Before weight benches, dumbbells and fancy exercise equipment, there were calisthenics. These no-nonsense exercises use your body’s own weight as resistance to build muscle. When it comes to exercising your legs, you can perform heavy, challenging calisthenics because your legs are home to the quadriceps and hamstrings, which are large muscles. Put these exercises to work, and you’ll feel stronger and look more toned. Always speak with your physician before beginning a new exercise program.
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Squats are a go-to calisthenic exercise that targets your gluteals, hamstrings and quadriceps all at the same time. The basics of the exercise involve standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward. Bend your knee to lower your buttocks toward the ground, keeping your back straight and leaned slightly forward as you lower down. Keep your heels on the floor and stop just when your thighs are parallel to the ground. While the force of your body weight already makes this a heavy calisthenic exercise, you can up the intensity by seeing how many squats you can perform in one minute -- always using proper form. You also can change up your foot positioning to challenge new muscles, such as toes pointing inward or outward or widening or narrowing your stance.
The lunge is another heavy calisthenic move that involves taking an exaggeratedly large step forward, bending your front knee until it is directly over your ankle. To return to your starting position, you must then push off with your foot, which requires strength and intensity. Once you return to standing, repeat the exercise on the opposite leg. To increase the muscle-building benefits, you can lunge both forward and backward to build your calves, quadriceps and gluteal muscles.
Calf raises are an exercise that targets your calf muscles and can lead to sharp muscle definition. They require no equipment other than a platform, although you can also use a stair or any elevated surface. Lift your left leg, balance on the right foot and dip your heel toward the floor. While keeping your body steady by grabbing a nearby object such as the wall, lift up onto the toes of your right foot. Repeat the exercise 10 times per foot, and perform three total sets.
Plyometrics are high-intensity movements that work your muscles and cardiovascular system. An example of a leg plyometric exercise would be a jump-and-reach movement where you activate your gluteals, hamstring, quadriceps and calf muscles to jump off the ground in a quick energy burst while lifting your arms in the air. Since you have to overcome gravity and use your strength to get off the ground, plyometric jumps are a heavy calisthenic exercise that can leave you sweating. Alternate traditional exercises with a few bursts of plyometrics to keep your heart rate pumping.