You’ve probably heard it many times before: “Don’t skip leg day”. Whether it’s as a joke, or just as a friendly reminder to a friend, everyone in the fitness community has had some kind of discussion about leg day. But what exactly is so special about leg day that it would get this kind of attention, you might be asking. Well wonder no more, because we’ve got you covered here with our look at the importance of not skipping leg day.
First and foremost, one of the biggest reasons for you to not neglect leg day is to maintain an even amount of muscle mass throughout your body. Sure, having a muscled-up upper body is nice and all, but it won’t really look all that great if your lower half has less muscle. In fact, if taken to the extreme, it could end up making you look pretty ridiculous. Since you’ll be trying to make sure that you have an aesthetically pleasing body, looking ridiculous will be the last thing you want. Don’t worry about missing out on any muscle gains in your upper body, though. Training your legs doesn’t just build muscle on your legs, but it also works a few muscles in your upper body as well. For example, when you squat with a barbell, you’re not just working out your legs, you’re also working your arms when you squeeze the bar, your abs and back stabilising the weight throughout the exercise, and other muscle groups besides (there’s a reason squats are called the king of exercises). So be sure to give the muscles on your lower half a proper workout if you're really serious about building muscle.
It also helps that having some muscle mass on your lower body will help to improve your balance. As I mentioned earlier, you would look pretty silly with muscles on only half of your body. You’ll also end up being pretty lopsided with a large upper body and an average/small lower body, which will most certainly throw off your sense of balance. Of course, it goes without saying that having good balance is pretty important, not just in fitness, but every aspect of daily life. In fact, having such poor balance will have a number of ill effects on your body, such as reduced athletic ability and increased risk of injuries like back pain. So, the next time you’re thinking about skipping leg day, just remember that all that time you’ve spent building up those arms won’t amount to much if you can’t stop losing your footing.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, working your leg muscles doesn’t just help you build muscles in your lower body, but also your upper body. This easily translates into you building strength throughout your body, which is a solid benefit in my book. Even without the increase in muscle mass throughout the body, you’ll still be seeing some increase in your ability to do strength workouts. For example, let’s take a look at how strengthening your lower body can help to improve your lifting. When you lift, you have to get the bar off of the ground, and maintain balance the whole way through. Most leg workouts focus on improving the strength of your legs and, in some cases, abs. Having stronger legs helps to give you some extra strength in your lift, and the stronger ab muscles make maintaining your balance much easier.
Adding some muscles to your lower half can also improve your overall stamina. Aside from the state of your cardio, how long you can go with a workout is also determined by the rate of muscle fatigue. If you’ve got weak muscles, they’ll get fatigued more quickly than stronger muscles. And whether you realise it or not, some of the upper body workouts you do don’t just focus on your upper body, but involve your lower body as well, so if you really want to reduce the rate at which you experience muscle fatigue during these workouts, you should make sure not to neglect your leg muscles.
Metabolism is yet another thing that leg day can enhance. You all probably know that building muscle is a great way to lose fat, since your body will be burning fat to use as fuel to maintain those muscles, on top of using that fuel to power your workout. Making sure that you have some muscle mass on your lower half means that your body will have more muscles to maintain, which means that you’ll be burning more fat. It certainly helps that leg workouts are seen as being some of the most intense exercises you can do, which means you’ll be burning even more fat doing them.
During your workout, whether it’s lifting weights or doing pull-ups, you’ll experience an increase in testosterone. This increase subsides over time when you’ve finished your workout, but it does stick around for the duration of your workout. This increase in testosterone is very beneficial for your muscle gains, and the more intense the workout, the greater the increase. And as many of you know, leg exercises are some of the most intense exercises you can do (there’s an internet full of jokes about being unable to walk after leg day). So it stands to reason, then, that you’ll be seeing a large spike in testosterone levels during your leg workouts, especially things like the squat or dead-lift.
And there you have it, our breakdown on why you shouldn’t be skipping leg day. Yes, it’s just as intense as everyone makes it out to be, but the results, from bigger muscles, to better stamina, to avoiding the dreaded chicken legs, more than speak for themselves. So, the next time you go to the gym, maybe think twice before passing over that squat rack.