Bodyweight Training for Lower-Body Strength and Power

TAGS: Head Nods, Nordic Leg Curl, Jumping Lunges, Jump Tucks, jump squats, Prison Squat, explosive power, strength, Josh Bryant


Originally published in September of 2018

Any strength and conditioning training outside of your body weight is a luxury. Thankfully, in today’s world, we can generally gain access to the luxury of training with equipment in a gym or weight room. Nevertheless, we should not lose sight of the benefits that bodyweight training provides. It’s customizable, flexible, and effective in helping to build and maintain lean muscle mass. Not to mention, you don’t have to have a pricey gym membership in order to see results.

 RECENT: Bodyweight Training for Upper-Body Strength and Power

In this training series inspired by Jailhouse Strong, I demonstrate key bodyweight exercises that you can do anytime, anywhere – all you need is yourself. This particular segment focuses on building lower-body strength and explosive power. Let’s make some gains!

Prison Squat

In starting off with Prison Squats, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed slightly outward. Keep your torso erect, placing your hands behind your head while pulling your shoulders and elbows back. Once you’re set up properly, squat down, holding the position at the bottom for three seconds before coming back up. If you have a friend available to support you in your training, you can also use them for resistance in this movement.

Jump Squats

With Jump Squats, the objective is to squat halfway down, hold the position for two seconds, and then jump up into the air from there. This movement is all about strength and explosiveness, and as such it’s important to properly set up your body before executing each movement. With each of your reps, ensure that you’re mentally and physically resetting each time. In fact, it can help to think of this exercise as six single repetitions, as opposed to six reps in total.

Jump Tucks

To execute Jump Tucks, start with your hands above your head and prepare for a powerful swing-down of your arms. As you bring your arms down, jump up, bringing your knees up to tuck into your chest. After landing on the ground, immediately prepare to repeat the movement. In a perfect world, Jump Tucks should be executed in successive fire, like a machine gun.

Jumping Lunges

Jumping Lunges are covered in detail in the original Jailhouse Strong book, as well as our most recent book, Grapple Strong. I encourage you to check them out for additional information regarding proper technique and variations of these movements. To begin, start in a traditional lunge position with one leg forward and one leg backward. Then, jumping upwards, bring the opposite leg forward and the other leg backward to enter into a lunge on the other side. Continue the movement fluidly so that you’re continuously jumping up and lowering down into alternating lunges. This is a great movement that serves to keep you agile, mobile, and hostile.

Nordic Leg Curl

The Nordic Leg Curl is a very advanced movement that can be difficult for those attempting it for the first time. You can execute this exercise by wedging your feet underneath a doorway or other surface, or you can have a partner assist you by holding your feet down during the movement. Keep in mind that you can also do this band-assisted for additional support.

To execute, position your body in a kneeling position with your feet held down. Then, slowly lower your body down towards the floor at a five-second negative. Keep your pace steady and controlled, such that right at five seconds your nose is roughly a centimeter off of the ground before you come back up. Although challenging at first, this movement can be extremely beneficial for strengthening the body when executed correctly. Indeed, it appears across strength training literature as a key component of hamstring injury prevention programs.

Head Nods

The Head Nod is a very popular warm-up in the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. To execute, lay down on a bench or other elevated surface that allows you to move your head freely. Position your head off of the edge of the surface, as the goal is to strengthen your neck muscles using the weight of your head. Slowly move your chin to your chest, stretch back, then move your head from one side to the other. Twist your chin to your shoulder on both sides.

To start off, just do 10 reps. Then, each time you train, add one rep as part of your warm-up, working your way up to 50 or so reps in all of these different directions. If you do these movements, I guarantee that you will see neck development, especially if you’ve never trained your neck before. And the best part is, you can do this anytime, anywhere – whether you’re training at the Ritz-Carlton, or in a jail cell.

Proven Over Time

Bodyweight training is not only a way to improve endurance, but it’s also a means to build explosive power and strength. Don’t just take my word for it, however – these methods have been proven over time, as demonstrated by Herschel Walker, the Great Gama, and many who have done time in the “pinta”.

By the Minute

  • (0:30) – Prison Squats
  • (1:00) – Jump Squats
  • (1:23) – Jump Tucks
  • (1:45) – Jumping Lunges
  • (2:03) – Nordic Leg Curl
  • (2:35) – Head Nods


Loading Comments... Loading Comments...