Leg Weights Exercises

Below are a range of exercises you might like to try to improve your leg strength and power (or have been asked to do by your coach).

At Momentum Sports we believe strength training provides a great benefit to athletes, both through improved performance and injury prevention.


The power to move the bar for this exercise comes initially from the legs and through the ankles, knees and hips (“triple extension”) not the arms. This is why it’s a great exercise for all athletic events as triple extension is a requirement of them all. Don’t pull on the bar with your arms until it’s beyond your hips and your body is fully extended. The arm pull involves lifting the shoulders and then bending the arms as the body drops below the level of the upwardly travelling bar. You ‘catch’ the bar on your shoulders in the racked positon with your upper arms parallel to the floor.

With a heavy weight in particular the lower you are able to get below the bar as it moves upward the greater the likelihood that you will make the lift. You basically squat into position to receive the bar as you initiate the arm pull.

Video Cleans Weight Lifting. How to lift a great Clean to develop power and strength.
  • Targets: Thighs, calf muscles, glutes, chest & shoulders
  • Suitable for: All athletic events, especially, sprints, jumps and throws


Depth of squat is a debateable issue with some coaches recommending a full (near bottom to heels) level of lowering and others half-squats and three-quarter squats (where the knees are bent so that the thighs are parallel to the floor and at 135-degrees respectively). Much will depend on your level of training and flexibility. The deeper you squat the more the requirement for back, hamstring and calf muscle range of movement.

When starting out with weighted squats it’s best to develop confidence over three-quarter and half-squat ranges before progressing deeper. Consult with your Momentum coach about deep squats. Virtually all athletic events don’t require more than a 90-degree angle at the knee and for the vast majority the knees are only slightly bend when running and jumping, for example.

Always keep the bar secured to the back of your shoulders on the fleshy parts and away from the top of your spine.

Video Squats
  • Targets: Thighs, glutes, calf muscles
  • Suitable for: All athletic events

Snatch / Power Snatch

Like the clean the power snatch is a very dynamic exercise and requires full concentration and commitment. Power to move the bar overhead is generated by the legs (ankles, knees and hips). Your arms, again as with the clean, ‘aid’ the bar overhead. Lead with your elbows as the bar rises beyond your hips and you are on your toes and let the bar move to full arms’ extension overhead. And again, as with the clean, you should drop under the bar on its way up by bending your knees and then extending into the end position, to make completing the lift easier.

This is a particularly advanced exercise in terms of technique and you must spend time mastering its technique before going heavy. You need good shoulder flexibility to get the bar into the correct overhead position and therefore you should not neglect working on this.

Video Snatch / Power Snatch
  • Targets: Thighs, glutes, calf muscles, upper arms, chest & shoulders
  • Suitable for: All athletic events, but particular, sprints, jumps and throws

Overhead Squats

This means that you have to use the strength in your upper back in particular whilst performing the squat to hold the position required.

This is an excellent exercise for improving the strength in a vast number of different muscles, particularly core muscles, as well as, obviously quadriceps.

Video Overhead Squats

Stiff Leg Dead Lift / Romanian Dead Lift

This is not a squat, the hinging movement to pull the bar into position comes from your bottom, hamstrings and back. Think opening your hips and pulling back to raise the weight. (Note your arms only hold the bar and don’t contribute to the momentum of the exercise.)

When learning the exercise only lower the bar to around knee level as a lower depth requires very good from and otherwise can place undue strain on the back. Regardless you should always maintain the natural curves of your spine albeit braced.

If using a heavy weight use a squat rack set at an appropriate height to avoid having to overextend the back when placing the bar on the floor at the end of each set.

Video Romanian Dead Lift
  • Targets: Hamstrings, quads, glutes & back
  • Suitable for: All athletic events, especially sprints, jumps and throws

Squat Jumps

The jump squat is a great exercise for developing explosive power. It combines a plyometric movement with added resistance. A plyometric exercise uses the natural elasticity of your muscles to increase power and force production. Unlike with the squat, the depth of lowering for the jump squat should be around the three-quarter level. The key requirement is to try to transition between the landing and the reaction into another jump as quickly as possible – but safely. Doing this will generate the highest level of power and this is what is key to maximising athletic performance whatever your event.

It’s important also that you keep the bar pulled into the back of your shoulders so that it does not bounce off and on to your neck as you jump and land.

The exercise can also be performed holding dumbbells at arms’ length.

Video Jump Squats
  • Targets: Thighs, calf muscles, glutes
  • Suitable for: All athletic events

Step Ups

Get the bar in the same position as you would for a squat. Then step up onto a platform or solid chair at about 18 inches in height. Do on one leg before repeating on the other. Remember as with all lifts to keep you back straight and core tense as you step up.

Video Step Ups
  • Targets: Thighs, calf muscles, glutes
  • Suitable for: All athletic events

Hamstring Curls

From the picture you will see this requires the use of a machine. You will find that, because of the way in which various machines are set up, the weight you can lift will vary greatly from one to another. This is normal.

Lie on your front with your legs off the end of the bench and ankles under the lifting pad. In a smooth action bring your feet up towards you backside. Some people will be able to pull the weight the whole way over, whilst others will not have enough mobility for this. It is important that during the exercise you don't arch your back too much if you are struggling with the weight and this will place undue pressure on it.

Photo Hamstring curls