BY JOHN VANVORST   |   FBI National Academy Physical Training Unit

    The Foundational Leg Test

    "The legs feed the wolf!" -Coach Herb Brooks, 1980 U.S. Men's Ice Hockey

    In preparation for the 1980 winter Olympics, Coach Herb Brooks realized his team wouldn’t be the most talented, but ensured they would be the best conditioned.  Wolves travel up to 50 miles per day, and track their prey for up to 10 miles.  If their legs fail them, they don’t eat.  Near the end of each National Academy session and prior to the Yellow Brick Road run, students are put to the test with a simple yet humbling circuit of bodyweight leg exercises known as the Foundational Leg Test.  Mondays still may be “Chest Day”, but at the FBI National Academy every day is “Leg Day”.

    Coach Vern Gambetta developed the Foundational Leg Test (FLT) during his decades of coaching and preparing a wide spectrum of athletes ranging from developmental to elite.  The purpose of the test is to ensure the body is prepared for more advanced loading and training techniques while mastering fundamental bodyweight movement patterns.  Mastering the basics assures you’ll have a solid foundation to build higher levels of fitness and resist injuries.    The rapid eccentric contractions (muscles lengthening under tension) and longer time-under-tension creates strong connective tissue and stable joints.  This means your go-muscles are going to be sore.

    Foundational Leg Test Movements & Standards:

    The actual FLT consists of 20 bodyweight squats, 20 alternating lunges (10 on each side), 20 step-ups (10 on each side) and 10 squat jumps.  The standards for each movement are outlined in Table 1.  The goal is to perform all 70 repetitions with great technique in less than 90 seconds and repeat the circuit as many as five times without rest!  At the FBI National Academy we pursue the Yellow Brick rather than a gold medal, so we ask you to perform three full leg circuits with not more than 90 seconds of rest between each one.

    If you’re preparing for the National Academy or just getting back into regular physical training, start by focusing on the squats, lunges, and step-ups individually.  Begin with 3 sets of 10 repetitions for each movement, keeping the repetition speed fast and a 1:1 rest-to-work ratio.  Train your legs twice per week, and each week add 2 repetitions until you reach sets of 20.  After 4-6 weeks, start with the ½-circuit of 10 squats, 10 lunges, 10 step-ups and 5 squat jumps in under 45 seconds.  Perform three rounds with 1:1 work-to-rest ratios, and gradually add repetitions working towards the full FLT.