Leg day. You either love it or hate it; there’s almost no in-between. For those of you who shudder at the thought of the squat rack, I get it. That sh*t hurts! The amount of lactic acid that builds up during lower body training is significantly higher compared to other muscle groups, hence the post-workout pain. It’s a mentally and physically demanding day at the gym.
Despite your feeling towards leg annihilation, it’s crucial to train all of your muscle groups, legs included. As tempted as you may be to skip legs, don’t be this guy.
Personally, I love leg day. I don’t know if it’s my dance training that gets me craving the quad burn or my twisted personality. Regardless, I feel a deep sense of enjoyment when I feel that infamous “jello leg” begin to set in. Believe it or not, training your legs has many benefits beyond the obvious aesthetics gains:
Burn, Baby, Burn
Legs are made up of at least six major muscles which make it one of the largest muscle groups in the body: the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, adductors, abductors and calves. The gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle in the human body so don’t neglect that booty! Typical leg exercises such as deadlifts and squats require almost every muscle in your body to be performed correctly which requires a ton of energy. Since working out bigger muscles requires more energy, more calories are being burned while you lift than other smaller muscle groups.
“Working bigger muscles in multi-joint exercises like squats, deadlifts or lunges will require more ‘work’ from the heart and brain and higher levels of metabolism compared to exercising smaller muscle groups,” says Jon-Erik Kawamoto, CSCS.
Additionally, adding muscle mass to your body increases the body’s resting metabolic rate. So, by training large muscle groups, you’re increasing the number of calories your body will burn at rest which translates to the success of long-term fat loss.
In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, they discovered that after 90 minutes of heavy weight training, the athlete’s metabolic rates soared. What’s more interesting is that these rates stayed elevated for hours following the completion of training.  This is because there’s a lot of “repair work” that needs to be done following the exertion of such a large muscle group which keeps your metabolism cranking.
Overall Muscle Gain
Thanks to homeostasis, our body doesn’t want to just randomly grow larger muscles. Therefore, the development won’t happen unless our body feels it’s necessary. Because of this, we must trick out body into thinking that we need bigger, stronger muscles to survive by taking part in numerous physical activities such as weight lifting.
By performing compound exercises, you are eliciting the release of growth hormones and testosterone throughout the body. This is a fundamental element in overall muscle building. Moreover, a study at the University of Northern Texas found that squats were the leading exercise when it came to the production of testosterone and growth hormones.  You are creating an anabolic environment that improves the muscle-building effects of your upper and lower body lifts. Although exercises such as front squats, back squats, deadlifts, good mornings and Romanian deadlifts are lower body dominant, they will help build strength and muscle development in the upper-body as well.
Reduce the Risk of Injury
Muscle imbalances, poor conditioning, lack of mobility … These are all consequences of the constant neglect of lower body workouts. When one part of the body is stronger and agiler than the other, it needs to compensate which can lead to an increased risk of injury. Ultimately, these concerns have the potential to turn into more grim issues:
- Lordosis (The abnormal inward curve of the spine)
- Poor Posture
- Back Pain
It’s also important to remember that lower body consists of more than just the quadriceps muscle. By over developing the quads and ignoring an even growth of the hamstrings and hip muscles, you can suffer from what is known as “quad dominance.” This typically results in ACL injuries, especially in women.
Improve Functional Strength
Functional strength can be simply defined as the power that helps us get through everyday life. The scary truth is that your overall muscle mass and strength decreases 30 – 50% between the ages of 30 and 80.  By partaking in resistance exercises, you are enabling your body to become more strong and flexible. In turn, this makes you better equipped to handle the everyday strength stresses we face.
Training your legs helps you move better, correct imbalances and improve your mobility/stability in every plane of motion.
The next time you try and muster up an excuse to skip leg day, remember how much you are sacrificing. If you can’t find the motivation to get to the gym, grab a partner to join you! Sometimes seeing the tears of friend is enough to help you power through that last set 😉
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