No one really looks forward to leg day. Of course, there are some exceptions – bloody show offs – but for the majority, it’s a necessary evil.
Get in, do your squats (but don’t rush, never rush your reps) and get out. Well, hobble out, slowly, grimacing in discomfort.
And then there are those who skip leg day entirely. You know the ones. You’ve probably seen them strutting around the weights rooms, invisible from the waist down. The less said about these guys the better.
Now, there will come a time when you wrestle with the thought of skipping leg day. You’re only human. But you mustn’t. You need to stay strong.
Leg days are so important. Why? Well, let’s figure this out!
1. You’ll build more muscle
Yes, cracking out the deadlifts will help build thicker slabs of meat.
Testosterone is a steroid hormone that is naturally produced in your body and plays a key role in the health of men, helping increase the growth of muscle mass and strength. Compound moves, such as squats and deadlifts, which use large muscle groups, help elevate your T-levels.
One recent study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology measured the hormonal response during single bouts of heavy resistance exercise. They found that the most striking changes appeared in the testosterone response.
In other words, the squat rack will help develop more muscle.
2. You’ll burn more calories
Did you know that your gluteus maximus (aka, your backside) is the largest muscle in your body? Probably best to not tell your girlfriend this. They won’t take it as a compliment. But there is good news regarding the size of your derriere.
Working these bigger muscles requires more energy, which means your body will have to burn more calories.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology tracked athletes’ energy expenditure and metabolism after a series of heavy resistance moves. Their results showed that after 90 minutes of training (including compound lifts such as squats and deadlifts), athletes’ metabolic rates – the amount of energy expended – skyrocketed and continued to do so for several hours after.
3. You won’t look like a chicken
Seriously, it’s not a good look. When you compare people having tiny little legs with the ones that actually have muscular lower body,you’ll notice how beautiful it is to have a good muscular lower body. Those who don’t train legs, they probably look so bad that you can compare them with chicken, huge volumetric upper body and thin legs.
4. You’ll improve your big lifts
You might not believe it, but your legs and core produce the majority of your power during heaving lifting. Yes, even when you’re bench-pressing, it is your lower body that is engaged to help provide a stable platform to pump from.
If you lack conditioning, your big lifts will only get so far. Performing functional exercises, like deadlifts, however, will strengthen your legs, glutes and lower body, while developing all-over muscle and mobility.
Remember, core strength supports the body in almost every movement. And the deadlift – the King of Exercises – is the key core strength building movement.
5. You’ll reduce the risk of injury
Neglect your lower half and you are running the injury gauntlet.
Muscle imbalances, poorly conditioned hamstrings, and a lack of mobility will lead to a number of issues such as low back pain and ACL injuries. Squats, lunges and deadlifts will help develop your hamstrings, build muscle around weak joints and help promote stability and mobility.
Let’s be clear about this, chaps. If you are serious about building muscle, developing functional strength, and reducing the risk of injury, then you need to work on your legs. Often. If you’re working out three times a week, one should be dedicated to your lower half.
In need of some workout inspiration? Try these:
But before you take on the workouts, make sure you master these two moves. You’re going to need them.
– Stand with feet slightly wider that shoulder-width apart, with the barbell on the floor in front of you. Bend at the knees and the hips to take hold of the bar with an overhand grip; your hands should be shoulder-width apart.
– Straighten your legs slightly to load the tension on the bar. Head up, back straight: squeeze your glutes, tighten your shoulder blades and pull in your lower abs. After that, it’s simple. Stand up.
– The bar should remain close to your body the whole time, in contact with your thighs when you’re fully standing. Keep tension in your core as you lower the bar to the ground – this doesn’t have to follow the same pattern of movement, just get it down safely.
– Stand with your feet more than shoulder-width apart – this wide stance will allow a deeper squat, getting your glutes and hamstrings involved.
– Hold a barbell across your upper back with an overhand grip – avoid resting it on your neck. Hug the bar into your traps to engage your upper back muscles.
– Take the weight of the bar and slowly squat down – head up, back straight, buns out. Lower yourself until your hips are aligned with your knees, with legs at 90 degrees – a deeper squat will be more beneficial but get the strength and flexibility first. Drive your heels into the floor to push yourself explosively back up. Keep form until you’re stood up straight: that’s one