Here’s Why You Should Never Skip Leg Day
Thinking of skipping leg day? Let us suggest, wholeheartedly, that you absolutely should not.
It’s true that a lot of people can get so caught up in building big arm muscles that they completely neglect their legs. But, it’s highly unlikely that your fitness goals involve having a body that’s disproportionately strong, so it’s really key to be mindful of how often you’re working out your legs.
It’s important to note that your lower body harbors some of the largest and strongest groups of muscles you have — namely the soleus in your lower leg and, of course, the gluteus maximus literally pulling up the rear. So, it goes without saying that you should be giving your leg muscles the attention they deserve. However, it’s not just about building up some impressive calve muscles; it’s also about strengthening your knees, ankles, and hips. After all, our legs and the joints that connect them create the support system for everything we do on a daily basis, from walking and sitting, to running and lifting.
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Speaking of lifting, having stronger legs can actually help you build bigger, stronger arms in the long run. How could that be? Well, think about when you do a deadlift, for example. Strong legs will allow you to confidently take on more weight and maintain proper form because you’ve provided yourself with a strong, supportive base. Aside from helping you advance your arm workout routine, stronger legs can also help you avoid injury while lifting.
So yeah, you get it. We all know just how important it is to not skip leg day now. But should “leg day” actually be more like “leg days” (plural)?
Here’s How Often You Should Work Out Your Legs
To get some expert insight on the amount of leg exercises most folks should be doing each week, we talked to Alex Rothstein, Coordinator and Instructor of the Exercise Science degree program at New York Institute of Technology. In general, he suggests working out each of your body parts approximately twice per week, with your legs getting significant attention as many as three days in a seven day period.
Some effective leg exercises that you could try incorporating into your workouts include compound, multi-joint exercises like squats, wall sits, and lunges, or even a full-body workout such as rowing. Rothstein highlights squats, in particular, as they build up leg strength by working several muscles at once (namely your quads and your hamstrings). You can also include isolation exercises into your routine, such as hamstring curls, leg extensions, and calf raises. These leg workouts focus more on building individual muscle groups by utilizing a one-joint movement.
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Ultimately, you’ll want to include a variety of leg exercises into your leg day workouts so that all of the muscles in your lower body are built up evenly for better performance and injury prevention. Rothstein suggests switching things up with different exercises and intensities to make sure your leg workouts are well-rounded.
“[Leg workouts] can be split based on intensity, exercise selection, single vs. double leg, and a number of other ways,” he offers. “Workouts can also include both a large leg movement — such as a deadlift — and a large upper body movement — such as overhead presses — [for] a unique way to split your workout routine.”
He does caution, however, that individuals should ease into untraditional workout splits like this until their bodies can adjust to what is most comfortable for them and their recovery level. Remember, how often you should be working out your legs depends on your own specific activity level and fitness goals. Rothstein stresses that it is also incredibly important to allow for proper rest between your leg workouts to achieve the best results.
Recovery Time is Absolutely Essential
If you’re working out multiple days per week and incorporating full-body or compound exercises, you’re probably working out your legs during sweat sessions that aren’t specifically dedicated to leg exercises. This is key to understand so as to not overwork your legs and push your muscles past the point where they can properly recover.
As it turns out, consistently going hard on the same muscle groups all week isn’t the best way to get your muscles growing. Rather, a varied workout plan that incorporates rest days is the key to building the strength and muscle mass you want. This is because you create small tears in your muscle tissue every time you work out, and though that sounds bad, it’s actually a good thing — as long as you’re giving your muscles time to recover. As they do so, those small tissue tears heal and rebuild your muscles bigger and stronger than before. (Isn’t science awesome?) You can even incorporate muscle recovery tools on your rest days to ease aches and maximize results.
It’s for this reason that Rothstein recommends shaking up your workout schedule with a variety of different exercises focused on different muscle groups from day to day. In this way, you can continue to work out on consecutive days as long as you’re not working the same muscles back-to-back. Essentially, you want to make sure you don’t push your muscles past the point of recovery because, while you want to build muscle, you should also want to prevent injury. Fortunately, a well-planned workout schedule should help you get optimal results.
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