Workout of the Week: Favorite Leg Days Mixed with Cardio

Marines do lunges as part of physical training.
U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152 out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, perform lunges while conducting physical training at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, June 3, 2019. (Alejandro Peña/U.S. Air Force photo)

Do you want to improve your timed run tests, rucking events or general conditioning? Here's a leg/cardio program that is an integral part of many tactical fitness programs.

The workouts listed below are three of the most popular workouts many recruits, students and active-duty members do to prepare for training and maintain their abilities for durable service requirements.

Run and leg PT: You should warm up well if you prefer to do the sprint version of this workout. If goal pacing is your plan, you still need to warm up for 5-10 minutes, but the sprint workouts will require some progressions in speed each set.

5-10-minute run or bike with light leg stretch with dynamic movements mixed in.

If your goal is a nine-minute, 1.5 mile run, for instance, then your quarter-mile is 1:30 goal pace tempo.

Repeat 10 times (goal pace option)

  • Quarter mile at goal mile pace
  • "Rest" with 10-20 squats or lunges per leg

If your goal is to mix in some jog/sprint intervals, try this:

  • Run each quarter-mile: 100-yard jog, 100-yard sprint, 100-yard jog, 100-yard sprint

Top off your leg workout with a swim or bike workout:

  • Swim 20 minutes with 100-meter sets of sprints with fins. Rest as needed.


Bike 20 minutes pyramid. Make each minute harder than the previous minute (increase speed or resistance each minute until you fail to maintain 80 rpms. If under 20 minutes, return in reverse order until 20 minutes is complete.)

Leg PT with non-impact cardio options: Use a bike, elliptical or rower for this option.

Repeat 5 times

  • Bike, elliptical, rower five minutes
  • Air squats 20
  • Air lunges 10/leg
  • Deadlift 5 (with barbells/dumbbells/log or sandbag)
  • Front squats 5 (with barbells/dumbbells/log or sandbag)

Ruck or swim with fin cooldown: Ruck two miles with weight vest or backpack or swim 20-30 minutes with fins. Shoot for 1,000- to 1,500-meter swim.

Weight vest pyramid leg day: Use weight vest or backpack. Or carry a plate to work your grip, too.

This workout starts off as a warmup and goes right past a warmup in about five minutes.

Squat/ruck pyramid: 1-20 -- Ruck 25 meters, one squat; ruck 25 meters, two squats ... up to 20. You also can do dynamic stretches during the 25-meter sections to warm up the first 10 sets. (I recommend doing this on a basketball court/tennis court while going back and forth each set.)

Squat stair pyramid: 1-10 -- Do the same pyramid as above up to 10 but go up/down a flight of stairs between sets.

Cooldown cardio of your choice: Ruck, run, bike or swim with fins as desired. The minimum time is 20 minutes of steady pace movement.

Also, one of our favorites: Spec Ops Leg Day

These workouts will help you take a foundation of strength and push new levels of stamina and cardiovascular endurance. However, these workouts are not for beginners, so alter as needed to fit your fitness level.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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