CrossFit athlete shares a 3-move barbell workout to build lower body strength, muscle and power

Woman gripping a barbell on the floor in the gym during barbell workout ready to perform deadlift
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Grab your barbell and try this muscle-torching three-move workout to build and strengthen your legs, glutes and core. 

The squat session comes from none other than CrossFit Games athlete and Fittest Women in the U.K., Aimee Cringle. “This workout is structured to increase your lower body strength as well as power,” Cringle explains. 

“By combining heavy squats with dynamic movements with a superset of Bulgarian split squats and tall box jumps this workout will improve muscle endurance, explosiveness and overall athleticism.” Get ready to power up.

Aimee Cringle performing a barbell front squat during competition
Aimee Cringle

What is the 3-move barbell leg workout?

Warm-up (10 minutes):

“For squatting, you want to mobilize your hips and ankles so you can get into the correct position,” says Cringle. “90/90 hip rolls are great for this, as well as bootstrappers and the World’s Greatest Stretch.”

Next, Cringle advises warming up your legs on a bike or rowing machine, then adding air squats and glute activation exercises such as lunges or split squats. 

Workout overview:

  • Back squat
  • 1 set AMRAP (max 10 reps) @ 82.5% 1RM
  • 3 sets / 3 reps @ 70 % 1RM
  • Rest: 2:30 between sets
  • Bulgarian split squats supersetted with box jumps
  • 3 sets x 8/8 reps
  • x5 tall box jumps

Back squats explanation

Start with your barbell back squats and perform 1 set for as many rounds as possible for a maximum of 10 reps each time, loading the bar at 82.5% of your one-rep max (1RM). If you're not sure how much to lift, we recommend learning how to calculate your 1RM first. Next, perform 3 sets of 3 reps of your back squat at 70% of your 1RM. The rest time might seem like a lot, but trust us, you'll want it.

Cringle explains:

  • Position the barbell on your upper back, feet shoulder-width apart
  • Lower your body by bending your knees and simultaneously lowering your hips, keeping your chest up and back straight
  • Push through your heels to return to the starting position
  • Keep your knees wide open to help you get into a full squat position.
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Bulgarian split squat and box jumps superset explanation:

Perform 3 sets of 8 reps for Bulgarian split squats using a barbell if you can, each time moving without rest into 5 box jumps with your box on a tall setting to make the exercise harder. If you’re still learning how to do a box jump, start on a low setting and build as your ability and confidence improve.

Cringle explains:

  • Stand approximately half a meter in front of a knee-high platform (bench or another surface) with your torso upright and a barbell across your upper back, then position one foot on the elevated surface
  • Slowly lower your back knee toward the floor. The forward knee should track over your toes and weight should be evenly distributed through your entire foot
  • Drive upward to return to the starting position
  • Repeat on the other side.

For box jumps:

  • Stand in front of a box
  • Bend your knees slightly, hinge at the hips and swing your arms back, then jump onto the box
  • Landing with a soft knee bend
  • Stand tall, then step back down and repeat.

Back squats primarily target the back body, including the back, glutes, hamstrings and calves, plus the quads and core muscles. Barbell back squats help engage the upper back while helping you load maximally, allowing you to work toward a 1RM (one-rep max) and build strength, power, or muscle over time. 

Split squats are a single-leg squat variation that also works your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and spinal erectors, and requires balance, stability, coordination and core engagement. If you struggle to engage your glutes during squats, Bulgarian split squats should help you rev them up, especially if you lean slightly forward. 

Lastly, box jumps develop lower body and core power and explosive strength, heavily recruiting and training your fast-twitch muscle fibers and building yourself into a more robust and competent athlete. 

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.