You have no doubt seen them at your local gym, or at the beach when the sun is shining.
Guys with developed upper bodies, but lacking in the leg department.
Your lower body is home to some of the biggest muscles in your body, so skipping leg day can be a serious detriment to your overall aesthetic.
Many men focus on the so-called “mirror muscles” but you will soon learn why this is a mistake. [toc]
Why Is Leg Day Important?
Here are some reasons why leg day is important and should not be skipped:
#1: It Helps Build Overall Muscle Mass
If you want to see huge muscle gains then you need to make sure you are working your legs multiple times a week.
There are numerous studies that have shown that working your leg muscles helps to release both growth hormone and testosterone . Two of the best exercises shown to increase the production of these hormones are squats and deadlifts.
#2: A Bigger Upper Body
You may think that leg day exercise like the squat and deadlift only works your lower body, but you would be wrong in this assumption.
Not only is there a release of anabolic hormones but you are also working the muscles of your upper body when you perform certain movements or exercises.
For example squeezing the barbell during the deadlift can use most of your arms muscles. Your abdominals and back is also worked during both compound movements.
#3: Strength Gains
Working your legs does not just increase the strength of your lower body.
Building leg strength can also benefit your upper body training too. For instance, improved leg strength can increase leg drive, which will offer a huge benefit to your bench press PR.
Deadlifts can improve your back strength, which can benefit your overhead press.
#4: Better Symmetry
There is nothing more ridiculous at the beach than a guy who only trains his upper body.
You can see that he works out, as his upper body is very developed but when you look down he has matchsticks for legs.
#5: Mental Toughness
Leg days can be tough, this is because compound movements like the squat or deadlift are harder physically than the movements that test your ‘mirror muscles’.
By forcing yourself to work your legs a few times a week you will build both your mental strength and character.
#6: Overall Health Benefits
Working your legs can offer numerous health benefits.
For example, if you have weak legs this may mean that you have weak glutes, which will put more stress on your lower back, hamstrings, as well as your core and organs.
Weak legs can also affect your posture, with your hip flexors becoming tighter. This tightness causes pelvic tilt, which can put pressure onto your abdominal wall, which then causes an increase in blood pressure, with a decrease in blood flow.
#7: Fat Reduction
Your upper legs are comprised of the following muscles; glutes, quads and hamstrings, which are your bodies largest muscles.
By performing exercises that work this muscle group your are able to increase your ability to burn fat .
When you workout your body creates lactic acid, which helps to burn fat. Therefore it makes sense to work those larger muscles as more lactic acid will be produced than from performing bicep curls for example, which works a much smaller muscle.
#8: Improved Athleticism
If you want to become faster and more explosive during sports then you need to make more effort to work your lower body.
A well-developed pair of legs will enable you to give the maximum amount of force in the least amount of time.
#9: Reduced Risk of Injury
Lower body exercises like lunges and squats can help stabilise your knee, which helps to prevent injuries such as an ACL tear.
If you perform any kind of sporting activity then preventing injury is key to your fitness.
#10: Improved Balance
If you perform exercises like side lunges and deadlifts you will increase your stability and proprioception .
Again, improved balance will improve your athleticism.
#11: Run Faster and Longer
A common issue encountered by runners is with their hips. Squats and deadlifts can help develop your hips and reduce this issue.
Research has found that stronger legs can help improve overall endurance, and will enable you to use harder in the later stages of a race compared to those who skip leg training .
#12: Reduce Lower Back Pain
Nowadays plenty of people suffer from lower back pain caused by sitting at their desks most of the day.
It is often thought that tight hamstrings is to blame, but it is probably another cause.
I would recommend that instead of trying to stretch your hamstrings that you instead focus on stretching your hip flexors and to try and strengthen your hamstrings, glutes and abdominal muscles (a strong core is obviously a good idea for back pain).
#13: Increased Range of Motion
There is no doubt that Olympic weightlifters are strong, but they are also extremely flexible too, which helps them achieve such phenomenal lifts.
Squats, deadlifts and lunges can all increase your range of motion, which will enable you to tackle more weight safely and in time build more muscle and strength.
Worst Cases of People Who Skip Leg Day
Below are some images of people who really should take a little time to workout their legs:
Tips to Ensure You Complete Leg Day
Now that you know why leg day is so important, here are some tips to make sure you never skip lower legs again:
#1: Set a Goal of Achieving the Bare Minimum
This may sound like a stupid idea, but if you commit to doing the bare minimum. For example going to the gym to complete one squat.
Once there you will feel like you should do more, after all you have already made the effort to get to the gym in the first place.
#2: Go Back to Basics
With so many different exercises and routines available it can be easy to overcomplicate your workouts.
No doubt when you first started to train you had a few exercises that you would complete, however over time you have added more and more to hit each muscle at various angles.
Unfortunately as your workouts have got longer and longer your desire to workout has waned.
If this sounds like you currently then I would recommend stripping everything back to the basics. You don’t need to squats, lunges, deadlifts and every other leg exercise in one session.
Just pick one or two per session, complete them and go home. You really shouldn’t be spending more than an hour in the gym to see maximum gains.
#3: Workout First Thing in the Morning
These days we all lead such busy lives that it can be difficult to drag ourselves to the gym after a hard days work.
Choosing to workout first thing in the morning will ensure you are relatively fresh and will give you that feeling of achievement that should last you throughout the day.
#4: Mix Things Up
To stop your workouts from becoming stale, and to ensure your muscles do not get used to the routine I would advise mixing your workouts up occasionally.
This does not necessarily mean changing your routine, but you can certainly make changes to the weights used, plus the number of reps and sets completed.
#5: Use Correct Form
A common cause of injury when working out is using incorrect form.
You do not need to lift more than you can manage, nor is it a race to complete every set.
It is more important, especially if you are a beginner to focus on proper form, to make sure your squat depth is correct, as well as your posture and where you knees are aligned.
If you are in doubt about your form then I would recommend booking a session or two with a qualified personal trainer.
Essential Exercises for Leg Day
Here are some essential exercises that you should perform on leg day (remember you don’t need to do every single one each session):
#1: Barbell Squat
Not only is the barbell squat the king of the lower body exercises, but it is also effective for building muscle in your upper body too.
The squat is perfect for developing muscle and strength, and can also aid stability and your core.
#2: Front Squat
Both front and back squats are great for increasing leg, back and core strength, but the front squat places greater emphasis on your quads.
#3: Romanian Deadlift
The perfect exercise for working your hamstrings, which can become prone to injury if you primarily focus your training on your quadriceps.
#4: Hack Squat
This exercise maybe a better idea for those looking to go heavy on leg day, as it allows you to add a few extra plates without having to worry so much about your back, as it is supported by the machine.
#5: Walking Lunge
The walking lunge is a dynamic exercise that requires both good coordination and strong muscles.
It is an ideal finisher to your leg day workout.
#6: Leg Press
A great alternative to a squat-heavy leg day workout.
Depending on where your feet are placed you can focus on different leg muscles. For example if you place your feet lower on the platform and close together you work the quads, while higher and wider feet work the gluten and hamstrings.
You may not be able to see your legs while at your local bar, but I hope now you realise just how important leg days are for your overall training efforts.
Not only does skipping leg day ruin your overall aesthetics but the overall health benefits are not to be ignored.
Make sure you don’t skip leg day!