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Movement Mixtape No.38

Summer '20 Graphics: Men's Recycled Organic Cotton T-Shirts

How to Slackline: 10 Slacklining Tips for Beginners

Working Out Legs At Home: 6 Rad Bodyweight Leg Exercises

Working Out Legs At Home: 6 Rad Bodyweight Leg Exercises - So We Flow...

Working Out Legs At Home

Here at So We Flow..., it's no secret that calisthenics and bodyweight movements champion over weightlifting and bodybuilding. Keep your cool - that's not to say we have anything against them (Jake's early days were all about 'chest and guns') - they are simultaneously superior and inferior to one another completely depending on your goals. We celebrate the incredible feats of bodyweight skill and strength achievable through a dedicated practice and revere 'no equipment necessary'. But general beliefs aside, today we are talking about legs. And whether you lift the iron or not, lockdown means that most of us don't have a choice in the matter. So grab your Easy Shorts and read on...

The principle highlighted shortfall of a bodyweight practice lies with legs. The legs encompass the most powerful muscles in the body, and the argument says that you cannot stimulate the legs muscles enough for maximal muscle growth (both strength and size) through bodyweight alone. Past a certain threshold this is most likely true. There is simply not a bodyweight leg exercise in existence that requires the same discipline, dedication and strength requirements of say a one arm pullup or front lever. But there's something about bodyweight leg exercises that makes them special. A weightlifter who can squat three times their bodyweight can't likely do a single pistol squat without training. That's because advanced leg movements are a complexity of strength, mobility and proprioception (awareness of the position and movement of the body). This makes them some of the most rewarding movements out there - not just to show off to your friends - but for a healthful pelvis, robust ankles and feet, bulletproof knees and effective glutes - an absence of which is one of the leading causes of back pain. 

How to Structure Your Home Leg Workout

Complete these bodyweight leg exercises in any way you choose - sets, circuits or sporadically throughout the day. It depends entirely on your goals. The basic rules of hypertrophy apply here (the legs can handle more repetitions than other body parts): little rest and high reps (20+) for endurance, moderate rest and moderate reps (15-20) for muscle growth and long rest periods and low reps (<15) for strength. If you are trying to acquire a new skill like the pistol squat, you will be working at very low reps (<5). 

All of these exercises are difficult enough to be considered 'skills' - thus you will likely be focusing on quality, low reps with long rest periods in order to unlock the full range of motion. We have provided an easier movement in brackets if the main exercise is too difficult. If you are competent in all the main movements, you have conquered some of the most difficult bodyweight leg exercises out there. You may want to build up repetitions, create a flow out of the movements, or consider either adding extra weight or changing the position of your arms (a pistol squat with your arms behind your back is ludicrously difficult - we challenge the most competent among you.) 

What you will want to do regardless of your goals is to record your training so that you can make improvements each week. Here's a sample of what your pistol squat might look like over 4 weeks of progressive overload:

Week 1: 4 sets x 8 reps (each leg)
Week 2: 5 sets x 8 reps (each leg)
Week 3: 4 sets x 9 reps (each leg)
Week 4: 5 sets x 9 reps (each leg)

Without further ado, here's 6 of our favourite bodyweight leg exercises to get stuck into.

As always, if you have any questions you can email Jake at jake@soweflow.com

6 Rad Bodyweight Leg Exercises

1. Pistol Squat (Assisted Negative Pistol Squat)

Pistol Squat

1. Bring your left leg and both arms out in front. Keep the foot of your right leg in full contact with the ground throughout the movement.

2. Begin to squat down on your right leg, maintaining awareness of your body position and using your arms to counterbalance your hips as they move backwards

3. Try to keep your head above your shoulders, and your shoulders above your hips. This will be difficult if you don't have adequate mobility, but do your best to maintain a solid body line.

4. Bring your butt down to meet your heel. Feel free to hold in this position as you are working into maximum mobility here.

5. Drive up through the right foot, arriving at your original starting point.

6. Repeat on the opposite leg.

Assisted Negative Pistol Squat

Follow the steps from above, except use a stable object nearby to maintain balance and assist you in the descent. Work only the negative portion of the movement and use both legs to return to the starting position. Once you have become competent in the negative, start to work on returning to standing on a single leg, using the supporting object to assist.

