The best exercises and effective techniques for sculpted calves and thighs.
You can pump your legs without weights
You need to work with heavy weights to quickly increase your strength, but you don’t have to do it to pump up your muscles.
According to a meta-analysisB. J. Schoenfeld, J. Grgic, et al. Strength and hypertrophy adaptations between low- vs. high-load resistance training: A systematic review and meta-analysis / Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research scientific studies show that muscles increase just as well when working with heavy weights at low repetition rates as when doing 12-40 repetitions with or without light equipment.
But there is one condition: the exercises must be done to muscle failure or nearly so. In other words, you shouldn’t have more than 1-2 reps at the end of the approach.
To sufficiently fatigue your muscles, you can use different variations:
1- Choose challenging exercises. For example, squat on one leg or exclude the relaxation phase.
2- Adding weight. To do this, you need to buy compact home workout equipment, such as expansion bands with different resistances. You can also make weights with the materials on hand.
3-Add jumps. The explosive component will fatigue the muscles much faster. Review J. Grgic, B. J. Schoenfeld, P. Mikulic. Effects of plyometric vs. resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: a review / Journal of Sport and Health Science Studies have shown that plyometric exercises are as effective for hypertrophy in beginners and amateurs as strength training with weights.
4- Combine the movements into supersets. Almost all leg exercises involve opposite muscle groups. For example, when you lower yourself into a squat, the muscles on the back surface of your thigh are tight, while when you lift yourself up, the muscles on the front surface of your thigh are tight. If you perform two movements on different muscle groups without resting, you can fatigue your muscles more and pump them faster.
What exercises can help you pump your legs without iron
We’ll list the basic movements that allow you to give your muscles a good workout without weights.
Bulgarian split squats
The movement is great for pumping the front of the thigh and provides a good glute workout. Stand with your back to a chair or other low support and put your toe on it. Place your hands on your waist or fold them in front of your chest – whatever is most comfortable.
Squat until the thigh of one supporting leg is parallel to the floor. If the heel moves away, step away from the support. When exiting the squat, make sure your knee doesn’t wrap inward.
This exercise works the hip flexors, quadriceps, adductor muscles, gluteus maximus, gluteus major and gluteus medius, and develops joint mobility and sense of balance.
Lift the straight leg slightly off the ground and squat on the other leg until it is fully bent at the knee joint. Make sure the heel of the free foot does not touch the floor and the support foot does not come off the floor.
Stand up from the squat, keeping your knee from turning inward, and repeat the exercise. You can extend your arms out in front of you, as this makes it easier to keep your balance.
This is a difficult movement and can take more than a week to master. Luckily, there are many pistol exercises that will work the hips and glutes perfectly as well. Match the option to your level from the article below.
Squat with jump out
This exercise is much harder than regular overhead squats and can hammer your quads after only 20 reps. For beginners, 10 may be enough.
Stand up straight, put your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly narrower, fold your arms in front of your chest or at your waist. Squat down as much as possible, keeping your back straight and your heels pressed to the floor.
Jump up and down again into a squat. Continue in the same manner.
Another plyometric movement that will get your thighs burning after 10-20 reps and pump your glutes perfectly.
Lunge forward, then jump up and switch legs in the air. Land in a lunge with the other leg and continue alternating them. Try not to touch the floor with the knee of your back foot to avoid hitting it.
Gluteus bridge on one leg
This is one of the best moves to pump the back of the thigh.
Lying on your back, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Pull one leg off the floor and straighten it – this is the starting position. Then squeeze your glutes and lift your pelvis as high as you can. Return to the starting position and repeat.
To make the movement more difficult, place the supporting leg on a small elevation, such as the edge of a couch. You can also move the support leg further away from the pelvis – this will also increase the load.
Climb to an elevated position
This exercise works the hips and glutes perfectly.
Stand next to a stable support, step on it and back down, alternating feet at a time. Make sure the knee of the supporting leg does not wrap inward.
Jump on the high ground
Another plyometric exercise that will perfectly pump your thighs and calves.
Make sure the support you choose is stable and does not wobble or move underneath you. If you haven’t exercised in a long time, choose a piece of furniture no higher than 50 cm. Jump onto the platform and back down in stages. There is no need to jump down to avoid overloading your knees.
This movement pumps the calf muscles. Stand up on your toes and then lower yourself back down. If you feel unsure, you can hold on to a support.
To increase the strain on your muscles, put the foot pad in an elevated position and lower your heel to the ground before lifting. This will increase the range of motion and the load on your calves.
You can also make this and other movements more difficult by using purchased or homemade compact equipment.
What equipment can you buy or make for home workout
If you’re just starting to work out, exercising at your own body weight will be enough. But over time, you’ll need to do more and more reps and sets to tire out your muscles and make them increase in size.
To maintain your progress, increase the difficulty of your exercises with the following tools.
Rubber expansion bands
If you step on the expansion band and put the other end of the ring on your shoulders, you can make movements like squats, lunges, and the Bulgarian split squat more difficult.
