Pins to Pillars: The Essential 15-Minute Leg Workout

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Working Out Post-Activation Potentiation

With only 15 minutes of time, it’s hard to imagine that you could get a great leg workout.  But one that can increase strength, speed, power, and muscle size?  Sound impossible? Not remotely.

For this workout, we’ll be employing a unique training method of pairing exercises using heavy loads with un-weighted explosive exercises. This is a contrast method that allows for increased fiber recruitment due to something called post activation potentiation (PAP).  This is the act of making a movement more efficient by pairing it with a previous activity.

For the specific purposes of this program, this means that by alternating the heavy exercises with the explosive exercises, each successive heavy set becomes more effective than the previous one. In just a few sets (and just 15 minutes) you can actually stimulate as many muscle fibers as you can in an old-fashioned, drawn-out leg workout.

Additionally, this technique has been useful not only for increasing strength and size, but has also been effectively used to increase sprinting speed and jump height.  That is, this workout makes your legs more efficient at nearly everything.

The Workout

Circuit A
Perform 2 sets of squats, resting 60 seconds in between them. Immediately after your second set, perform a jump squat for 60 seconds. After your jump squats, rest 60 seconds and perform another set of squats, immediately followed by another 45 seconds of jump squats.  Rest 90 seconds, and repeat this circuit.  After the second circuit, proceed immediately to B. To recap:

A1) Barbell Squat – 2×5
A2) Jump Squats – as many as possible in 90 seconds. Rest 45 seconds.
A3) Barbell Squat— 1×5
A4) Jump Squats – as many as possible in 45 seconds.
Rest 90 seconds and repeat.

Circuit B
Perform 3 sets of standing barbell calf raises, resting 30 seconds in between them. Immediately after your second set, perform 90 seconds of explosive standing calf raises as fast as you can without weight.  Rest 60 seconds and another set of barbell calf raises, immediately followed by another 30 seconds of explosive calf raises.  Rest 30 seconds, and perform one more set of barbell calf raises. That’s:

B1) Barbell Rocking Calf Raises – 3×6
B2) Explosive BW Calf Raises – as many as possible in 90 seconds. Rest 60 seconds.
B3) Barbell Rucking Calf Raises – 1×6
B4) Explosive BW Calf Raises – as many as possible in 30 seconds. Rest 30 seconds.
B5) Barbell Calf Raises – 1×6

There you have it – 15 Minutes to Bigger, Faster, Stronger Legs.

Okay, sound off! What are your TOP FIVE favorite leg exercises?

About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

Comments for This Entry

  • Melissa Hinkley

    I like the complex training principle, but not sure where the 60-90 seconds of plyo's come into play. If we are training for power here (and type II's), wouldn't it be more effective to do 5-8 reps of a plyo. For example, a heavy set of squats followed by a few max box jumps. There is no way you can maintain max box jumps for a minute+. Favorite leg exercises (and yes, I am a female) 1.) Deadlift 2.) Bulgarian split squats 3.) Single leg RDL's 4.) BB Step ups 5.) Front squats 

    January 18, 2012 at 11:20 am

  • Yvonne

    This is a great workout.  I am a cross country runner, and I could stand to lose a couple pounds, but I do not want to be slowed down with too much muscle on my arms.  For my case, this is great.

    November 29, 2011 at 11:54 pm

  • Artisticsuicide

    I'm loving these 15 minutes workouts you're posting. They're great inspiration for my routines. Regarding the squats; what weights would reccomend? So heavy that I can just finish the sixth set (which I imagine would be around 70% of my 1RM), or even lower so I still got some left when I finish the routine?

    November 22, 2011 at 4:33 am

  • Jenniesrockurbody

    I like to stand facing towards the squat machine or the smith machine with the padded arms on my shoulders or bar on my back and perform step back lunges. - jennie c.

    November 20, 2011 at 9:47 pm

  • mattias sørensen

    explosive jumping squats.  barbell front squat sumo barbell deadlift.  forward lunges(dumbbell)

    November 20, 2011 at 3:35 pm

  • Hayley

    Hello - I just wrote this workout down into my book of wicked workouts - one question though - is this one also good for the ladies? Or is this one more for the fellas? Gonna try it anyway :)

    November 20, 2011 at 1:39 am

  • Anonymous

    I like it

    November 19, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    • John Romaniello

      Appreciate your well thought out contribution to my blog, bru.

      November 19, 2011 at 5:35 pm

      • Anonymous

        Buahahaha. Mate i am WRIT out. Alright, only five?   For chicks: KB swings2 arm 1 leg RDLHip Thrusts with chains or BB, single leg or two leggedReverse LungesGHRsSPRINTING (what can i say, i like buns on chicks, not quads)For dudes: Trap bar DLGHRFront SquatReverse Lunges2 arm 1 leg RDL SPRINTING bugger, that is six, and i could add at least another four to each.  I liked the post mate. Let me know if you want an intro to Jamie! 

        November 19, 2011 at 5:46 pm

      • John Romaniello

        Very good list.  I like a nice balance of buns AND quads on the ladies myself. Jamie and I are already acquainted, but thanks!

        November 19, 2011 at 6:38 pm

  • Ashleigh


    November 19, 2011 at 5:19 pm

  • Dmrc07

    There seems to be conflicting information in the Squatting as well as the Calf Raises. The paragraph about Squats states different times for work and rest than the exercise pairings below it. And the Calf paragraph says to perform Jump Squats, but the pairings underneath say to perform explosive calf raises.  Are these just typos, or are you posting variations of the workout?

