A Squat Program For Chicken Legs

Beef Up Your Chicken Legs

By Aleks “The Hebrew Hammer” Salkin

skiplegdayChicken legs.

No one likes 'em, a lot of people have got 'em. And in the interest of full disclosure, I’m including myself here – at least as the former owner of some SERIOUSLY chicken-y legs.

So I am not passing judgement; far from it. In fact, I am saying “I feel your pain.”

And let’s not lie to ourselves – it is real, social and physical pain.

CLS (Chicken Leg Syndrome) affects a myriad of recreational lifters, both old and young alike.

Symptoms may include skipping leg day, often via bulls**t excuses (“Oh, I have an exam today” “But you’re not even in college anymore!”), claiming “Squats hurt my knees” or “I’m just not built for squatting”.

Side effects may include becoming super defensive when someone calls you out on your twig limbs, posting exercise-related Facebook and Instagram pics from the waist up only, and not knowing who Tom Platz is.

But there is hope. And it is free to all those willing to pay the price in time, sweat, and grocery bills (because turning twigs into trunks requires food and lots of it).

In some circumstances, additional costs may apply, such as the cost of hiring a StrongFirst-certified kettlebell or barbell instructor for an hour or so to teach you how to squat. This will be essential in the unlikely event that you aren’t just pretending you don’t know how to squat properly.

Once your squat form is up to snuff, you will want to choose your implement. I recommend either double kettlebell front squats or any sort of barbell squat variation you’d like.

Pistols – as much as I love them – simply won’t cut it for putting on some serious leg beef (ask me how I know this).

Because I don’t know squat about barbells (pun slightly intended), the following helpful – and proven – program is written for double kettlebell front squats.

Within a few short weeks and a lot of agonizing walks up stairs, you will notice that your thigh gap affliction will be healed.

You can then thank any deity you see fit, but you’ll first have to say your prayers in the Church of Chafing Thighs (Synagogue of Squat, in my case).

THE Double KB Front Squat Program For CLS

Find your 5-7 rep max in the double kettlebell front squat, then do this program:

Phase 1

  • Monday: 4 x (1,2,3) front squats
Wednesday: 3 x (1,2,3) front squats
  • Friday: 5 x (1,2,3) front squats

For those unfamiliar with the ladder format, the above means…

  • Clean the kettlebells, do one rep, rest briefly.
  • Re-clean the kettlebells, do two reps, rest briefly.
  • Re-clean the kettlebells, do three reps, and rest.
  • When you're almost ready, start over at 1 and repeat for the number of sets noted.

Week 1:  Do each session as comfortably as you can; don't rush. Mark the amount of time it took you to finish your sets.

Week 2: Repeat the rep scheme of week 1, but reduce your time by a little bit. Even 30 seconds is good. A minute is even better. You can do this by trying to rest a little bit less between rungs of the ladder, between ladders themselves, and so on.

Week 3: Repeat as before, but seek to finish your reps in less time.

Week 4: Are you getting the hang of this? A little less time for your sets and reps.

Repeat until you can no longer race the clock.

At that point, take a deload week with a greatly reduced volume. Then start up phase 2 using the same weights and following this rep scheme.

Phase 2

Monday: (2, 3, 5) x 3
  • Wednesday: (2, 3, 5) x 2
Friday: (2, 3, 5) x 4

Follow the guidelines from phase 1 to progress as before.

Repeat until swole.

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Because you’ll be growing at a rate that is faster than the average tree, eat like it's your last meal every time you pass by something edible, and sleep well.

You'll need to recover, believe me.

I did this program – and not even to its fullest potential (I did phase 1 only) – a few summers ago when I was strapped for time.

My goal was just to get some strong training in, not to build up my thighs.

I didn't even eat any more than usual.

But within about 2 or 3 weeks, my legs could give a round of applause if I ran fast enough.

I had finally earned some chaffing thighs.

If you're currently between programs, jump into this one; it's sure to give you all the strength and conditioning you could want in addition to some legs like diesel-powered pistons.

To round out the program, I’d recommend throwing in some powerful single kettlebell swings (you’ll have no appetite for doubles after double front squats, most likely) a la Ric Garcia’s dead stop swings article, and recommend some calf raises for a few high-rep sets in Grease The Groove fashion.

Before long you’ll be looking for any excuse possible to walk around in short shorts, whether you’re a man or a woman.

Whispers of “look at the butt on that one!” and “he must work out” not unlike the comments uttered by Harry and Lloyd in “Dumb and Dumber” will permeate the air when you’re around. 

Enjoy your soon-to-be sexy and shapely legs.

And be sure to post them all over Instagram and Facebook for the world to see and be incredibly jealous of (and tag me while you’re at it).

Once your CLS issues are solved, you can work on your CWS (Chicken Wing Syndrome) with a hearty diet of weighted pull-ups and heavy rows.

But that’s another article for another day.


Aleks Salkin, SFG, SFB - Jerusalem, ISRAEL

Aleks Salkin is an StrongFirst-certified kettlebell instructor (SFG), StrongFirst-certified bodyweight Instructor (SFB), and Primal Move Fundamentals Instructor. He grew up scrawny, unathletic, weak, and goofy, until he was exposed to kettlebells and the teachings and methodology of Pavel in his early 20s. He is currently based out of Jerusalem, Israel and spends his time spreading the word of StrongFirst and calisthenics, and regularly writes about strength and health both on his website and as a guest author on other websites. Find him online at http://www.alekssalkin.com.


  • Reply July 8, 2015


    Someone start a crazy story about men must have legs like a fat person or a bodybuilder and you continue fuel this nonsense. We are training Muay Thai for many years now also doing squats and deadlifts but our legs are thin. You know why? Or why most thin Men have thin legs? Its called ”Normal”. Thats how the legs supposed to be. Nature, God or Universe create us like this for a reason. Right? You can see big fat legs only on fat people or on bodybuilders. Why in the UFC most Bandamweights , fetherweights , lightweights have thin legs and thin calves? And they do no ”skip the leg day.” I am laughing just for writing this down. ”skip the leg day’ What are we 3 year olds?
    You don’t need to have big legs. Does Antony Pettis or Gilbert melendez have big legs? No because they are normal, fit and they can kick ass. Done.

  • Reply June 11, 2016


    I have a bit of a strange question but do you keep the bells in the rack position between reps? Sounds like a fun one to try!

    • Reply June 15, 2016


      Matthew- Absolutely. Lots of tension built up in the rack position and it will make your press stronger. I would park the bells between sets though so as you to give you some rest though. -Chris

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