by Will Grumke November 08, 2021 6 min read
There’s a saying in the weightlifting world. “Don’t skip leg day.”
And that’s still great advice.
When most people think of getting "cut" or "lean", they’re typically thinking of big arms, a defined back, and abs. It’s less common for people to think about their legs.
But our legs play a role in virtually everything we do... and training them can play a huge role in the results you earn. That's true no matter if your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, improve performance, or just live an active and healthy lifestyle.
So in this short article, we’ll talk about our legs and what you can do to take full advantage of leg day or training legs.
When we’re talking about leg muscles, we’re really talking about four main muscle groups.
The four big muscle groups found in our legs are:
Hamstrings – Our hamstrings are the muscle found on the back of our upper leg.
It consists of three large muscles. They’re primarily used for bending your knee which is a major part in how we move in day to day life, sports, and workout! Your Hamstrings also preform hip extension.
Quadriceps – Located on the front of the upper leg ... the quadriceps work as a counterbalance to the hamstrings. The "quads" are used for pushing.
Calves – Your calves are found on the back of your lower leg. Your calf muscles are what let you pull your heels up and move forward. Without calves, you essentially don’t have the capacity for efficient forward motion.
Glutes – Chances are you've heard of "glutes" before. They’re the muscles around your butt.
We can make butt jokes all day long, but in reality, your glutes are incredibly important. They contribute greatly to your overall body strength, as well as helping support a range of different compound motions.
When it comes to the term "leg day", it can vary from person to person on what that means.
Some people dedicate a day to only training legs … others will split up some key leg movements into different days (for example, a squat day and a deadlift day) … while others still will do CrossFit or group fitness classes that incorporate some legs as part of almost every workout.
But to keep this simple, I will be talking about a leg day in the traditional sense of spending the 30 to 60 minutes in the gym to primarily focus on training your legs.
When doing so, it's a good idea to make sure that you hit each of these four muscle groups. This will both help to maximize the effectiveness of your workout, help prevent imbalances, and also help you maximize the end result of months and months of hard work.
If you are not doing a traditional leg day routine, you may want to work these exercises in whenever you can, as they are highly effective for strengthening, building, and conditioning your legs!
If you want to make the most out of your leg day, it would be a good idea to focus on doing the most effective leg day exercises. Here are five leg day exercises that can be great additions to your leg workout, and could really benefit your next leg day workout.
Squats are fantastic for the entire body.
Personally, it's my favorite movement to do, and there are many variations to do.
Squats work your thighs, hips, glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings, but they also help improve your core as well. That’s because you utilize many muscles when doing squats properly.
If you want your squats to help your quads a bit more, you can do high-bar or front squats. If you want to focus on your hamstrings a bit more you can do low bar squats.
Also, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of air squats, especially for your at-home workouts or when you don’t have access to the gym.
A deadlift is like a squat in that it’s a full-body workout. Deadlifts are great for your back, glutes, hamstrings, and the rest of your leg. Adding deadlifts to your workout can be a great idea!
As you will hear us say time and time again though, proper form is key.
Using good form while activating and stimulating the correct muscles is more important than the actual weight you're using when doing deadlifts (this is true of any lift).
In other words, leave your ego at the door, and focus on your technique. This will not only help prevent injury, but also help you ultimately lift more if that is your goal.
Walking lunges are a great way of working out your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
The key to good lunges is proper form. When done properly, you should be engaging all of the major muscle groups in your legs. This can help with overall strength, growth (if you are eating enough to grow), and burn more calories.
You can add weight to your walking lunges by wearing a weight vest, carrying dumbbells, or if space allows … using a barbell to really turn up the intensity.
Calf raises are a great way to focus specifically on your calves.
People often forget to exercise their calves during leg day. For most people, growing our calves can be difficult. This means, implementing a variety of different calf raises to hit the muscles in different ways may be beneficial, as doing so can help us figure out which movements our calves respond to the best.
Leg presses are great for your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. It might not be a full-body workout, but it’s definitely a full-leg workout.
Leg Press is also good for beginners to get use to the movement and range of motion … they're good for doing a “burn out” set more safely than with a barbell … and depending on foot placement can target your legs differently to stimulate different muscles more effectively.
Note: Placing your feet higher on the platform can help to activate more glutes and hamstrings, while placing feet lower on the platform can help add more tension to the quads.
Your leg muscles are large, powerful muscle groups.
That’s true whether you’re live a sedentary life, or if you pride yourself in being super active. It takes a lot of work, energy, and time to develop stronger leg muscles...
One of the best things you can do to improve your leg day workout is to fuel properly with nutrition and use the right supplements to aid in performance, and most importantly … RECOVERY after leg day!
On leg day, it can be helpful to utilize both pre-workout and post-workout supplements. Pre-workout supplements can give your legs and body the initial boost they need to start your workout right and sustain higher levels of output during training.
Proper post-workout supplements will make sure you give your body the nutrients it needs right away when you are done training, so that you can jump start the recovery process as quickly as possible.
I like to illustrate this by asking how someone feels not 1, but 2 days after leg workouts ... specifically when they try to sit down in a chair and get back up.
I do this because if you are like me, that is when the soreness really catches up to us, and focusing on recovery can help reduce that as much as possible!
In order to get the best results, and get the most out of your leg day ... you'll need a solid training program, a quality nutrition plan, and a few key supplements like a proper post-workout drink.
The great news is, we can help you with all of those!
We help thousands of people each day with their nutrition and workout plans all for free through our customer service lines!
Shoot, on top of that, we help exponentially more people every day with the 1st Phorm App!
But, as I am sure you know … getting the most out of your workout starts with you putting in the work.
That is step one … because no nutrition, workout, or supplement plan will help you if you are not paying your dues on a consistent basis.
That being said, if you have any questions or need any help at all, please never hesitate to reach out!
We have a fully staffed team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialists that will help you for free! They are available Monday thru Friday, 6 am to 10 pm CST, and Saturday & Sunday, 6 am to 7 pm CST at 1-800-409-9732… or anytime via email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com!
NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, NASM VCS Virtual Coaching Specialist, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer