Why is leg day so hard? Sometimes it feels like you’d make any excuse rather than attack your leg workout. If this is you right now, then don’t worry, because we’re here to help! In this blog post you’ll find out exactly why you feel this way and you’ll learn 5 ways to make your next leg day a breeze. In fact, after reading this article you may well find that you look forward to leg day and choose to never skip it again! Let’s dive right in!
Why Leg Day Is So Important for Your Routine
It’s no secret that the body responds to heavy lifting and intense workouts by generating higher levels of human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone. It’s also widely accepted that barbell squats are the ultimate exercise to achieve this goal.
There’s simply so many muscles in the legs that a proper leg routine will hit them all and send a strong signal to secrete more hormones.
For this reason alone you need to accept that if you skip leg day you’re kissing goodbye to your best physique.
This 2005 paper looking at hormonal responses to resistance training states:
“Anabolic hormones such as testosterone and the superfamily of growth hormones (GH) have been shown to be elevated during 15-30 minutes of post-resistance exercise providing an adequate stimulus is present. Protocols high in volume, moderate to high in intensity, using short rest intervals and stressing a large muscle mass, tend to produce the greatest acute hormonal elevations”
It is a fact that lifting heavy increases your bone density. It’s also a fact that bone density decreases with age.
The more heavy lifting you do the more you are protected from the effects of old age on your bones. That means less likelihood of bone-breaks, less frailty and less fear as your get older. In fact, leg days = more life!
If you’re looking for the science to support this claim, check out this 2011 study on changes in bone density in response to resistance training.
It concluded that:
“24 weeks of resistance training, including squat and deadlift exercises, is effective in increasing BMD in young healthy men. Similar benefits were not derived by women who followed the same protocol.”
A lot has been made of the after burn effect that results from heavy lifting.
Essentially it is considered that strenuous weightlifting will lead to ongoing calorie burn after the completion of the exercise as the body repairs the damage incurred to the muscles during the workout.
Again, because the legs are home to so many muscles as well as the biggest muscles in the body, you can be certain that leg day will help contribute to a lean physique – as well as a muscular one!
Balance and Stability
A barbell squat performed with proper form will engage the muscles of the core as well as the legs to keep you stable as you perform the movement.
Not only that but exercises such as lunges require good balance.
Balance and stability are often overlooked as objectives of a comprehensive workout plan, but they shouldn’t be. Just as we discussed earlier, feeling confident on your feet gives a heightened sense of security and well-being – especially as you get older.
Yes it’s the most obvious reason but it definitely is worthy of mention.
Nothing looks more ridiculous than a man basking in the glory of his pumped up chest, boulder like shoulders, 18″ arms – when they’re all perched precariously on top of Mr Bean’s legs!
This YouTube video has some good examples of people that have clearly neglected leg day. Don’t be like them!
Why Is Leg Day So Hard?
Lack of Flexibility
The barbell squat is the cornerstone of leg work. However, many people find the move to be an impossibility.
The human body was designed to squat. Look at the toddler in this picture and notice how her feet are flat and she’s able to comfortably explore the world from a squatting position.
The problem is that as we get older and spend so much time in a sitting position our hip flexors tend to get weaker and shorten. When this happens we find we can no longer effortlessly sit ourselves into a squat position.
Most adults suffer from poor hip mobility.
So when you train legs with compromised mobility and flexibility you are inevitably setting yourself up for a painful experience.
In fact, it’s impossible to get the full benefit of moves such as the squat if you can’t complete it with good form. In fact, you’re heightening your chance of injury.
Read our review of the Hyperbolic Stretching Program and learn how we got flexible fast.
Let’s be honest: a thorough leg workout is arduous and to get through it requires the right mindset.
Modern life is so comfortable and convenient that many of us resent experiences that take us away from that comfortable place we are used to.
There is nothing comfortable about leg day.
If you’re finding it difficult to motivate yourself to train your legs it might be time to look in the mirror and have a frank conversation about where you want to be in one year.
You won’t achieve your body goals if you’re avoiding leg day.
Five Ways to Make Leg Day Easier
1. Dynamic Stretching
Stop thinking of stretching as something you do at the end of your workout.
If you’re really struggling to motivate yourself to complete leg day, then consider making a comprehensive dynamic stretching program a significant chunk of your leg workout.
Make sure that you do your dynamic stretches at the beginning of your workout to open and realign your hips ready for the rest of the workout.
