😨Leg Day😱: two tiny little words that can spread BIG FEAR in the imaginations of the average gym bro.
While almost everybody knows that training legs should be done regularly, knowing & doing can be two entirely different stories.
Extra chest & arm training is just more appealing in most cases as we’re often too easily distracted by these high-profile mirror muscles. As excuses & missed leg training opportunities start to pile up, it often results in the development of an unproportionally large upper body paired with embarrassing chicken legs which require constant covering lest we risk becoming the infamous star of a new leg day meme.
If only a concerned friend would intervene by presenting all the amazing benefits of leg day in an easily digestible & bulleted format, the boogeyman behind leg day can be vanquished once and for all.
Fortunately, such a list has been made on behalf of your lower half!
So, without further delay, here are 21 amazing benefits of leg day:
- Increased Levels of Growth Hormone (GH) & Testosterone = ↑Anabolism & Muscle Building
- Decrease Risk of Developing Type II Diabetes & Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)
- Reduced Risk for Injury
- Perform Better in Sports
- Increase Your Work Capacity & Endurance
- You’ll Burn More Fat
- Build Stronger Bones, ↓ Risk for Osteoporosis
- Make Everyday Tasks Easier
- Release the Mighty Endorphins!
- Improved Balance & Proprioception
- Increase Your Range of Motion
- Improve Posture & Reduce Low Back Pain
- Improve Circulation
- Become More Attractive
- Reap the Benefits of Cardio Without Doing Cardio
- Your Upper Body Will Get Stronger
- You’ll Be Hitting Your Core
- You’ll Avoid Being Memed, “To the Shame”
- Develop Discipline & Build Character
- Fix Your Weird Feet, Fix Your Gait
- You May Just Earn an Epic Nickname
There’s the list; now let’s get take a closer look at the details:
1) Increased Levels of Growth Hormone (GH) & Testosterone = ↑Anabolism & Muscle Building
The amount of testosterone released during a workout is directly related to how much muscle mass is stimulated. So, while biceps may be fun to pump, they are a relatively small group of muscles & you won’t be prompting the kind of anabolism that you would get when targeting larger muscle groups.
Just a FYI: The largest muscle group in the body is the gluteus maximus, so if you’re looking to make more gains, you’re literally sitting on the answer!
When it comes to boosting growth hormone & testosterone, compound movements such as squats & deadlifts performed in high volume “hypertrophy” rep-ranges are superior to lower volume strength & power rep-ranges.1 Furthermore, multiple sets (4+) yield significantly better results than single sets. 2
2) Decrease Risk of Developing Type II Diabetes & Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)
A Japanese study of patients with Type 2 diabetes found that reduced leg muscle mass was associated with increased insulin resistance & greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).3 A second Korean study of healthy elderly subjects supported the idea that lower skeletal muscle mass was independently associated with insulin resistance.4
More than 10% of the American population is diabetic with another 4 in 10 considered prediabetic (likely to develop diabetes within 5 years). That alone makes this information a very big deal. "Use it or lose it" takes on a new meaning when diabetes joins that chat!
3) Reduced Risk for Injury
Exercises like squats not only build your leg muscles, but they promote strength & stability of your joints. You can significantly reduce the chance of developing hip, knee & ankle problems by training legs frequently, intelligently & intensely.
4) Perform Better in Sports
Whether your sport requires quickness, power, agility or balance, thoughtful leg day programming can give you the “leg up” on the competition. 😂 Because force is generated from the ground up through the kinetic chain, strong legs won’t just help you jump higher; they also give you the potential to throw faster or punch harder.
Any UFC fans reading this may remember during The Ultimate Fighter reality series, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was asked how he punched so hard. He replied something to the effect of, “I put my a$$ into it!”
5) Increase Your Work Capacity & Endurance
Working legs is tough. You know that you’ll have to dig a little deeper (maybe even flirt with death) on a leg day, which is why this day is so often skipped. But because you must push yourself harder to perform deadlifts or squats, you’ll find that your upper body workouts become much easier as a result.
6) You’ll Burn More Fat
Increased fat burning can happen on many different levels here. First, since the exercises tend to involve larger & numerous muscle groups you will burn more calories than you would when working small muscles like biceps in isolation. Additionally, the added muscle is more metabolically active at rest and will increase your resting basal metabolic rate (BMR). Thirdly, you get a nice “afterburn” of fat due to increased Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) resulting from the challenging nature of an exercise like squats. Add these all up and you have a lot of positive factors working in your favor; become a fat burning machine!
7) Build Stronger Bones, ↓ Risk for Osteoporosis
Leg training can increase bone density, reducing risk for osteoporosis. This might not seem like a big deal when you’re in your 20s but can mean the difference between independent living or life in a nursing home in later life. Most seniors require assisted living because they can’t get out of bed or off the toilet. History teaches that sometimes you’ve just got to fight for your independence. Rise up my middle-aged peers and fight for a future free from a Ben Stiller supervised, “arts & crafts time”! If not, you may just find yourself on lawn duty…
8) Make Everyday Tasks Easier
Whether you like to move pianos, carry shingles to rooftops, or bring all your groceries inside in a single trip, life just got a little easier.
9) Release The Mighty Endorphins!
Intense exercises like squats produce loads of wonderful hormones called endorphins which have effects such as:
- ↓ aches & pains
- ