Our legs contain some of the biggest muscles in the whole body, as they should. Our legs support our body and keep us balanced. That is a lot of work for the lower body which is why it is so important that you do your leg workouts to keep them strong and healthy.
The hard part is that sometimes after a phenomenal lower body workout session, you may find yourself struggling to walk because your legs feel like jello. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. We have all been there. To help you make it through leg day, let’s take a moment to break it down.
So what the heck is leg day anyway? Well, it actually originates from the science that is used to create a fitness program. Professional fitness trainers design their workout programs to focus on different muscle groups each day so that you spend an equal amount of time on each muscle group.
This means they have to be careful not to work the same set of muscles two days in a row. Healthy muscles require rest. Therefore, it is vital that you do not target the same muscle groups consecutively.
With that being said, this is why the majority of fitness programs break up the sessions into upper body or lower body days. I think you get where I am going with this. “Leg day” is at least one day of the week where your workout is focused on your legs.
Essentially, if your current workout plan is to hit the gym three days a week, one of those days needs to be a leg day if you don’t want to look like a chicken, with a strong upper body and a tiny lower body.
Aside from the fact that it’s easy to skip your leg exercises so you can focus more on the upper body, we have to be honest with ourselves. Leg day is hard! This is a safe space.
We can admit that the day after a hardcore leg day is rough for anyone regardless of if you have been living a healthy lifestyle forever or just getting back into it after a long hiatus.
When your legs are sore, it is hard to do, well pretty much anything. Thus making it easier to make it an excuse to skip leg day altogether. As we were saying earlier, our legs contain big muscles. The bigger the muscles, the more resources and energy they require.
Since you use your legs for so much stuff, it is hard to ignore or sometimes even push through the soreness from your workout the day before. Your legs are a major part of your body’s foundation. By consistently skipping your leg workouts, you are actually doing yourself a big disservice.
If you haven’t caught on already, there are many benefits of leg day apart from building a solid foundation for the body; such as:
These are just some of the benefits that leg day can provide for you and your body. To learn even more about the benefits of a leg day workout, check out this video about the “bro-science” of leg day.
Now that we know how important leg day actually is to a healthy, fit lifestyle, it is time to talk about what exercises you can do to prepare and conquer leg day! Here are some of the best leg day exercises you can start doing at the gym or work into your current regimen:
These do not require any equipment, if you want to add dumbbells skip to dumbbell squat below. To perform a squat, start by standing with your feet a little more than hip-width apart with your toes pointing outwards.
This allows for a deep squat to get your glutes and hamstrings working along with the legs. You can place your hands on your hips or up as if you are boxing. If you feel off-balance, placing your hands on your hips should help you stabilize.
Next, you will inhale and begin to lower your body while keeping your back and upper body straight. Engage your abs for added stability and exhale as you bring yourself back up to the starting position by pushing your feet down into the Earth. Each time you return to the starting position equals one rep.
To complete a dumbbell squat, you will stand in the same position as you would for a regular squat; with your feet planted just a tad more than hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and proceed to lift them up and down as your squat.
Your arms should match the movement, meaning if you are down in your squat, your arms should be down and vice versa when you in the starting position. This exercise is great for your quads and hamstrings as well as the glutes and your core.
There are multiple ways you can perform a lunge with the most popular being a front lunge due to its effectiveness. The lunge is another exercise you can perform with or without equipment.
If you feel experienced with lunges are would prefer more of a challenge, adding a dumbbell is a great way to do so. Skip ahead to the dumbbell lunge below for instructions on how to integrate a dumbbell into your lunges.
In order to complete a lunge, you will need to lift one leg and step forward so that your thigh is parallel to the floor while your other leg is still planted behind you. Use your palms to support your weight and be aware of your shoulders. You do not want them squeezing up into your ears. Try your best to keep them relaxed.
Now push upward with your palms and engage your core to step back into a standing position. Proceed by lifting the opposite leg and repeating the process on the other side.
Once you have done a lunge with each leg you have completed one rep. Remember, you should always start on your non-dominate side.
Just like how the dumbbell squat is very similar to a normal squat but with dumbbells in your hand, a dumbbell lunge is just like a regular lunge except you hold a dumbbell in each hand.
When you step forward to being the lunge, complete an arm curl with the hand on the same side and return to the standing position with the dumbbells at your side. Next, you will repeat the exact same procedure but on the opposite side. Again, once you have done a dumbbell lunge on each leg, you have completed a rep.
You will not be able to perform a deadlift if you do not have access to a barbell. To begin, start with the barbell on the floor in front of you and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Next, bend at the hips and place your hands on the barbell with one hand under and the other hand over. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart from one another on the bar.
Now begin to straighten your legs to stand back up. Engage your glutes and core to keep good form as you keep the barbell close to your body and lift it up with you as you return to standing.
Bend at the hips again while keeping your back flat to return the barbell to the ground. Every time the barbell returns to the ground equals one rep.
This will require a machine. To begin, you will sit on the machine and place your feet on the platform in front of you. Adjust the weight the machine is set to so that it works best for you.
Next, using your legs push the platform in and away from the body by bending the knees. Each time you return to the original starting position will be one rep.
Again, remember it is important to keep good form. Performing the exercise incorrectly can cause serious injury. If you wish to work your quads more during a session, place your feet lower on the platform close together.
On the other hand, if you would rather work the glutes or hamstrings more, place your feet far apart towards the top of the platform.
This exercise can be performed with or without equipment. For beginners, you can perform this without any dumbbells. However, if you are experienced, you should be using dumbbells that work best for your strength while performing calf raises.
This will help you tone your legs faster. To execute a calf raise, simply stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand (if you are using them).
Next, lift your heels off the ground and use your core and the ball of your feet to keep your balance. Slowly return the heels to the floor and repeat this. Every time your heels touch the ground is the equivalent of one rep.
This is another exercise that will require a machine at the gym in order to execute it. Once you have located the machine, sit with your legs pressed up against the padded bar.
Adjust the weight of the machine to one that is appropriate for your strength. Proceed to push the padded bar upward with your shins and then slowly return back to the start position. That’s it. You just did one rep.
If you do not have access to a machine, you could add seated leg extensions to your home workout routine. All you need is a chair. Place the chair on stable ground and sit on with your buttock on the edge of the seat.
Begin with your feet planted flat on the floor. Next, squeeze your quads and lift your legs straight out in front of you then slowly return back to the starting position. Repeat this process as many times as you need to in order to meet your reps requirement.
If you are struggling to stick to a workout routine or feel you are not targeting your major muscle groups, a fitness professional is always a great option to come up with a balanced fitness plan; that should also include a nutritional plan.
Fitness trainers can show you how incorporating strength training into your workout can extremely beneficial. Working with a personal trainer also provides you with the accountability that many gym-goers lack to ensure you stay on track.
Achieving your fitness and weight loss goals requires balance. This means targeting different muscle groups at each gym session without neglecting any muscle groups.
The lower body sessions are easier to trick yourself into skipping because, well let’s just be honest… they are brutal! No one likes to walk around with sore legs all day. Sore leg muscles make it hard to do just about anything.
Fitness requires balance to achieve stability as well. Our legs are one of the major pieces of the foundation that supports our body. By making the effort to build muscle will not only leave you feeling great about yourself, but you will also reduce joint and muscle pain, decrease the risk of injury or chronic health conditions and increase weight loss.
So basically, the lesson here is to never skip a leg day; no matter how much it’s going to hurt the next day. That just lets you know what you are doing is working!