Leg days during calisthenics and cardio should look different than your typical leg day at the gym, where you lift heavy weights and rest often between sets. That typical leg day works on power and strength cycles, but if the goal is to improve your cardiovascular times on runs and swims, you also need to work on leg muscle endurance.
This is a fun mix of cardio running and swimming events mixed with leg exercises. This training will improve the condition and endurance of the lungs and legs.
Squat pyramid 1-10 (stopping at 10) with a 100 meter run and dynamic stretching between each set.
This is a classic leg warm-up that’s recommended no matter what cycle you’re doing. Before lifting, get the blood flowing through your legs and lungs with a quick five-to-10-minute warm-up like a half-pyramid of squats from one to 10. That’s the equivalent of 55 bodyweight reps with a 1,000-meter jog. You will feel warmed up to lift or run after this warm-up.
Run one mile fast and step up to 400 meters.
Next run a mile, followed by a set of non-stop walking lunges (no weight) for 400 meters.
NOTE: If you haven’t done it before, start with 100-200m walking lunges and build up to 400m, because it will hurt a lot if you’re not ready.
One of our goals is to be able to lunge 400 meters without stopping while carrying a 40 to 50 pound sandbag on our chest and no be sore for the next two days. It takes time and constant progress in distance and added weight.
Here you will find out your level of muscular endurance. If you ran 800 meters at your target mile pace after the above segment of training and squats, your muscular endurance is above average.
We usually make this run pace our goal run pace for four to five miles. So if our goal is to run a 28-minute, four-mile run or a 35-minute, five-mile run, our pace is a seven-minute run and a 3:30 800-meter (or half-mile) run. This is not a sprint exercise; the lesson is learning goal pace with tired legs.
Repeat four times.
- Running: 800 meters at target mile pace
- Squats: 25
- Plank or stretch: 1 minute
You can add an exercise of your choice as an active rest. Planks, sit-ups, flutter kicks, or hanging knees are all good “rest” options with running sets. It is recommended that you do whatever fitness test event you need to succeed in this section.
The leg workout ends as it began, with a 10-1 reverse squat pyramid and 100m sprint mixed with dynamic stretching between each set. Use 20-30 meters of a 100-meter jog to do some dynamic stretches as a cool-down.
Swim or Ruck
Depending on your branch of service and the event you need to improve the most, either swim with fins or crab as your final event. You can also do this later in the day after some recovery time for optimal results.
Here’s a swim workout: Swim 500 meters fast without fins and 1,500 meters with fins during pool or open water time, depending on your facilities and environment.
Here’s the ruck workout: With a 50-pound lunch (or choose a weight for your current ability), walk three miles, practicing three different strides that will help you build a running strategy for future long running events.
Mile 1 is an easy walk. Record your time. Mile 2 is a power walk. This pace should put you in good stead with the military (and other service) standards of a minimum of 15 minutes per mile. For mile 3, do a half-step at a pace of 10 to 12 minutes per mile, depending on the pace you can keep to yourself.
Practicing this exercise will help you when your workouts drag on and you need a recovery strategy. It will also help you play catch-up, if necessary, to exceed the standards of that event.
This is a day for gymnastics and leg cardio. Enjoy.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his fitness e-book store if you want to start an exercise program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send fitness questions to email@example.com.
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