like this. If it was dangerous, then anyone who climbs stairs on a regular basis would be injured. What IS problematic is when one allows this to happen with a forefoot balance (ie ball of foot), which drastically changes the movements force production and structure and bottle-necks unnecessary strain and tension right into the patella. This is especially risky when there are pre-existing conditions that affect the knee, which many people have. If you add extra resistance, high volume training, more intensity, etc., then, of course, you have a recipe for injury.

      What’s most important in an exercise like the forward lunge is maintaining a mid-foot balance throughout the landing, absorption, descent, and ascent. Assuming one does not have any structural injuries, if you do this, then knee positioning takes care of itself. If there ARE structural problems, then the trainer or coach should be able to address them specifically or recommend another exercise entirely.

      Ironically, several years ago, I was an orthopedic surgeon’s dream come true, Instead of a recommended surgery, I spent 3 years in physical therapy, and since then I have remained 100% injury-free – despite my rigorous training demands – including regularly using the exercises demonstrated in the above video. With my extensive injury history, and being told by two different doctors (one an orthopedist) that I would be permanently disabled, it’s a miracle that I can train at all – let alone with the frequency and intensity that I do.

      I appreciate your comment, though I find it completely unfounded and peculiar.

  2. Quick question: It seems most of these movements do focus on the quads. What about getting work for the back of the legs, and is there any concern regardless imbalance?
    Thanks!

  3. It’s ok John, what CPT guy is referring to is, as you say, an outdated idea that was thought to prevent injury during squats. It has since been proven countless times that if your knees do not travel over your toes, then yes, your knees are very (very) slightly safer, but all of the torsion that would’ve been applied to your knees is then placed upon your hips and lower back, which increases risk of injury there. The squat and lunge form demonstrated in this video is pretty tip-top.

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