This Leg Day Workout Addition Will Test Your Mind and Body

Wall Squats
U.S. Marines from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton perform wall squats during a Martial Arts Instructor course at the Edson Range Martial Arts Facility on Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 17, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

When forced to train with limited resources, you often find the most creative ways to train. A recent Navy boot-camp graduate who is heading to SEAL training gave me this idea. To stay in some form of pre-Spec Ops conditioning, the Spec Ops candidates at boot camp will add in extra PT sessions whenever possible.

These extra sessions often take place before the rest of the barracks awakens to start the day. Some days are focused on push-ups and sit-ups, and others emphasize squats and lunges.

The idea that one newly minted sailor shared was what he called "Death by Air Chair." This is how you can add it into a typical leg day.

Warmup: Squat and Run Pyramid 1-10 with 100-Meter Runs

  • Run: 100 meters easy, 1 squat
  • Run: 100 meters easy, 2 squats
  • Run: 100 meters easy, 3 squats
  • Keep going up to level 10 and stop at 10

This is 1,000 meters of jogging and 55 squats total for your leg day warmup, followed by a mile run. You can do this mile as a continuation of your warmup, if needed, or push your time and effort and test yourself.

  • Run: 1 mile

The first section of the workout is focused on the hip hinge and the deadlift, a new Army fitness-test event. However, with the hex bar used in the testing, it can be less of a hip hinge and more of a squatting movement. It is up to you which you prefer to do during training.

If you do not feel comfortable deadlifting, consider learning the Romanian deadlift, which is done while holding a dumbbell or kettlebell. It is a good exercise with progressions to help you build up to doing barbell or hex-bar deadlifts in the future.

Repeat three times.

  • Deadlift: 3-5 (moderately heavy)


  • Kettlebell Romanian deadlift (RDL): 10 (not so heavy)
  • Hanging knee-ups: 10-15
  • Kettlebell farmers walk: 2 x 25 meters fast
  • Rest: 2 minutes walk or bike

Death by Air Chair

This is my new addition to a leg day workout that requires some strength training as well as leg endurance training. This workout is only for five minutes at first, but over time, the challenge is to build up to 10 minutes.

Death by Air Chair looks like this:

Remember Death by Push-ups? This is the same concept but with squats. You get into the seating position while leaning against a wall for one-minute segments, but you are not resting. You do 10 air squats every minute on the minute (EMOM).

Then get back to your air chair. How long can you go? Building up to five minutes is not that challenging if you normally do leg days and can do a Murph Workout (300 squats).

Building up to 10 minutes is our training group's next goal.

After the workout, do not forget the easy cooldown. Do an easy 20-minute run, bike, elliptical or row. If you are preparing for a future training program that involves rucking and swimming with fins or diving, you should consider adding a leg day ruck or swim with fins.

Optional: Top It Off with Ruck or Swim with Fins

Ruck or Swim

  • Ruck: 30 minutes


  • Swim with fins: 30 minutes for max distance

Do both or go longer if you are up to adding more distance at this time in your training.

It is fun to mix in new challenges into a normal workout routine. If you are training to become a "tactical athlete," strength training cycles also require you to maintain your cardio endurance (run, swim, ruck) and muscle stamina. Getting good at all of the elements of fitness will enable you to be an asset to your unit when physical challenges meet tactical demands in life-or-death situations.

-- Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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