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How to Build Leg Muscle without Weights

author image Ragnar Danneskjold
A classical Rennaissance man since serving in the U.S. Army's elite 75th Ranger Regiment, Ragnar Danneskjold has worked as a ranch cowboy, a Department of Defense contractor, a strength and conditioning coach, a martial arts instructor, a freelance writer and a horse trainer.
How to Build Leg Muscle without Weights
A close-up of a woman doing squats in the park. Photo Credit: Satyrenko/iStock/Getty Images

While heavy barbell squats are, arguably, the single best way to build dense, hard leg muscles, not everyone has ready access to a gym or weightlifting equipment. Fortunately, generations of military personnel have proven that it’s possible to build muscular legs without the use of weights. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines all develop muscular strength and endurance in their legs without the use of anything beyond their own body weight. You can build leg muscle without weights using the same basic techniques and principles they use.

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Body-Weight Squats

Step 1

Stand with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight, head up and shoulders back. Place your hands on your hips.

Step 2

Keep your posture straight and slowly push your buttocks backward, bending at the hips, until your knees are bent and your upper thighs are parallel to the floor.

Step 3

Stand back up, returning to the starting position of the exercise.

Step 4

Repeat this exercise 25 to 30 times.


Step 1

Place your feet approximately shoulder-width apart, with your right leg approximately 3 feet in front of your left. Keep your upper body straight with proper posture and your hands on your hips, as in the body-weight squats.

Step 2

Bend your right knee, lowering your hips toward the floor until your left knee, flexed, touches the ground.

Step 3

Immediately drive back upward to the starting position.

Step 4

Perform 25 to 30 repetitions per leg, with no rest in between.

Plyometric Jumps

Step 1

Stand in the starting position of the body-weight squat. Keep your back straight, head up and shoulders back. Place your hands behind you, arms straight, fingers pointed at the floor.

Step 2

Squat down deeply so that your upper legs are below parallel to the floor.

Step 3

Drive upward with your thigh and hip muscles, exploding into a jump that lifts you as high off the floor as possible. Swing your arms forward as you rise to add momentum to your jump. Strive to reach the ceiling with your hands.

Step 4

Land on both feet equally, lowering yourself all the way back to the bottom position of the exercise before immediately leaping upward again. Try to remain in contact with the ground for as short a time as possible.

Step 5

Perform 5 to 10 repetitions of the plyometric jump in a set, before resting for up to 60 seconds.

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  • "FM 21-20 Physical Fitness Training;" U.S. Army; 1998
  • "Jumping into Plyometrics: 100 Exercises for Power & Strength;" Donald Chu; 1998
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