Try This Minimalist Leg Day Workout

U.S. Marine Corps recruit Laurence Meeusen (right) and recruit Tylan Kanady (left), recruits with Hotel Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, carry a log during log drills at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin)

Calisthenics squats, lunges and jumps are always a classic go-to exercise combination when you have no equipment and it is a training day that you do not want to skip: leg day. You can get creative with a few very common objects and create a weighted leg day that rivals any full leg lift day in the gym.

Here are several ways to do a leg day with minimal equipment to help you reach your training goals.

The Classic Run PT Workout

Running sprints, goal pace for timed runs or a recovery jog can be done depending on the personal goals of the athlete and the type of leg day that you want to experience. Here is how it works:

Repeat 6-8 times

Run: 400 meters (pace is up to you)

Squats: 20

Lunges: 10 per leg

If you are trying to build your running pace for timed runs and work the legs for some muscle stamina or endurance, the leg PT is a great way to prepare the lungs and legs for training events such as military testing.

The squat pyramid with short and fast runs in between.

You can do half of a pyramid (1-10 ladder -- 55 total reps) or a full pyramid 1-10-1 (100 total reps), or really challenge yourself with a 1-20 (210 total reps) squat and run pyramid. Your abilities will determine how you can use the pyramid as a warm-up or complete leg and cardio workout. Here is how it works and the level you ascend to is up to you:

1 squat, run 50-100 meters

2 squats, run 50-100 meters

3 squats, run 50-100 meters

Continue up the pyramid to 10 to complete a warm-up or up to 15-20 to continue a more difficult section of a leg day workout.


Just lunges.

Building up to 400 meters of walking lunges is a tough challenge on the legs. During a normal leg day, top off your leg workout with a few 100 meter sets and, over time, you will be able to complete 400 meter walking lunges without stopping. The final goal is to be able to do 400 meters of lunges without feeling sore the next two days.

This will take some time to build up to so do not jump right into the 400 meters without a few weeks of consistent leg day buildup.

Add a hill.

When in doubt, add a decent sized hill, stairs or bleachers to work the legs and lungs even more than normal. Depending on the hill distance, try doing the classic run PT sets and reps in between each hill run, or do one of the pyramids with hill runs in between each set. In our group workouts we often do a set of squats at the top and bottom of the hill we run for both regular sets and reps or the pyramid method. One of our favorite workouts is to run up the hill carrying random heavy items and walk down, repeating with as many different items as you can find. Random stuff up a hill day never disappoints.

Add a weight vest or ruck.

If you want to make all the above even harder than they already are, add a 20-50 lbs weight vest or backpack or ruck. Get yourself ready for any military program that includes load bearing activities over long distances with this addition. Doing a 45-60 minute ruck session after any leg day or as a leg day by itself is what we call a "spec ops leg day"

Some favorite items to add to your workout.

Tire. Depending on the size, you can do a few different things with a tire. A car or truck tire makes for a good challenge to carry over distance or up a hill, drag with a rope (sled pull replacement) and even squat and throw. But the classic done with most tires is the tire flip. Though this is usually done with more of a track tire or big truck tire, you can progress from a car tire to larger tires over time and replace exercises such as deadlift, hang clean, carries, pull, drags and even jump on and off (box jump option).

Log. A small piece of log or a long log for groups can be used to increase weight on exercises like squats and lunges. If there is only one person on a big log, you can lift one end off the floor like a dead lift, or move into a power clean and push press option. Though chest carry lunges are quite a common leg, back, and bicep exercise, many use the log to accomplish preparing for future log PT workouts.

Sandbags. Whether you buy some sturdy sandbags or build your own out of play sand and duct tape, these are quite versatile to add weight to leg workouts. Using a sandbag can help you prepare for log PT as well as in the Sandbaby Murph -- Log PT simulation workout. Speaking of soft sand, having a beach to run or ruck on is an option to you on leg day as well. It will challenge your legs unlike many other activities.

Swim with fins. This is a classic leg day topper we do often, especially with people getting ready for military training that requires swimming and diving with SCUBA fins. Using the side stroke or just kicking while on your back for 30 to 45 minutes is a way to finish your leg day routine. We call this the "spec ops leg day topper."

There is no excuse to skip leg day when you cannot get to the gym to lift. Have a back-up plan, but apply the options above regularly just so they are not so new to you that you are sore from your leg day replacement activities than your actual leg day routine.

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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