Everyone’s got a favourite muscle group, a favourite day in the gym – well, my name is Amy and I’m a fan of leg day.
Training so hard you find yourself walking like a duck for two days afterwards? Yep, I’m all about it. In fact, I love leg day so much I decided to write a little article for all you ladies (and lads!) out there who – for whatever ghastly reason – may not love leg day as much as I do.
Remember: if the gym is your church, then skipping leg day is a cardinal sin. Don’t believe me? Here’s five reasons why training legs is so important:
- It’ll help your posture.
To improve posture, the main muscles you want to be working on (in the centre of your body – including the deep abdominal muscles – and shoulders) tightens and strengthens the core. Training these areas will give a beautiful upright stance, but that said, proper posture starts at the feet – think of your legs as your ‘roots’. Squats and deadlifts target the lower back, which in turn will provide a solid foundation for the upper body you need to be training to stop that slouch. The knock-on effect each muscle group has on each other is incredible, and so if you’re looking to target one area to improve your posture, you’ll need to get your legs up to scratch, too.
- It’ll improve your body symmetry.
Meet Amanda Latona (left): IFBB Pro, fitness guru, and probably the closest any human can get to being Venus herself. I defy anyone – male or female – to tell me this lady does not have perhaps one of the most perfect bodies they have ever seen. But while I could go on about those legs for days, let me just point out that Amanda is perfectly in proportion. Like, perfectly. Her measurements have been likened to Da Vinci’s formula for the ideal human body ratio, the Vitruvian man (read more here). And put it this way – the Vitruvian man didn’t have a thigh gap.
- Doing squats will give you better abs.
Large, compound lifts like squats and deadlifts – that many people associate with a leg day (especially squats) – engage a huge number of core muscles. By getting the form of your squats completely correct (video coming soon!), you’ll be simultaneously ‘training’ your abs – which is why many top figure athletes will often admit they hardly train abs at all. It’s all in dem squats … and deadlifts, and bench presses.
- It’ll help you blast more body fat.
Deadlifts, squats, step-ups – what do they have in common? Yes, these exercises all work your legs – have a sticker. But also, these exercises that have been proven to exert the most physiological benefits for fat loss. The large muscles in the lower body burn more calories, create more lactic acid, and ultimately lead to a greater fat loss effect. Buy building more muscle you will raise your BMR, aka burn more calories (see this article for details). And buy building up the biggest muscles your bod has to offer, you’re going to get slimmer. Simples.
- You’ll see an improvement in overall strength.
Not only are lower body exercises better for creating the hormones that help you lose fat, but they also create more of the anabolic hormones for building lean mass and increasing strength. The body naturally adapts to circumstances thanks to ‘homeostasis’ – the your heart rate, body temperature, and metabloc functions all have homeostasis to thank for this. Growing new muscle is demanding on the body’s energy systems and muscle growth will not happen unless it absolutely must – homeostasis being a little bit stubborn, as per. This is exactly why lifting heavy is so important: we need to trigger the central nervous system (CNS) to engage the anabolic mechanism that builds new muscle – and the CNS is not easily convinced. The good news is, once you start actually gaining lean mass in your legs through lifting heavy on leg days, you’ll notice an increase in your overall strength because of all the anabolic goodness that’s whizzing around that body of yours.
So – there we go. Five reasons why leg day is the best day. Or so I would say.
But be warned: leg day isn’t about mincing around doing lunges with 2kg in each hand. We’re talking heavy squats to exhaustion, leg presses to exhaustion, heavy weighted lunges. The hip flexors and other machines are useful and certainly worth your time, but they should not form the basis of your workout – the majority should be with free weights, and it should be moderately heavy and high repetition. Remember: the glutes, hamstrings and quads are the largest muscles in your body and are capable of enormous power so to train them well, it’s not going to be a case of low-weight, high-rep because that simply won’t cut it.
So, guys and girls – whether or not I’ve taught you anything new, I hope this was a little bit of inspiration to love the squat rack even more than you already do. Get involved in leg day, but be warned – side effects include the best burn of the week and an ass worth worshipping..