Plenty of people have an interest in starting CrossFit workouts, but they feel intimidated by stepping foot in a CrossFit gym for the first time.
After all, most CrossFit workouts are high-intensity, strenuous workouts that combine cardio, strengthening, metabolic exercises, speed, power, and plyometrics all in one.
However, CrossFit can be approachable for beginners, and one great way to get started with CrossFit is to just focus on CrossFit leg workouts.
Even advanced CrossFitters should incorporate CrossFit lower body workouts into their regular weekly training program to help improve performance on some of the killer CrossFit leg WODs.
In this article, we will provide step-by-step instructions for some of the best CrossFit lower body exercises so that you can mix and match exercises to create a variety of CrossFit leg workouts for different fitness levels and training goals:
Let’s dive in!
The CrossFit Leg Workout
There isn’t one single definitive list of the best CrossFit leg exercises. Different CrossFit gyms and CrossFit workout programs will have a handful of their own unique variations on most of the most common CrossFit exercises.
However, there are some CrossFit movements that commonly appear in CrossFit workouts.
Here are some of the best exercises to include in your CrossFit leg workouts and CrossFit lower body workouts:
#1: Back Squats
The back squat is a foundational CrossFit leg exercise for power and strength.
Here is how to do a back squat:
- Stand upright with good posture inside the squat rack with your feet about shoulder-width apart and feet directly under the bar.
- Unlock the barbell and rest it across your shoulders and upper traps.
- Bend your knees and sit your hips back as far as possible as you squat down, raising your core and engaging your glutes. Keep your chest up and your shoulders back and down. Make sure that your knees do not travel forward beyond your toes.
- When your thighs are parallel to the floor, and your knees are bent to 90°, pause at the bottom position of the squat and then press powerfully through your heels to return upright to the starting position.
#2: Overhead Squats
One of the more challenging exercises to add to your CrossFit leg workouts is the overhead squat. This is a popular exercise in some of the more difficult CrossFit leg day workouts or CrossFit leg WODs.
Keep in mind that this is a relatively advanced CrossFit leg exercise, so you will want to take time to master the technique and ensure that you have adequate mobility in your ankles, hips, shoulders, and thoracic spine before attempting to use heavy weights.Keep your core and glutes tight to help maintain balance.
Here are the steps for how to perform this lower body CrossFit exercise:
- Snatch the bar up overhead to the finishing position. If you are unable to safely perform a snatch, rack the bar in the squat rack as if doing a back squat and then press it upward using a push press technique.
- Once the bar is overhead and your elbows are fully locked out. Sit your hips back to squat down, bending your knees and hips until your thighs are parallel to the ground and your knees are bent to 90°.
- Explosively press through your heels to stand back up, keeping the bar in the full lockout position overhead the entire time.
Most of the best CrossFit leg workouts include thrusters, a dynamic, metabolic exercise that essentially combines a barbell front squat with an overhead press.
You use the momentum of your legs pressing upward from the squat to help lift the bar overhead.
Here are the steps for how to perform this lower body CrossFit exercise:
- Hold the barbell as if you are going to perform a front squat.
- Keeping your core engaged, squat down, assuming proper front squat technique.
- Once your thighs are parallel to the ground and your knees are bent to 90°, explode up and out of the squat, driving your hips and knees into the extended position and pressing the barbell all the way up overhead until your elbows are fully locked out.
- At the top position, quickly bring the barbell back to the front squat location and smoothly transition back down into your next rep.
The goal is to perform as many reps as possible and to move quickly, powerfully, and explosively. This will help boost the cardiovascular and metabolic demands of the exercise while recruiting more muscle fibers in your legs as neuromuscular fatigue accumulates.
#4: Barbell Deadlifts
This is a must-have exercise in your leg CrossFit workouts as it targets all of the muscles of the posterior chain.
Here are the steps:
- Rack the bar so that it is at mid-shin height, with your feet hip-width apart.
- Keeping your back straight, hinge at your hips and grip the bar with your palms facing down.
- Unrack the bar as you brace your core.
- Keeping your chest up and shoulders down, press through your heels, using your glutes and hamstrings to pull your body upright into a standing position.
- Keeping your core tight and back straight, hinge at the hips to lower the bar back down to mid-shin level.
#5: Pistol Squats
Pistol squats are one of the toughest exercises you’ll find in a lower body CrossFit workout.
If you are unable to perform an unassisted pistol squat at this time, you can work up to this demanding CrossFit lower body exercise by lightly holding onto TRX suspension straps for a little bit of balance and assist in standing back up.
Here are the steps for how to perform this challenging CrossFit leg workout exercise:
- Stand upright with good posture and your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Lift up your left leg and extend it straight in front of your body while you bend your right knee and sit your hips all the way back as you drop down into a single-leg squat. Bring your arms straight out in front of your body for a counterbalance.
- Slowly sink down as low as possible, trying to get your butt as close to the floor as you can.
- Press through your heel to stand back up.
#6: Box Jumps
Perhaps the most iconic exercise scene in CrossFit leg day workouts and CrossFit leg WODs is the box jump.
It is a great lower-body CrossFit exercise for developing strength, power, precision, and technique for more advanced CrossFit plyometrics.
Here are the steps for how to perform this CrossFit plyometric exercise:
- Stand facing a plyometric box, about two feet behind the box.
- Drop down into a bodyweight squat, driving your arms behind you.
- In one smooth movement, thrust your arms forward as you squat and jump up using the momentum from your arms and rising up from the squat to land on top of the box with both feet.
- Cushion your landing by bending your knees and allowing your arms to slowly trail back behind your body.
- Hop down or step down off of the box and repeat for as many reps as you can or you intend to perform.
#7: Sled Pushes
When you are new to lower body CrossFit workouts, you probably have never attempted a sled push.
However, this is a staple CrossFit conditioning and strengthening exercise often seen in a challenging CrossFit leg WOD.
Here are the steps for how to perform this exercise in your CrossFit leg workout routine:
- Load up the sled with any form of resistance, such as bumper plates, kettlebells, dumbbells, or sandbags.
- Stand behind the sled, gripping the handles with your arms in front of you but your elbows bent.
- Maintain your elbows locked in this bent position and your upper body still throughout the duration of the exercise.
- Take a step toward the sled with the ball of your foot so that you can drive your foot into the ground and shove the sled forward.
- Keep your torso angled towards the ground by pinching at the hips rather than your back, and continue explosively pushing the sled forward for the desired distance or time.
You can vary the exercise by either using less weight and working on your speed or using heavier weight and working on your leg power and strength.
Make sure you take the time to properly learn how to perform the foundational CrossFit exercises to maximize the effectiveness of your CrossFit workouts and reduce the risk of injuries.
Begin with just one set of 10-12 reps per exercise if you are brand new to CrossFit.
Consider working with a CrossFit coach or a personal trainer if you are unsure of your technique and are brand new to strength training.
If you are looking for a beginners’ guide to CrossFit, check out our guide here.
CrossFit is a blast and a fantastic workout! Have fun!