Friends don’t let friends skip leg days. You’ll find this phrase headlining memes all over the internet combined with pictures of men that have jacked upper bodies paired with tiny chicken legs. Despite the humor, it is actually good advice.
It’s clear why some people tend to opt out of leg day: leg workouts are tough! Squats and deadlifts aren’t solely working your leg muscles, but rather they are both compound, full body exercises, which can drain your energy fast if you’re not prepared. Plus, struggling to climb the stairs the next day because of how sore you are is never fun. But the benefits of leg day will always outweigh the challenges that come along with it. Check out our top five reasons why you can’t skip leg day.
Big lifts give you big gains
If you’ve ever heard “the big 3” at the gym and weren’t exactly sure what this phrase was referring to, listen up: in bodybuilding, the big 3 lifts consist of deadlifts, squats, and bench press. And if you’re skipping leg day then you are neglecting 2 of the 3 big lifts.
Dr. Fred Hatfield, PhD, tells bodybuilding.com that compound movements with free weights, such as the lifts included in the big 3, increase muscle mass. The article continues to explain that this is due to the increased production of testosterone that comes along with performing the big 3 lifts with heavy weights. Needless to say, if your goal is to build muscle mass, not just in your legs but your whole body, you can’t skip leg day.
You can burn more calories
Burning the most calories is often erroneously tied to performing cardio exercises. Of course, this isn’t to say that cardio doesn’t burn calories, we’re just pointing out that sometimes you can get more bang for your buck.
Lower body exercises burn up calories because the muscles are inherently larger, thus they use up more energy (calories). In fact, did you know that the gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in your body? Besides sculpting a firm behind, exercising this muscle can help you torch more calories during your workout!
According to livestrong.com, “Training your legs, particularly with multi-joint compound exercises, burns a higher number of calories than easier upper-body moves such as biceps curls or lateral raises.” This is because working bigger muscles means you are working more muscle fibers, thus creating more micro-tears that your body uses energy in the form of calories to repair. (Fitness Magazine)
You’ll improve your athletic performance
Think about it: the muscles of your lower half are necessary for nearly every sport. From basketball players jumping to sink a layup to gymnasts tumbling along a four-inch balance beam, strong leg muscles play an essential role in improving your athletic performance.
Jen Sinkler, fitness editor, writer, personal trainer, and founder of Lift Weights Faster, tells Dailyburn.com, “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. It’s very important for any athlete whose success depends on speed.”
You’ll have less lower back pain
As mentioned above, your glutes make up the largest muscle in your whole body, which explains why they play such an important role in good posture and a pain-free back. When your glutes are weak you can develop lower back and hip problems as well as balance issues. In fact, there’s even a name for weak glutes that lead to pain in other areas: dormant butt syndrome. Don’t let the name fool you; this is in fact a serious medical condition that affects millions of Americans, especially those who live a sedentary lifestyle.
Chris Kolba, PhD, PT, a sports medicine physical therapist and clinical instructor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, explains that the glute muscles, “Absorb shocks and control movements necessary for walking and other activities. When the gluteal muscles are weak, other muscles and joints definitely take the hit.”
Lower back pain can also be caused by a weak psoas muscle. Never heard of the psoas muscle? It is located on the side of the lumbar region of the vertebral column, forming an upside down V that extends down to the top of the femur. The psoas muscle along with the iliacus, make up the iliopsoas group, which are important to the hip flexor muscles because they help stabilize and support the lower back. (Dr. Axe)
You also wouldn’t be able to walk, run, or perform nearly any other daily function without your psoas muscle. Thus, it makes sense that when you neglect this muscle (like when you skip leg day) you increase your chances of developing lower back pain, poor posture, and decreased sports performance.
You don’t want to be that guy in the meme, do you?
Last but not least, consistently skipping leg day will give you a disproportionate and frankly ridiculous looking physique. Train your leg muscles at least once a week to ensure you have appropriate geometric proportions.
If you dread leg day, try adding a supplement, such as Performance Inspired Post Workout BCAA, to maximize your muscle recovery.