Legs Built For Shorts – Exercises to look great in shorts

Sky’s out, thighs out.

Summer is around the corner and you know what that means, shorts season!

I love shorts season.

Depending on where you live, you might be able to wear shorts year round, or you might be relegated to a few measly months.

Coming from the great white north, I have been used to only wearing shorts outdoors (comfortably) a few months a year.

When the time came to wear shorts, you jumped on it and rocked them as long as you could.

Well that time of year is coming back and it’s time to let those legs be free to catch some rays.

In addition to catching rays, it’s time we give some extra TLC to those legs to let them shine this summer in shorts.

Today we’re going to highlight a few different exercises that will help shore your leg training and get you as ready for shorts season as possible.

Goblet Squats



If you want to fill up your shorts, you’re gonna want to be squatting! Those thighs need a good dose of strength work and squats are going to deliver that well.

Realistically you could do any kind of squat, but we think a front loaded squat is the best option – whether that be a goblet or front squat – as it’ll encourage the most usage of the quads.
We like the goblet squat for its versatility across a wide population.

Plus goblet squats are simple to do and often don’t require a ton of coaching:

  • Hold a DB or KB to your chest with each hand on the side of it.

  • Sit down, keeping your heels on the ground.

  • Aim to have your knee track roughly in line with your toes, having it travel as far forward as you feel comfortable.

  • Go as low as you feel comfortable, focusing on your hips sinking down and not your chest.

Now if you have a beef with goblet squats, or are really strong and loading them can be a hassle, don’t feel obligated to do them.

Use front squats or back squats, we just don’t want technique to be the limiter for you building your legs!

If you’re doing back squats, try to focus on keeping it quad focused since we’re using the squat to build an impressive set of thighs.

For anyone putting these in your program, we encourage people to usually do them for 3-5 sets of 5-12 reps and an RPE of about 6-8.

Single leg deadlifts – Landmine perpendicular



Now that we got a good stimulus to the quads, it’s time to emphasize the hammies and glutes.

Hinge exercises – such as deadlifts and bridges – are an excellent way to ensure we load the hamstrings and glutes.

We are huge fans of deadlifts and regularly prescribe them.

When it comes to getting shorts season ready, we like to use the single leg deadlift (feel free to hold on to something with your free hand and not struggle with balance if you find that limits you).

Usually when we deadlift we use both legs and our back can limit how much we load our legs and hips. In contrast, with the single leg deadlift, that won’t happen and we can get a substantially higher stimulus on the legs in comparison to our back.

There are a ton of single leg deadlifts that you can do, but one that we like in particular for this purpose is the landmine version.

With the landmine single leg deadlift, the load challenges us in the frontal and transverse planes more, which works our glutes to a higher degree.

That makes for a great way to get some additional glute work in, without having to do more exercises.

Try out doing 2-4 sets after the squats for 5-12 reps with an RPE of 6-8.

Reverse Nordics or Kneeling Lean Backs



Depending upon your short length preference, the importance of your tear drop quads showing off is variable.

I’m a shorter shorts kind of guy, usually mid thigh length, making my quads extra important.

While squats and other movements like them can work the quads pretty well, they don’t necessarily hit them fully. There’s some research indicating that exercises like squats don’t hit the rectus femoris, one of the main quadriceps muscle heads, whereas exercises that emphasize knee flexion and extension without hip motion, such as the reverse nordic, do work it well.

We specifically chose the reverse nordic because it doesn’t require any equipment (you can add weight to it), and it isn’t too complicated to learn. If you’re new to it, work your way to deeper ranges of motion on it.

For anyone who doesn’t like the exercise or have access to a lot of machines and equipment, feel free to swap it out for something like a leg extension.

If you did the squats and the single leg deadlift, then give this one a go for 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps with an RPE of 7-9.

Calf Raises with a straight leg



If you’ve been a member of team no calves prior to reading this blog, get ready for a change.

The calves are a group that hardcore lifters will often ignore but actually extremely important to train – especially for shorts season.

While your thighs and hips fill up your shorts, your calves are the only area that will definitely be showing and you want those puppies to look good.

The best option to train them is through heavier slow loading which can be done either on two legs, or one leg.

Deficit single leg calve raise



We like to use a deficit in most cases to get a good stretch and like having a pause in the motion at both the bottom and top to reduce momentum and maximize the muscle working.

Give them a shot after the reverse nordics for 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps with an RPE of 7-9.

*If you haven’t trained calves before, maybe start with 1 set and work your way up, you’d be surprised the level of soreness you will get!

Seated calf raises 



Now if we’re going to optimize your shorts look, we’ve got maximize that lower leg.

When training the calf to the best degree possible, we need to work it with both a straight knee and a bent knee.

The straight knee will work both the gastrocnemius and soleus, but the soleus will often get under stimulated.

In contrast, when we go to a bent knee, particularly greater than 60 degrees of knee flexion, we primarily use the soleus.

This is pretty important since the soleus contributes a huge amount of the mass to our lower leg.

You can pump this one out for a similar format using a pause in the bottom and top for about 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps with an RPE of 7-9.

Use these 5 exercises as a framework to build yourself an impressive set of legs for shorts season!


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