How To Develop Muscular Legs With Bodyweight Training

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
September 04, 2014

Omni sets are one of the best techniques for working a whole muscle region.

Have you ever finished a workout and thought to yourself, “Yeah, I definitely could have done more”?

During each set it feels like you’re pushing yourself to the limit, but when the workout’s finished you know it wasn’t enough. The reason is because you didn’t work the entire muscle region. Let’s take the push-up as an example.

leg

When you do a standard push-up, you fatigue mostly the middle portion of the chest. You don’t directly target the upper and lower portions. If you were to just do traditional push-ups over and over again, you’ll get stronger but you won’t get that full-looking chest.

A couple of months ago I taught you how to remedy this problem. It’s called the Omni Set. Omni sets are a way to target the entire muscle region and fatigue all of the muscle fibers. They force you to recruit more muscle fibers to complete each set by slightly altering the angle of the movement.

I received such great feedback on that Omni Set article that I decided to write another.

The first post focused on how to apply the Omni Set technique to the chest muscle group, but one of the biggest challenges facing calisthenics trainees is getting an effective workout for the legs.

I thought long and hard about how to apply the Omni Set technique to the legs, and below is the result I came up with.

Remember that one of the biggest requirements for muscle development is high volume. You can’t just do one set and expect growth. High volume means 4, 5, 6, or even more total sets, with just 60 seconds of rest before attacking the muscle again.

The Bodyweight Omni Set Technique For Greater Leg Development

The Omni Set below specifically targets the quadriceps muscle group. I can teach you how to target the hamstrings with bodyweight exercises in another article, but for now I’m going to focus on the quads.

3 Important Tips When Doing Omni Sets:

1. Don’t rest when changing positions

The whole point of an Omni Set is to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible. When you do an exercise to full fatigue and immediately rest afterwards, you’re allowing the muscle to recover. This is NOT what we want. You need to move from one exercise to the next as quickly as possible.

2. Go to full fatigue

Full fatigue means you can’t complete any more reps without your form breaking down. A lot of people ask me, “Todd, how do I know that I’ve gone to full fatigue?” My answer: Go until you can’t go any more. Don’t over complicate things.

3. Go through a full range of motion

When doing Omni Sets, you want to go through a full range of motion. This will make sure that the maximum amount of muscle fibers are recruited.

The Omni Set Technique for Legs

When doing this Omni Set, go from one exercise to the next in the prescribed order. Make sure you follow the form closely because it is designed in a specific manner.

Exercise 1: Kneeling Back Bend

Kneeling Back Bend

  • Kneel down on the ground, with a pad under your knees if you’re on a hard surface.
  • Lower yourself backwards as far as you can without bending at the hips.
  • Raise yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Complete as many reps as you can with good form, then immediately move on to the Stretch Frog Squat.

Notes: This is a unique exercise for quad development. Make sure to keep your hips and back locked straight. You should not be hingeing at all at these points. The further you go down the more difficult it will be. 

Exercise 2: Stretch Frog Squat

Stretch Frog Squat

  • Start on your hands and knees on the floor.
  • Extend your legs behind you so that you’re in a “doggy position”.
  • Shift your weight backwards until your butt touches your calves.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Complete as many reps as you can with good form, then immediately move on to the Tight Frog Squat.

Notes: A lot of these exercises also work the glute muscles. The Stretch Frog Squat is an exercise where you’ll definitely feel your glutes working as well as your quads.

Exercise 3: Tight Frog Squat

Tight Frog Squat

  • Perform the same movement as the Stretch Frog Squat, but with your feet closer to your hands.
  • Complete as many reps as you can with good form, then immediately move on to the Bent Over Squat.

Notes: By now your quads will be on fire. Remember to go to full fatigue with each exercise. This will ensure that you are recruiting different muscle fibers with each new position as others become fatigued. 

Exercise 4: Bent Over Squat

Bent Over Squat

  • Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, and bend over at the hips.
  • Keeping your torso “glued” to your quads, lower your butt until it touches your calves.
  • Return to the starting position by extending your knees and raising your butt back up.
  • Complete as many reps as you can with good form, then immediately move on to the Traditional Bodyweight Squat.

Notes: This exercise works your quads in a unique way. Since you are allowing your upper body to fold over as your quads extend, you’ll mostly feel the exercise in the lower portion of your quads.

Exercise 5: Traditional Bodyweight Squat

Bodyweight Squat

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend at the knees, lowering your butt until it touches your calves.
  • Return to the starting position by extending the knees and pressing upwards.
  • Complete as many reps as you can with good form, then immediately move on to the Stationary Lunges.