2. Dragon Squat (Elevated Dragon Squat)

Dragon Squat

1. Bring your left leg and both arms out in front. Keep the foot of your right leg in full contact with the ground throughout the movement.

2. Swing you left leg around to the side, behind you, then behind your right leg.

3. As your left leg comes forward, bend your right leg simultaneously in a synchronised motion, using your arms to maintain balance.

4.  As your leg comes round, your body will likely move to the left to counterbalance the movement.

5. Once your leg is parallel to the floor, drive up through the right foot, arriving at your original starting point.

6. Repeat on the opposite leg.

Elevated Dragon Squat

1. Stand on a chair or stable raised platform.

2. Bring your left leg and both arms out in front. Keep the foot of your right leg in full contact with the ground throughout the movement.

3. Swing you left leg around to the side, behind you, then behind your right leg.

4. Squat down into the right leg as far as comfortable.

5. Once you have reached your preferred depth,drive up through the right foot, arriving at your original starting point.

6. Repeat on the opposite leg.

3. Sissy Squat (Assisted Sissy Squat)

Sissy Squat

1.  Ensure that throughout the entire movement your thighs stay in line with your body - there should only be a bend in the knees and ankles.

2. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and come up onto your toes.

3. Begin to bend your knees, bringing your body behind you to counterbalance - you butt should always stay over the heels. Imagine a seesaw in perfect equilibrium - your butt and heels are the centre, your knees are one person, and the shoulders and head the other.

4. Gently kiss the floor with your knees, but don't drop down to rest on them.

5. Push up through your toes, maintain your bodyline, returning to your original starting position.

Assisted Sissy Squat

Follow the steps from above, using a stable object such as a chair to support you throughout the movement.

4. Drinking Bird (Partial Drinking Bird)

Drinking Bird

1. Bring your left leg and both arms out in front. Keep the foot of your right leg in full contact with the ground throughout the movement. Try to bring your left leg parallel to the floor, engaging your hip flexor.

2. Imagine that your leg is a pendulum moving through a 180 degree movement from start to gfinish.

3.. Bring your leg down with control. As it passes the middle point, lean your body forward, maintaining a straight line through from head to heel. Raise your leg up behind you until both you body and leg are parallel with the ground.

4. Reverse the movement until you return to your original starting position.

5. Repeat on the opposite leg. 

Partial Drinking Bird

Follow the steps outlined above, except reduce the range of motion to 90 degrees from start to finish. As you become more competent, increase the range of motion until you can complete the full 180 degrees.

5. Knee Lifts to Squat to Boat Pose (Knee Lifts)

Knee Lifts to Squat to Boat Pose

1. Stand with your feet together and squat down to sit on your heels. 

2. With control bring your knees down to kiss the ground, leaning back slightly to counterbalance your knees coming forward.

3. Bring your knees back up, bring your heels down into a narrow squat (knees touching if possible).

4. Drop down onto your butt and extend your legs in navasana / boat pose.

5. Bring your legs back in and bring your feet under you. Return to the narrow squat.

6. Lift up onto your toes, returning to your original starting position.

Knee Lifts

1. Stand with your feet together and squat down to sit on your heels. 

2. With control bring your knees down to kiss the ground, leaning back slightly to counterbalance your knees coming forward.

3. Bring your knees back up, returning to your original starting position.

6. Malasana Yoga Squat (with raised heels)

1. Bring your legs shoulder width apart with your toes turned slightly outwards

2. Squat down, keeping your feet firmly flat on your ground (allow your heels to lift if this is too difficult)

3. Stay in the bottom position, try to relax and hold.

4. Try to avoid rounding your back and keep the chest open.

5. If you wish, bring your palms together between your legs and in front of you.

Bonus: Single Leg Balance

The recommended time period for great dental hygiene is 2 minutes brushing, twice a day. But why not use this time extra efficiently? Stand for 1 minute on one leg and 1 minute on the other to equal your ideal brushing time of 2 minutes. We usually separate this into 4, 30 second portions, each representing a quadrant of your mouth. Upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right.  Experiment with shifting your weight and regaining balance. This coupled with concentrating on the brushing will really test your balance, multi-tasking and coordination. 

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That's all for now brothers of the Flow. We'll see you on the other side of isolation with legs of steel. Make sure you check out our Easy Shorts (Jake wears Stone throughout) as the perfect bottom half to your practice.

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