‘Leg day’ is undoubtedly one of the most challenging sessions that you will face at the gym – the sweat on your brow, the burn in your legs and glutes. Plus, in the hours and days that follow, crouching, walking and even just standing become a little tougher. So why on earth would you put yourself through this?
Believe me, there is method to the madness, and the benefits far outweigh the pain associated with leg day.
Here are six reasons why you should learn to appreciate the burn.
Training legs has many positive effects on physical health and body composition. Some studies have found that people who perform compound leg exercises have a higher release of HGH (Human Growth Hormone). HGH significantly aids muscular growth in all areas of the body – not just the legs. According to those findings, if you want bigger biceps, it’s time to squat!
Compound leg exercises like the squat and deadlift require the highest core activation. A strong core promotes good posture and reduces lower back pain, thereby improving quality of life. Plus, it makes for some awesome looking abs! In addition, strong quads and glutes increase power, strength and speed in other fitness activities. For example, sprinters focus on power in squats to encourage strong race sprints.
Because working on your legs improves lower body strength, you will be less likely to sustain lower body injuries, or injuries caused by instability. Exercises like lunges and squats help improve stability in the knees, which can mean the difference between getting injured and being able to continue with your workout goals.
A lot of large muscles reside in your lower body – with your gluteus maximus actually being the largest muscle in the body. If you’re working some of these large muscles, therefore, it stands to reason that you will burn more calories. Whether weight loss is one of your goals or not, you will burn more calories with leg day workouts.
With an increase in muscle mass comes an increase in your metabolism. The hike in metabolism achieved by lifting weights surpasses that obtained through other activities such as running, cycling, rowing and other cardio exercises. If you want to speed up your metabolism, don’t skip your time with the weights.
Whether it’s picking up boxes, the groceries, running around with the kids or moving furniture, these tasks will be easier when you have stronger legs. Leg day training will ensure that you have good form for running, squatting and lunging, so you will therefore also reduce your risk of sustaining injuries when performing these daily activities.
We’ve all seen the images of people who have ‘skipped leg day’ and are familiar with the notion that ‘friends don’t let friends skip leg day’. Although some of these images of excessively large and top heavy people who have clearly forgotten to do their squats can be pretty funny, it really highlights the need to focus on training all areas of the body. By doing so you can achieve a more symmetrical physique and strengthen every area of your body.
Listed below are strategies you can use to help make your leg workouts more effective and less painful.
Setting up a leg program may be a simple way to increase your productivity on leg day. Plan out all your exercises, how many sets and reps are required and how much time you want to complete the session in. Keeping to the schedule means your session will be quicker and more effective.
You may be hating on leg day because your muscles aren’t firing correctly for different exercises. Check for hip and knee alignment, depth and posture in squats and always decrease the weight if your form is compromised. Let go of your ego – you’ll get better results that way.
Having a training partner can increase your motivation and accountability. They can help you push out those last few reps and spot those heavy squats. You don’t want to leave your buddy hanging, so you’ll never have an excuse to skip legs.
Reduce the pain from those dreaded days after leg day by accelerating recovery. Try foam rolling and stretching, increase your protein and carb intake post-workout and increase light cardio exercise to promote removal of metabolic waste buildup.
With all of your hard work and effort leaving you feeling sore, you deserve to be treated! Getting a massage will help with any sore, aching muscles after leg day, so it’s definitely worth investing in the services of a good massage therapist. Massage helps to break down scar tissue and reduce any stiffness that may occur while your muscles are recovering.
Leg day shouldn’t be thought of as a gruelling task. Even if you’re more interested in working your upper body, regular leg exercises will provide a wealth of benefits, in terms of stability and injury reduction, enhanced metabolism and calorie burn, body symmetry and more.
This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The AIF and the authors do not take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.