Notes: It’s super important to go through a full range of motion by going as low as you can. This will engage the glutes more effectively. At the top of the movement, don’t come up so high that you lock the knees. You want to keep some tension in your quads throughout, so keep your legs slightly bent at the top.

Exercise 6: Stationary Lunges

Lunge

At this point, I’m sure you’re wishing that you’d never started. That’s ok. You’ve come this far. You just have one exercise left.

  • Extend your right leg in front of you, leaving your left leg out behind.
  • Drop down into a lunge until your left knee almost touches the ground.
  • Return to the starting position by extending the right knee.
  • Complete as many reps as you can with good form, then switch to the other side and repeat.

Notes: Your front knee shouldn’t move past your toes. If it does, you need to move your foot further forwards.

And you’re done!

The Omni Set Leg Workout

I mentioned earlier that volume is super important for fully fatiguing a muscle group, so try doing the above Omni Set 4-6 times total. Give yourself 60-90 seconds in between each set.

Here’s how a full leg workout might look:

  • Set 1: Complete Leg Omni Set
  • Rest 60 Seconds
  • Set 2: Complete Leg Omni Set
  • Rest 60 Seconds
  • Set 3: Complete Leg Omni Set
  • Rest 60 Seconds
  • Set 4: Complete Leg Omni Set

DONE!

Omni Sets are super challenging but very effective for tearing muscle tissue. Make sure to count your reps and share below how well you did!

Creating an Omni Set for the chest muscle group was easy, but creating one for the legs was much more challenging. If you have any ideas on how to improve the Omni Set for legs, I’d love to hear your feedback.

– Todd

Bodyweight Omni

Show/Hide Comments (19 comments)
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19 Comments
  1. Glynn

    Hi Todd
    Would it be better to do alternate lunges, otherwise the leg exercised last will have started to recover?

    Reply
  2. amanda

    Hi Todd,
    How many times a week do you recommend this? Should I do one leg training day with weightweights, and a separate leg training day with this Omni? Thoughts….
    Thank you for this…it’s awesome!

    Reply
  3. AmityC

    Oh my goodness! That was hard but so rewarding. I could not do to many but at least I did a few with each exercise. I am going to keep trying to do this.

    Reply
  4. WilliamK

    Wanted to quit after 2 sets but pushed for 3. Is the sequence from easiest to hardest? Can we mix up the order? The hardest one where I felt the most burn and the least number of reps was the bent over squat. Does flexibility play a role? I have a difficult time gluing my torso to my hips as I’m prety stiff. I hope I can go down the flight of stairs after this.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      You are welcome to switch up the order. Ideally the exercises should be hardest to easiest but especially with the legs people find such a variety.

      Reply
  5. ryan

    Will this help to train explosiveness in the legs? What about plyometrics?

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hey Ryan, no, it won’t train for explosiveness. You have to do plyometrics and train fast twitch muscle fibers for explosiveness. I focus on Sprints for that. Explosive jumps would help too.

      Reply
  6. lisa

    Enjoying your posts, Todd. Especially the quad omni. How about a hamstring omni, please? And an upper back omni as well. Big thanks!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Lisa. Glad you are liking the posts. Yep, both those areas are on the list. Seems like everyone has been enjoying the omni set concept.

      Reply
  7. Patrick

    I can see these getting a lot of use in my martial arts classes, but an area that usually gets neglected there is the upper back; do you have plans to make an omni-set for back muscles? Your post about muscle imbalances has inspired me to look for more back exercises, but beyond “do lots of pull-ups,” I haven’t found anything that looks like an omni-set.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Patrick, yeah I’ll try to puts something together for upper back in the near future. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Christine

    Would love to see Omni Sets for Hamstrings and back! Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      For sure Christine. I’ve been thinking through both of those. Hamstrings are super difficult. Back is definitely easier.

      Reply
  9. william

    and standing side and back leg lifts for the butt and hips? Sorry for the multi posts.

    Reply
  10. william

    And calf raises as well.

    Reply
  11. william

    Hi,

    I’m new here but i like your posts and your website.
    Why not include some hindu squats, sissy squats and cossacks squats after the classic squats? And some unilateral work with pistols and shrimp squats?

    Just an idea.

    Bye.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi William, you can definitely add those exercises! Creativity is the name of the game when it comes to bw exercises.

      Reply
  12. John Sifferman

    I tried one round at a moderate intensity (don’t want to wear myself out before my scheduled training today!). I love the idea of omni-sets, and I’ve used a similar technique occasionally over the years. I’m sure that three or four rounds of this would create a thermonuclear burn in the quads.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Oh yeah, the burn is awesome!

      Reply
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