Why Is Leg Day So Important?
Ah, leg day. Whether you love it, hate it; or love to hate it, there’s no denying its crucial role in looking and feeling your best. Life Hack: Make leg day the primary focus of your fitness journey because 75% of your muscles lie below your waist. I’m sure you’ve noticed how much attention is given to upper body muscle groups when glancing around the gym. But with so much to gain below the belt, prioritizing your next leg day should be of the utmost importance. The workout to follow will equip you with exercises that maximize your effort and your gains.
Besides physique and fitness, a strong lower body has many functional advantages to your everyday life. A strong lower body can:
- Increase Blood Flow
- Strengthen Your Heart
- Improve Bone Health
- Prevent Injury
- Reduce Pain
- Enhance Sports Performance
Worried about the overused cliches such as, ‘lifting will make you bulky’ or ‘lifting will cause you to gain weight’? It’s time to put those false claims to rest once and for all.
Lifting weights will not make you look bulky. Why? Testosterone. Ladies, we don’t have enough naturally occurring testosterone in us to achieve that bulky look you may be fearing. Men have up to 20 times more testosterone than women. For most men, it takes quite a long time to “bulk up” even with all that testosterone flowing through them. The benefits of weight training far outweigh unproven claims that you will end up looking like you’re ready to appear in the next Avengers movie.
While we’re at it, there’s no cause for concern when it comes to weight training and maintaining a healthy weight. You may not see the pounds shed as quickly with weight training as you would with a cardio-centric workout regimen. But this is because by weight training, you are replacing fat with muscle. Gaining muscle while simultaneously losing fat is a goal that you should strive for, not avoid due to an arbitrary number on a scale.
Don’t allow yourself to be put in a box. Your fitness goals matter. Whether your aim is to increase overall health, build a better physique, improve strength and endurance or all of the above, the exercises in this article were cultivated with you in mind.
Feeling confident about the benefits and importance of weight training your lower body? Perfect. Let’s dive into the workout, shall we?
Elevated Reverse Lunge
Lunges are…simple, but difficult. Meaning they’re fairly easy to execute correctly, but boy do they burn! But that’s a good thing, it means it’s working.
The elevated reverse lunge is an alternative to the forward lunge and one that requires less balance. It’s great for beginners, and can be easily modified to make it more of a challenge. It’s not every day we take steps backwards. I hope. This movement is powerful because it causes you to perform a movement you otherwise wouldn’t attempt. This exercise primarily builds strength and muscle in your quads and glutes, while also hitting your adductors and calves as well. Let’s review how to correctly perform this exercise.
- Place feet shoulder-width apart with toes pointed forward
- Keep your left foot flat and planted on the elevated surface of your choosing (45lb plate, stool, etc.)
- Step backwards, moving your right leg behind your body.
- Drop your right knee 90-degrees to gently touch the floor and lower your hips.
- Keep your torso straight and core tight
- Drive the left foot into the ground through the heel, placing your weight forward on the left leg.
- Squeeze your glutes and push your hips back up and forward as you bring the right leg back to the starting position.
- Repeat for 10-12 reps.
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift (Dumbbell RDL)
Legend has it, the Romanian Olympic Weightlifting team stopped using barbells, and switched to dumbbell only exercises. This claim was completely false, but here we are decades later, naming deadlifts after them.
Regardless of urban legend, this is a great exercise to incorporate into your workout. This exercise strengthens your glutes and hamstrings and your adductors and erector spinae.
So, why ditch the barbell? The body tends to compensate one side over the other without you even realizing it. Using dumbbells evenly distributes weight. This allows you to correct specific deficiencies on your less dominant side of your body.
Here’s a look at how to perform this exercise. You may want to tackle this one in front of a mirror. Your form is important to ensure you reap the full benefit and prevent injury.
- Hold a set of dumbbells in front of your thighs.
- Place feet hip-width apart.
- Push your glutes back as far as you can.
- Maintain a slight bend in your knees and begin to lower the dumbbells as you continue to push your glutes backwards.
- Continue to lower dumbbells until they reach your shin.
*You should feel tension in your glutes and the back of your thighs*
- Make sure to keep your shoulders back and chest up throughout the entire rep. You want your back as flat as possible.
- Drive through your heels, pushing the floor away from you and squeezing your glutes as you release back up to a standing position.
- Repeat for 10-12 reps.
Next, we have the split squat. If you’re beginning to sense a theme here, you should. The split squat is what’s called a unilateral exercise and it’s similar to the elevated reverse lunge.
In addition to building strength and muscle, split squats increase balance and mobility in your hip flexors. Think yoga, but with weights. This unilateral, compound exercise works to correct imbalances between your left and right side, as these focus on one leg at a time. What’s great about compound exercises is that they target multiple muscle groups in one single movement, which in turn increases your strength and enhances results. It also takes a large amount of energy, but hey, the exertion is well worth the reward.
For this exercise you’ll need a box, bench, or any elevated flat surface that is approximately knee height and a set of dumbbells. Here’s how to complete the split squat.
- Place the back of your right foot on the elevated flat surface behind you.
- Your left foot should be about three steps in front of the bench.
- Your left foot should bend slightly forward in front of you.
- Lower your right knee towards the floor and push your left knee forward.
- Your right knee should be bent 90-degrees
- Push through both legs, evenly distributing your weight to return to your starting position.
- Repeat for 10-12 reps
Kettlebell Sumo Squat
Lastly, we have the kettlebell sumo squat so complete your leg burning, muscle building leg day. Whenever you incorporate a kettlebell into your workout, brace yourself for a serious burn. Add this to a sumo squat, and you’ve got yourself a workout. Whenever you see the word ‘sumo’ it’s in reference to the position of your feet. Sumo squats require a wide stance, which means instead of having your feet shoulder or hip-width apart, your feet are slightly wider.
This exercise is the perfect way to finish your already very productive leg day. The primary focus of the kettlebell sumo squat is on your quads and glutes, but it also works your hamstrings and adductors.
This is a fun one, so let’s finish strong.
- Place a kettlebell on the floor between your legs
- Feet should be outside your shoulders and toes pointed out slightly.
- Bending your hips and knees (not your back) reach down to grab the kettlebell with both hands.
- Keep your back and shoulders straight and elbows locked. Drive your heels into the floor, straighten your knees and bring the kettlebell back up with you.
- That’s one rep. Repeat for 10-12 reps.
Hard to believe you’re already done with leg day. Although, if you’re actively doing the above exercises the end of your workout can’t come soon enough! Hope you found this helpful in maximizing your next leg day. Keep pushing wanderers, you can achieve whatever goals you set your mind too, both in and out of the weight room.
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