    November 18, 2011 at 9:33 pm

  • Peter

    Top 5 1. Pistols or Bulgarian Split Squats 2. Lunges 3. Romanian Dead Lift 4. Squats (overhead and front squats are my favorite but good old back squats for max load) 5. Standing Calf Raises I guess that's sort of 8... what ev...

    November 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm

  • Marie

    If I were to tone down the INNER thighs, what additional leg workouts would you recommend? Unless the only thing for this is more cardio? They seem to be a trouble spot. And what is the average time one can see results for toned legs based on a 3xweek strength training, hiit 1xweek, mod cardio 1xweek regimen? Grazie mille.

    November 18, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    • John Romaniello

      Hey Marie, Great question - for inner thighs, I'd suggest lateral lunges. I'd say you should see results within 4-5 weeks. Good luck!

      November 18, 2011 at 3:07 pm

  • Pauline

    Bulgarian Split squats Lunge Touch Down High step up Slow squats (say 15) with 15 sec  hold and 15 pulses Slow lunges (say 15) with 15 sec hold and 15 pulses

    November 18, 2011 at 11:03 am

  • TbirdGym

    Is there a modification for women who don't want to add size???

    November 18, 2011 at 10:37 am

  • Alexcobo

    Do you have a bodyweight version?

    November 18, 2011 at 9:49 am

  • Deanphillips

    I love front squats, Back squats, hack squats, deadlifts and rom reads when I use straps I've lost leg size recently as I've just got lazy with my training going through t-nation to find a new program now need some growth man P.s your writing style is awesome

    November 18, 2011 at 7:01 am

  • Chris Wilmot

    Pistol Squats, Box Jumps, Sprints, Bulgarian Split Squat and Single Leg Stability Ball Ham Curl

    November 18, 2011 at 6:34 am

  • Carolynswaney

    Anything dead lift, single leg dead lifts on a Bosu, and reverse leg curl (on my knees, drop to the floor and push / pull back up). Squats are a favorite of mine. I hate weighted step ups, which means they are awesome. Overhead Bulgarian Split Squats make me want to kill I do them constantly. Walking around in heels all day works, too.

    November 18, 2011 at 2:29 am

  • Solano Mateo

    split squats from a deficit Pistols Single leg Romanian deadlifts Lunges Squats

    November 18, 2011 at 2:08 am

  • Ylwa Falk

    Deadlifts and the leg press, hands down! Yes I know, leg press is a machine exercise, but I don't care. I love it, its the single exercise that has helped me gain some mass to my hard-gainer ass. At least with regards to muschle mass...

    November 17, 2011 at 10:08 pm

  • Dan

    Right now I'm going through HSS-100 from T-Nation, but I'll have to try this out once I'm done.  Sounds like it could be a nice de-load. Favorite leg exercises: 1) Deadlift ("dead hoooker lift")--right now I'm enjoying the Sumo variety 2) Supine hip extension with leg curl (it always makes me think about humping mid-air and sometimes I start chuckling in the middle of them... awkward, maybe) 3) Front squats

    November 17, 2011 at 8:58 am

  • Chris H

    Favourite leg exercises... I hope you aren't insinuating that we should enjoy them! My favourite is the barbell squat, most hated is Bulgarian split squat by far. I need to do them more often.

    November 17, 2011 at 8:18 am

  • Ted

    Posting simply because I want your arms workout for Saturday. :D Although now a question has come to mind - as I haven't seen the arm workout yet, would you recommend against performing it in the same day or same workout as the shoulder workout you posted earlier this week?

    November 17, 2011 at 1:12 am

  • Kedric

    To give my buck a bang I like pairing heavy weights with bodyweight movements such as barbell spilt squats followed immediately with pistons squats. Next is seated calf raises followed by explosive jump lunges,usually end it with jumping rope bouncing on the balls of my feet for greater calf muscle activation

    November 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm

  • Andrew Edwards

    Well,my favorites are:  I have  a love/hate relationship with overhead Bulgarian split squats,  Kettlebell swings for power and they loosen up mt hips.and  Pistol (1-legged) squats, mainly because most people fall over when they try to do them Lateral Lunges Hip raises on a swiss ball, great for my private life ;)

    November 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm

  • Marie

    Bulgarian split squats, wide barbell squats with feet pointing out, dumbbell sumo squats, reverse lunges and spidey lunges are just some of my favorite. I want my legs to look like Jamie's ^ !

    November 16, 2011 at 7:38 pm

  • Tyler Carter

    You get bonus points on this post for these two pictures.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:05 pm

  • Tyler Carter

    You tuned me in to Rear Leg Elevated Split squats a while ago, and my hamstrings thank you. Other than that, my favorites are the full squat, box squats, power cleans, and Roman deadlifts.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm

  • Lauri Bernard

    Bulgarian split squat, overhead walking lunges, glute hamstring raise, Romanian Deadlifts & tuck jump burpees. Just an add on sprints of any sort resisted/weighted. Pushing, flipping or pulling tires just for fun. I know this is way more than five but I love working my legs. Oh yeah any type of kettlebell swing. Yours in Training, Lauri aka Ms.Scrappy2U

    November 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm

  • Erik Galindo

    1. Barbell squat - I'm not doing a lot of weight right now, but I brace my abs hard and feel it working them too. 2. Romaniellian deadlifts - Did I spell that right? Whatever, the stiff legged one that hits the hamstrings. 3. Lunges - Require good balance and form.  Neither of which I can brag about yet. 4. Leg curls - Because I work out at home and don't have a full gym. 5. Split squats - I finish with these, so they tend to burn, but in a good way.  Unlike people who order their steaks 'well-done'.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm

  • Christian

    What are your thoughts of going with 8 reps instead of 5 for higher muscle hypertrophy?

    November 16, 2011 at 6:03 pm

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