Leg day. No matter what kind of training schedule you have, leg day is probably the one you dread the most. Yet, despite how it leaves you limping your way back home once it’s over, Muscle and Strength magazine points out that you should do it at least twice a week! But what should your leg days look like?
Your leg days should happen at least twice a week. To avoid injury, leg days should also involve adequate warming-up, stretching, and cooling-down when you’re done. Leg days don’t necessarily need many complicated workouts, so just stick to the basics. Lastly, no matter what exercises you do, never lock your knees and always go deep.
Even though everyone’s workout plan is different and often personalized, the following five things will help you greatly in making the most of your leg day.
Let’s get started.
First of all, let’s talk about frequency. Calling it ‘leg day’ might give off the impression that this is a once-a-week kind of thing, and for many people, that’s true. Sometimes that’s just part of the training plan. Still, because it’s people’s least-favourite training day, a lot of gym-goers try to keep it to a minimum.
Unfortunately, doing that will also keep your results to a minimum.
No matter what your leg day looks like, it’s in your best interest to make sure that it happens at least twice a week. A once-a-week leg day isn’t going to give you the gains you’re hoping for because you’re not doing enough to encourage muscle growth.
Of course, there is such a thing as ‘too much of a good thing’. So, while it’s better to have your leg day at least twice a week, don’t go overboard with it.
Firstly, never have two leg days in a row. After challenging your muscles, you must give them enough time to rest and recover. Remember: your gains happen outside of the gym when your muscles rebuild themselves.
Besides that, don’t have too many leg days in a week, either. Besides jeopardising your progress, too high of a frequency could increase the risk of strains and injuries. That’s terrible news, considering how an injury could keep you out of the gym for weeks or even months.
A lot of people get hyped up before going to the gym. They listen to intense music, consume their pre-workout powder, and walk into the weight room wanting to go into ‘Beast Mode’ without hesitation.
Now, hold up. Take a step back, and focus on warming up and stretching. Elongating your muscles with stretches isn’t the most macho thing you could do in the gym, and that’s why a lot of people (especially men) tend to avoid doing it.
But if you want your muscles to be primed for the torture you’re about to subject them to, warming up and stretching is crucial. You’ve probably heard this a million times, but here it is yet again: stretching and warming up help lower the risk of injury.
Don’t forget about post-workout, either. Even though your legs might feel like wet noodles afterwards, you should always cool down before leaving. Cooling down allows for optimal blood flow to those muscles you just damaged, feeding them with plenty of nutrients to kickstart their recovery.
Remember the golden rule in fitness: the more straightforward your training plan is, the easier it is for you to stick to it. That’s certainly true when it comes to leg day as well.
There is no shortage of leg exercises that you can work into your leg day plans. Look around your gym, and you’ll see the proof: besides the weight room, there are plenty of leg machines out there that you might not even know how to use.
Forget about all of that.
Look, leg day is challenging enough as it is, so why not keep it simple and straightforward? If you want to be a true minimalist and stick to the pure basics, then stick to the Big 3.
The “Big 3” is a term that refers to the three most crucial strength training exercises: the bench press, the squat, and the deadlift. Mastering these three strength exercises alone would be enough to build some serious strength.
In the case of leg day, however, that would mean focusing primarily on the squat as your exercise of choice. Before you even think about adding anything else, you’d get the most gains just by perfecting your squat.
Now, here’s a debate that continues to go on in the world of strength training. Should your deadlifts be a leg day exercise, or does it belong on whatever day you work out your back?
The confusion is understandable, considering how deadlifts exercise a wide range of lower-body muscles as well those like your lats, traps, and rhomboids, just to name a few.
So, what’s our take on deadlifts in this regard?
Well, for leg day, you should prioritise squats.
Squats are a purely lower-body exercise, so there’s no question that they belong on leg day. However, you can’t do squats and deadlifts on the same day, as they’ll overwork some of your muscles.
So, having to choose one over the other, it’s best to stick to squats. That way, your leg day will indeed be focused on your leg muscles, allowing you to enjoy the other days training however you want.
As mentioned earlier, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to exercises to do on leg day. You can mix and match several different types to isolate specific leg muscles, or you could stick to the basics with a squat and focus your energy there.
Whatever you decide to do, however, always remember never to lock your knees. As durable as your knees might be, they’re also quite fragile in their own way. Whenever you lock your knees, you’re putting all of the stress on that joint rather than on the muscles that you’re trying to work out.
So, besides reducing the exercise’s effectiveness in training your leg muscles, you’ll also increase your risk of injury. That’s because locking your knees ends up putting too much stress on the joint and potentially more than it’s built to handle.
Also, when you do a rep of a leg exercise, go deep. By that, we mean you should go the full range of motion for that exercise, whether it’s a squat or anything else.
Why? Because going deep ensures that every muscle is fully activated.
Watch the people around you in the gym, and you might notice that they squat only a little and call that a complete rep. That’s a waste because it only trains part of the muscle.
So, focus on quality over quantity. One shallow rep during a squat is nothing compared to a full, butt-to-floor type of squat. High-quality reps lead to high-quality gains.
Plus, given how much torture you’re putting yourself through on leg day, at least you’d be making it all worth the pain.