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Leg Day – the two most dreaded words of the week.
To be fair though, training legs isn’t always the most fun.
It’s often more painful and demanding on your CNS (central nervous system) than training upper body, you get DOMS that make climbing stairs or sitting on the loo near impossible for a few days and even when we start to see some growth and results from all the hard work we put in, they get covered up by trousers – except for a few weeks in summer, if we’re lucky.
Is it really any wonder people skip leg day?
Despite all these reason to avoid jumping under a squat bar, if we want to achieve our physical peak, it’s important that we still do.
Training legs may come with a few unfortunate side effects, but the benefits you will reap in the long term far outweigh them.
Love it or loathe it, leg day is here to stay and we’ve got 5 reasons why it needs to part of your routine – apologies in advance.
Natural Testosterone Booster
Training any muscle in your body will release testosterone into your system, helping to pack on lean muscle mass.
However, with our legs being home to the largest muscles in our body, training them with heavy compound lifts, such as back squats and deadlifts, is how we get the biggest release and gain the most advantage from this natural growth hormone.
Not only is Testosterone great for packing on the muscle, but it will also let our muscles be more defined, as increased levels of T, have been shown to potentially reduce body fat and lower cortisol levels, the stress hormone linked to weight gain. (1)
Builds Mental Grit
Training your legs won’t just build you a stronger set of glutes, it’s also great for building up your mental strength.
There’s no two ways about it, leg days are tough. Even for those sadistic enough to enjoy them.
But loading up a heavy barbell and pushing through those reps that have your quads and hamstrings screaming at you to stop has a number of benefits beyond just building muscle.
Not only will it boost your confidence and self-esteem, but it will also build up “callouses of the mind” and leave you better equipped to mentally deal with any problems out in the real world, when things get tough.
Crosses over into cardio training and sport
If there’s one thing all great athletes have in common, regardless of their chosen discipline, it’s that they don’t take leg day lightly (literally and metaphorically)
There’s a common misconception that if you partake in endurance sports, such as running, then you don’t need to bother lifting weights, or if you do, it should be with light weights and high reps, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Incorporating heavy leg training into your weekly routine, will help increase your lower body strength and allow you to generate more power with each running stride (or pedal stroke, jump or swim kick).
Not only that, but strength training is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of injury, which is a goal of everyone’s. (2)
Train your legs and you’ll become a more robust, and an overall, better athlete.
Improve your upper body lifts
Not interested in cardio and just looking to build a better physique or get strong, well guess what? You need to train legs.
It may seem unlikely, but the majority of the power you generate during upper body movements comes from your lower limbs.
Take a heavy bench press for example, to execute effectively, you need to push your heels into the ground and drive up through your legs to generate enough force to press the bar off your chest.
Same goes for shoulder press and deadlifts.
Want to build up your upper body and lift heavy weights? Then you’ll need to build up a solid foundation of strength in your legs first.
We know, we know. Training and improving our physiques is something we should do for ourselves and not to impress other people. Which of course, is true.
With that said, there’s nothing wrong with walking around with a big set of wheels, showing people you train hard, know your way around a squat rack and aren’t afraid of a few days of DOMS.
On a serious note, if you genuinely want to build muscle, prevent injury or become better at your sporting discipline then training legs is a non- negotiable.
So, you’ll just have to try your best to enjoy it.
Rubinow DR, Roca CA, Schmidt PJ, et al. Testosterone suppression of CRH-stimulated cortisol in men. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2005;30(10):1906‐1912. doi:10.1038/sj.npp.1300742
Fleck SJ, Falkel JE. Value of resistance training for the reduction of sports injuries. Sports Med. 1986;3(1)
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