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Leg gains without weights?

Has anyone increased leg muscle mass (or at least maintained leg mass) without using any weighted exercises? I am at the point where all leg exercises (squats, lunges, leg extensions) aggravate my knees during and after exercise. I am considering taking a break from weighted leg exercises and using other methods such as sprinting, mountain biking and in-line skating to at least maintain current size. Anyone done this? Or do you have any suggestions? I’m not a bodybuilder, so maximum mass is not my goal. But I do want to keep an athletic build and not have my legs turn into little sticks.

good mornings and box squats will take stress off your knees while strengthening your low back, hams, and glutes.

C’mon Nate Dogg! We talked about this before last year, sort of. I found that the hindu squat workouts in Combat Conditioning did the job. Most of the “old school” exercises are great. Just let me know if you want exercise descriptions (if you don’t feel the need to buy the book right away). You will probably want to get it at some point though. Take care.


Nate, I’m not sure about maintaining your current size, which probably resulted as an adaptation to your current weight-training methods (I don’t know anything about your legs… do you have massive wheels already?) However, from personal experience, I think that sprints and other “non-weighted” leg exercises can help in your leg development. If your goal is not to have massive bodybuilding legs, then go to any local high school track meet. You should be able to observe some pretty decent leg development from kids who either don’t hit the weights or don’t do so very effectively. I certainly had fairly large legs, both upper and lower, as a HS sprinter and had never touched a squat rack before. While sprints might not be the most time-effective method for building your legs, there is certainly something to be said for the exhileration of sprinting especially when compared to the more grueling aspects of traditional training (SQUATS). Last spring I sprinted about once every couple of weeks to break the monotony of Olympic lifting, and despite having already hard-trained legs I was sore as hell after each one of these sessions. Give it a try.

Ian King - Limping Series…Hardly any weight and great gains…

Try uphill sprints. Start with just body weight and then put on a rucksack and slowly add weight. It should do the trick.

I know about the leg problems and had them myself a while back. But you may find that the controlled exercises put less stress on your knees than the alternatives you are mentioning.
In my case (I had pain in the patellar region) I found that mountain biking and skating made things worse. Sprinting worked as long as I slowed down gradually. I prefer cutting the weight on the squats and doing a high no. of reps. Might be different for you though.

I should answer the question too... mountain biking and skating can increase the size of your legs. So can squats with high reps.

Hey Nate, sounds like ski squats and one-legged squats (Pavel’s “pistols”) are some exercises you should try. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Sprints make the middle of my quads explode also that whole rest of my legs gat a great pump too. My calves and hams have grown tremedously. But i dont just do sprints. they are the basis of my leg workouts tho.

Nate Dogg, get your ass up here right away to see my art therapist. You can sleep on my couch. Even if you just come one time it will be worth it. Youll at least be able to do some stuff.

Thanks for the replies. I realize that there are alternative exercises I can do (one-legged squats, hindu squats, box squats). I was just curious to see if anyone didn’t use weighted movements to build decent legs. I’m sure it can be done, as I’ve seen many runners with nice leg development. Since my knees have been hurting so badly lately, I figure that I need to take a break from the heavy squats and deadlifts along with the leg extensions and lunges. And I have found that biking and blading don’t affect me like the other leg exercises I’ve done. So I was curious about trying something different for a while.

Goldberg, you know I’d love to have ART done on me. It’s just too bad that I would have to travel four hours to the nearest one!!! And with work during the week, it makes it hard to do that. So maybe I just need a break from the heavy stuff for a while. I haven’t had the motivation to do any heavy squats lately anyway. I may need to get on a conditioning program to just get me lean and mean for summer.