Don't Skip Leg Day - Conclusion: Why You NEED To Be Doing More LEGS
Throughout this series “Don’t Skip Leg Day”, I’ve tried to illustrate my reasoning for training the lower half of the body. However, I never provided a ‘why?’: why shouldn’t you skip leg day?
Aside from injury prevention, which is the main reason I started intensely focusing on my base, there’s a multitude of benefits you’ll get from incorporating legs, including:
· Metabolism boost (burn more cals)
· Increased growth hormone and testosterone
· Better athleticism
· Enhanced mental fortitude
· Increased range of motion
· Refined aesthetics
Let’s delve into each of these in more detail.
Leg strength can be the difference between getting injured and staying healthy and mobile. Performing functional exercises, like lunges and squats, promote and build knee stability. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), knee stability is the most critical factor in preventing an ACL tear. Strengthening the leg muscles (while also maintaining flexibility) can help avert injuries such as pulled hamstrings, strained calves or any multitude of other injuries. And, as we know, time injured is time not spent improving.
Did you know the gluteus maximus (your butt) is the largest muscle in the human body? Well it is; and that’s relevant because working out larger muscles in compound exercises like squats, deadlifts or lunges will require increased exertion from the heart and brain. Since more energy is required for these movements, the body’s metabolism ramps up leading to increased calorie burn. This is a win-win: burn more fat while building a strong base.
Increased Muscle-BuildingHormones (ladies, you want this too)
Naturally boosting testosterone is a good thing for overall health and fitness. It helps to increase muscle mass and burn fat. Gentlemen, it even helps you out of the gym when you’re “doing your thing”. A recent study by the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology measured the hormonal response of individuals performing squats (heavy for 10 reps). The study concluded that the most striking changes were seen in testosterone levels in response to the squats, noting a dramatic spike. In another study, participants were split into an arm-only training group and a leg-plus-arm training group. Testosterone increases were significantly higher in the group that trained legs. Bottom-line: whether it’s squatting, lunging, sprinting, or any other form of lower body exercise, the benefits provided from the increased hormonal activity associated with these movements are phenomenal.
As mentioned in the previous benefit, exercising legs increases certain hormone levels, thereby putting the body in a state that promotes muscle-building. Building this muscle will not only help develop strength, but improve overall athleticism. A well-developed lower body will allow you to exert a maximal amount of force in a minimal amount of time, which in turn makes you faster and more explosive – traits of most athletes.
Enhanced Mental Fortitude
Why don’t many people (including myself for a long period of time) train legs routinely? Well, the exercises required in training (squats, deadlifts, lunges, boxes, wall sits, and the list goes on) are strenuous. There’s a reason why a well-planned leg session will have your body far more drenched in sweat when compared to a similar length session on the bench press. Mentally, many people look for quick, noticeable satisfaction in the form of “beach muscles”. I used to fall into this trap: train arms, chest and abs, because that’s what “people” care about. That’s the easy way out though. Training legs IS hard. And pushing through leg workouts on a routine basis will develop your mental toughness and help you in your other fitness and non-fitness related endeavors.
Increased Range of Motion
Having mobile joints maximizes power output. Learning the correct movement patterns for exercises like the squat, deadlift and lunge will improve your range of motion. Once you’ve got the movements and proper mobility down, you’ll be able to safely tackle more weight and ultimately increase your gains. Key points of emphasis for starters include hip, knee, and ankle flexibility and stability. Working on these three areas in tandem with correct movement patterns will help bolster strength and improve your movement efficiency.
Lastly, if you were anything like my old self, chances are the imbalance of time spent on upper body versus lower body training has led to disproportional gains. Rule of thumb guys (and girls): if your biceps are bigger than your quads or your forearms are larger than your calves, it’s time to put down the dumbbells and get your body under a squat rack. You can only hide chicken legs with pants for so long, unless you want to be the dude who goes swimming in jeans at the beach, in which case you can hide your legs, but not your dignity. Training legs will help will assist anyone looking to become more proportional, because as discussed, the leg muscles are naturally larger and gains will come fairly quickly, helping in the aesthetics department.
Legs may not be your favorite group of muscles to train now, but after giving them time to grow and realizing all the benefits associated with them, you'll turn a new leaf. And, if you're curious about what you should do on leg day, check out our workouts by clicking the following link - Leg Workouts. We're here to answer any questions, and help you become the best version of yourself.