Leg day is either the most hated or most loved gym day.
Even though it may not be very popular, it is by far one of the most essential days there is.
While so-called “mirror muscles” like your core, back and arms are typically more noticeable, you’re making a huge mistake if you’re only training above the belt. Your lower body is home to some of the biggest muscles in your body. Focus on workouts that challenge your bottom half and you’ll be rewarded with strong glutes, athletic quads, healthy hammies and toned calves. But it’s not all about looking good. As evidence, we present nine reasons to train your lower body. Because friends don’t let friends skip leg day.
1. You’ll be a better athlete.
The power generated from your lower half is essential for nearly every sport. Think of soccer players sprinting to the ball, basketball players jumping above the rim, or baseball players generating enough power to knock one out of the park. “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,” says Jen Sinkler, an author, personal trainer, former elite athlete and founder of Lift Weights Faster. “It’s very important for any athlete whose success depends on speed.”
Don’t be like this guy below working only his upper body and neglecting the lower. Skinny leg syndrome is frowned upon in most societies.
2. You’ll reduce your risk of injury.
Lower-body strength could also be the difference between getting injured and staying in the game. Performing functional exercises, like lunges and squats, promotes stability in the knee, which, according to the American Council on Exercise, is your best bet to prevent an ACL tear. Sinkler, a former elite-level rugby player, says she recovered from a long-term cartilage injury (due to a muscle imbalance) by strengthening her posterior chain, otherwise known as the back of the body.
3. You’ll burn more calories.
Whether or not weight loss is the goal, if you want to get the most bang for your buck at the gym, it all starts with the legs. “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, a Newfoundland-based personal trainer. Challenging these larger muscles requires more energy, which means your body will be burning more calories. Fun fact: Your gluteus maximus (aka your behind) is the largest muscle in your body.
Continue onto page 2 to learn the other 2 reasons why you should NOT skip leg day.