If you take a mini elastic band or wrap the resistance band twice around your hips just above your knees, you can increase the load on your muscles in side steps and leg extensions lying on your side. And if you hook the resistance band to a stable support, you can do squats and knee extensions.
Since we’re talking about training bigger and stronger muscle groups, opt for thicker resistance bands: they’ll provide more resistance and help you pump your legs better.
Sand weights, which attach to your legs with straps, will add weight to any plyometric movement.
Bottles of water or sand in a backpack
This is the simplest piece of equipment that will make your jumping, squat and lunge movements more difficult. Just fill up some water bottles, put them in a backpack and place them on your back or chest, depending on the exercise. In the glute bridge, you can put the makeshift equipment on your hips.
Another “piece of equipment” that will allow you to perform goblet squats is a variation of the exercise where you hold the weight in front of your chest.
If the container has a sturdy and wide enough handle, you can use it for the Romanian deadlift with one leg and for somersaults – exercises for the back of the thigh and the glutes
Where to find ready-made training programs.
If you don’t want to make up your own moves, try the ready-made sets of famous coaches. We show you three variations – choose the one you like best, or try them all.
1- Circular interval complex for 20 minutes
This is a workout by bodybuilder, trainer and physical therapist Jeff Cavalier. You can perform it without any equipment or add weights.
This is done in an interval format and consists of four rounds of 5 minutes each. The first three movements of each round are performed one after the other at certain intervals:
- For beginners – 15 seconds of work, 15 seconds of rest.
- For intermediate athletes – 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest.
- For advanced athletes, 25 seconds of work, 5 seconds of rest.
It will take 90 seconds to complete this part. After that, you rest for 60 seconds and move on to corrective exercises to develop hip mobility. These movements are the same for all rounds of the workout – a leg lift lying on your side and a side lunge to stretch your motor muscles.
Do each of these exercises for 30 seconds per leg. In total, the corrective portion takes 2 minutes and the entire round takes 4.5 minutes. After that, you can rest for 30 seconds and move on to the next round.
- Air squats or goblet squats with weights.
- Glute bridge steps.
- Dumbbell (sand can) swings or imitation without weights.
- Reverse lunges.
- “Sprinter” lunges.
- Squats with jumping jacks.
- Squats without a break at the top.
- Romanian deadlift on one leg.
- Romanian deadlift with leg grip back and bringing knee forward.
- Transition from lunges to squat without straightening.
- Glute bridge with legs almost straight.
- Sprint lunges without straightening up.
If you have any strength left, you can repeat this workout again. It will take 40 minutes to work your legs.
2- training of two supersets and a challenge
This is a short set from German trainer Alex Lorenz, founder of Calimovement, a resource dedicated to calisthenics.
The workout includes four good leg exercises spread over two supersets. It concludes with a three-minute routine designed to get your muscles down (and challenge your endurance).
- Pistol squat – 4 repetitions.
- Gluteal bridge on one leg – 8 reps.
Do both exercises on one leg, then rest for 60 seconds and repeat the same on the other leg. Then take a 60 second break and do the superset two more times.
- Bulgarian split squat – 8 times.
- Toe raises – 12 times.
Do both exercises on one leg without resting between them, then take a 30 second break and do the same on the other leg. Rest again for 30 seconds and do two more rounds.
Imposta un timer per tre minuti e faiSet a timer for three minutes and do as many jump squats as you can.
It’s best not to jump in right away until you’re completely exhausted, but to work calmly for the entire three minutes. Take breaks every 15-20 seconds to keep your energy up. After a break, don’t stand for long – shake it off and keep going.
Try to do more each time. If you managed to do 20 reps in three minutes today, try to do 21 next time.
3- A set of 10 exercises
This is a “leg day” from the THENX app with a calisthenic training program. In the video below, athlete John Oslager demonstrates this.
In this workout, most of the exercises are not done by time, but by number of times. You rest for 15 seconds between each move. If you feel you can continue without resting, do so.
The workout consists of the following movements:
- Alternating lunges and jump squats – 30 seconds.
- Bulgarian split squats – 10 times per leg. Lunges – 10 times per leg.
- Jump squats – 14 times.
- Jumping jumps – 40 times.
- Squats with hands behind head – 20 times.
- Side lunges – 10 times per leg.
- Side walk in a squat with hands behind head – 20 steps.
- Lift on toes – 15 times per leg.
- Hold a static squat – 45 seconds.
When you have completed one round, rest for a few minutes and start again. Do a total of three rounds.
How often should you exercise
Your muscles need time to recover and grow, so don’t do a workout every day.
Do a “leg day” twice a week with a 1-2 day break between sessions. For example, train your legs on Mondays and Thursdays, and do upper body exercises on the other days.
If you are only able to train 2-3 times a week and need to train all your muscles in that time, choose a superset on the front and back of the thigh and include it in your program along with the upper body workout.
Alternate supersets to train all leg muscles evenly. And don’t forget that the most important thing is to work up to fatigue. If you work your muscles to the max, they will grow.