F B I N A A . O R G | M A Y / J U N E 2 0 1 9

John Van Vorst

The Foundational Leg Test “The legs feed the wolf!”

– Coach Herb Brooks, 1980 U.S. Men’s Ice Hockey

I n 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 coach- ing 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 body weight 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 tis- sue and stable joints. This means your go-muscles are going to be sore. 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.

Figure 1

Figure 2

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Minimize movement of the arms to keeps the emphasis on the lower body; place hands behind the head or across the chest and sit back and down until the thighs are parallel to the ground (Figure 1) ; make sure heels remain in contact with the ground, knees follow your big toe and back is flat (spine is neutral); return to fully-extended upright posture during each repetition.

Figure 3


Keeping the arms quiet, take a long stride forward (at least the length of your lower body) and while keeping the back leg long (Figure 2) ; step all the way back to your starting position during each lunge.


Figure 4

With hands on hips, stand close to a 12-14” (30-35 cm) box or bench and place one foot on top (Figure 3) . Drive the top leg down into the box or bench and blast off, trying to touch the top of your head to the sky (Figure 4) . In mid-air, cycle then legs and land softly with the opposite foot on the box or bench (Figure 5) .


With hands on hips, squat down until thighs are parallel to the floor and spring back up forcefully to break contact with the floor. The emphasis is still getting to the bottom of the squat rather than maximal height on the jump (Figures 6 and 7) .


Figure 5


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