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Fact checked by Kirsten Yovino, CPT Brookbush InstituteFACT CHECKED
May 01, 2022
There is no doubt leg day is difficult. It's hard work building tree trunk legs. For a lot of people, getting up for leg day is more challenging than getting up for an upper-body day. "Bench presses, let’s go!" But, squats..."do I even squat (bro)? I might have to skip leg day today"...Please don't.
Yes, training legs is hard, and there will always be many excuses to skip leg day. However, we are about to give you 10 reasons NOT to skip leg day. So, when you feel like talking yourself out of training legs, bookmark this article and read it again.
To start, here's one reason free of charge (well, actually they are all free, nevertheless...) - Have you ever seen a lifter with a buff upper body and toothpick legs? No one wants to be that guy. You’ll just look silly and end up on an internet meme. That should be reason enough to not skip leg day.
But, what if you naturally have big legs. You don't need to train them then right? Wrong!
Training legs provides a lot more benefits than you may realize...
It is easy to forget about legs during the winter months when your legs are covered up. But when the weather gets warmer, and you are wearing less clothes, it becomes obvious if you have missed a few leg days. Even if you have big legs, without leg day, they probably wont have much definition (no tear drop muscle, no outer quad sweet), and that's almost equally as unappealing as chicken legs.
All that said, we aren't here to only talk vanity. There are even more serious repercussions that come with skipping leg days. So much so that it should be considered one of the top 10 fitness sins.
Training your calves, hamstrings, glutes, and quads will prevent your body from becoming imbalanced. You’ll decrease the chances of developing lower back injuries and pain because strong and muscular legs puts your lower back in a better position. Your legs will absorb training stress rather than your low back, and they can handle it. So, by making sure your low back doesn’t have to pick up the slack to compensate for weak glutes, quads, and hamstrings, you'll greatly decrease your risk of lower back issues.
Moreover, strengthening the muscles of your legs reduces muscle imbalances between dominant and weaker side, as well as your quads and hamstrings. Both of these factors reduce your chances of picking up hamstring or quad strains.
Last but not least you need to look after your Achilles tendon to prevent calf strains and prevent Achilles injuries. The Achilles tendon is put under the greatest load in your entire body, with tensile loads up to 10 times your body’s weight. As such, strengthening this area by training your legs is key.
And for endurance athletes out there who remain unconvinced, strength training for runners, particularly leg exercises, can significantly improve your performance.
People often forget our bones are living tissue and by strengthening your muscles with heavy loads (which leg days entail), you'll strengthen your bones too. This little thing is called Wolff’s law. With Wolff's Law, your bones will adapt and change to adapt to the stress you place on them, and leg day does this more than any other. Essentially what happens is when your tendons and ligament tug on your bones while lifting weights, this sparks a bone remodeling process to keep your leg bones strong and healthy.
Without loading your body with exercises like squats, your bones become weak..and you don’t want weak bones, do you? As you get older, this will become a serious problem. So, please don’t skip leg day. Your future self will appreciate it.
While barbell squats and deadlifts are leg exercises, they are really big compound lifts that require total body activation. Because they work your whole body, there is a bigger release of testosterone and growth hormones (GH), called somatotropin or human growth hormone (HGH)1-2. This hormone stimulates the growth of all your tissues of the body (again, including bone).
Training your legs will release more of this growth hormone and this only helps add size and strength to your upper body too. Not to mention, total body exercises like squats, deadlifts, and sled pushes and pulls build total-body strength which in turn helps with your upper body lifts.
The glutes, hamstrings, and quads are the largest muscles in your body, and by not training them you’re leaving huge muscle gains on the table. Not only will your body look unbalanced and silly with toothpick legs but training the big muscles of your legs improves your calorie burn and your chances of burning stubborn fat.
The muscles in your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and abductors/adductors are responsible for helping you stand up straight. As these muscles act on the pelvis, iwf they are weak, stretched, or too short the pelvis will tilt forward (anterior pelvic tilt) or backward (swayback).
Now if you have a job where you sit a lot hunched over your phone or computer it becomes even more important not to skip leg day. This weakening and tightening of these muscles may cause back pain and hinder your overall mobility. By strengthening your legs, it will be easier to maintain an upright posture and undo some of the damage from extended periods of sitting.
Training your legs and not skipping leg days helps you run faster by improving your neuromuscular coordination, power, and VO2 max. Training legs helps to improve the running economy through better movement coordination and stride efficiency3.
If you run to stay in shape so that you can maximize your endurance, performance, and calorie burn then training your legs is essential. Plus, strengthening training your legs improves your recovery and reduces your chances of picking up nagging muscle and joint injuries.
It's not just athletes who need agility and balance. Yes, it will surely make you a better athlete, but for the general population, it will help you to avoid injuries and imbalances from unnecessary movement compensations. Moreover, you'd be surprised how often we need agility and balance our everyday life. If you lost it, which eventually WILL happen, you'll quickly realize that.
The ability to stop and change direction depends on lower body strength. You need to be able to shift your weight one way or another to change directions with force and balance. Therefore, NOT skipping leg day is essential, especially as you get older. It's far easier to maintain it, then to need to regain it.
Think of your hamstrings like brakes on a car and your quads as the shock absorbers. Strong hamstrings and quads absorb force better before applying it in a different direction. Your quads help absorb the contact every time your foot hit the ground, helping take the stress off your knees and back.
Your hamstrings and quads are your main knee stabilizers, and their strength and flexibility are key to keeping your knees healthy and your body upright.
Muscle imbalances occur between sides or between your anterior and posterior leg muscles because of activities of daily living or because of the demands of your sport. But by not skipping leg day, you’ll be sure to iron out muscles imbalances and strengthen the connective tissue of your lower body joints.
For example, a common muscle imbalance with recreational runners is they are stronger and tighter through the quadriceps than the hamstrings. This muscle imbalance can lead to hamstrings strains. By simply strengthening the hamstrings and stretching the quads, you can likely prevent this.
Triple extension is the extension of the ankles, knees, and hips is designed to move a barbell as quickly and powerfully as possible and to jump higher and run faster. The quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles all contribute to sending as much force as possible in one direction - up.
When you train triple extension with the Olympic lifts or squat and deadlift variations on leg day, you’ll become more powerful and explosive, build muscle and be a calorie-burning machine. You’ll be able to blow by people on the sporting field or your friends in a pick-up basketball game. Building lower body strength and power is not possible if you skip leg day.
It's really interesting how young athletes don't realize this. They think that because they play a sport in the first place, it's enough. If you want to take things to the next level, you need to focus on lower body strength training.
Get the picture? Good.
Although skipping leg day may be appealing, it leads to an unbalanced body that is susceptible to injuries, muscle imbalances, and poor posture.
Further, by simply training your legs with intensity, not only will you improve your thigh size and strengthen your body, but you'll strengthen your mind too. A person who can train legs hard has some serious mental fortitude, which translates to a better work ethic AND increased patience in life.
All in all, don’t be that person who skips leg day. Instead, use these 10 reasons not to skip leg day as inspiration when you’re about to talk yourself out of it.
Related: The Ultimate Leg Day Workout
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