LiveStrong have provided a great routine for your dynamic hip stretches featuring:
- Half kneeling hip flexor stretch with rotation
- Hamstring rocker
- 90/90 switch
- Dynamic Frog Stretch
- Hamstring scoop
- Slow motion eccentric split squat
- Cat-Cow scratch
Not only will this work help to realign, open and strengthen your hips but it will make the rest of your leg workout a lot more comfortable.
By prioritising this part of the workout, you’re investing in the future, because over time, you will regain the mobility and flexibility required in order to perform a comfortable squat. At that point, leg day won’t be such a chore and you’ll be able to re balance your leg workout in favour of the tougher lifts over these mobility drills and stretches.
2. Occlusion Training
If you don’t know this is, then please read our complete guide to occlusion training.
We talked earlier on about the benefits of heavy lifting to prompt the body to secrete more growth hormone and testosterone.
However for some people heavy lifting just isn’t an option. For instance, you may have been diagnosed with a hiatal hernia and advised not to do any heavy lifting.
If this is you, or if you simply can’t stomach the thought of a heavy leg session, reach for some blood flow restriction bands, strap up your legs and get squatting!!
Even a bodyweight split-squat for 25-30 reps will flood the muscles of your leg sufficiently to prompt the same hormonal response elicited by a session of heavy squats.
It sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? But the science behind occlusion training is robust. Again, read our guide to occlusion training to learn more about this amazing method.
Kettlebells can be a great tool for training legs. If you struggle to perform a barbell squat with good form then try a kettle bell goblet squat instead.
You may well find that you can squat deeper and really engage the quads as you do this.
When training legs with kettle bells you’ll probably be lifting a lot less than with a barbell and as such it can be easier to motivate yourself to complete the workout.
You can also build a complex of movements to really pump the legs. By doing this, you can crank up the volume of work the legs are performing as well as engage multiple muscles in the legs and glutes, all in a time-efficient way.
4. Drop the Barbell Squat
OK, so this may sound extreme, but if it is the barbell squat that is causing you to skip leg day, then it’s better to remove that exercise from your leg routine, rather than miss legs all together.
This contradicts just about every fitness article on legs ever written, but trust me, you can still have an effective leg workout without heavy squats.
We’ll look at how to achieve that in the workout below.
5. Set a Time Limit
In order to help overcome the mental obstacle of a grueling leg workout set a time limit and perform it to time.
To help you, download an interval timer application on your smart phone. This will really help you to stick to the time limits you set.
Workouts performed under timed conditions seem to pass very quickly and tick all the boxes for how to structure a workout for optimal hormonal response.
Even when you’re really not in the mood for your leg workout, it’s easy to say to yourself: well, what else am I going to do in the next 35 minutes? and launch into it.
The Easy Leg Day Workout
This workout can be used as your main leg workout or you can use it as a fallback on those days when you know that your normal hardcore leg workout just isn’t going to happen.
This workout can be completed at home with minimal equipment and you’ll be all done in 30 minutes, since this is a timed workout.
|1||LiveStrong Dynamic Stretches||0:10:00||0||0:10:00|
|2||Kettlebell Squat Jumps||0:00:50||0:00:20||0:11:10|
|3||Forward Lunge (L)||0:00:50||0:00:20||0:12:20|
|4||Forward Lunge (R)||0:00:50||0:00:20||0:13:30|
|5||Stiff Legged Dead Lift||0:00:50||0:00:20||0:14:40|
|7||Kettlebell Squat Jumps||0:00:50||0:00:20||0:16:50|
|8||Forward Lunge (L)||0:00:50||0:00:20||0:18:00|
|9||Forward Lunge (R)||0:00:50||0:00:20||0:19:10|
|10||Stiff Legged Dead Lift||0:00:50||0:00:20||0:20:20|
|12||Squat and alternative rear lunge||0:00:50||0:00:20||0:22:30|
|13||Weighted glute bridge||0:00:50||0:00:20||0:23:40|
|14||Squat and alternative rear lunge||0:00:50||0:00:20||0:24:50|
|15||Weighted glute bridge||0:00:50||0:00:20||0:26:00|
|17||Bulgarian Split Squat (L) (Occlusion Training)||0:01:10||0:00:20||0:28:30|
|18||Bulgarian Split Squat (R) (Occlusion Training)||0:01:10||0:00:20||0:30:00|
Suck It Up Soldier
The bottom line is that leg workouts are tough and painful. But through this article we’ve looked at why they are so important, how you can make them less difficult and we’ve provided you with an “easy leg day workout” that still promotes muscle growth and which you should be able to tackle even when you’re just not in the mood. If you want more information on BFR bands (blood flow restriction) for recovery or other purposes, check out the BFR Bands review HERE!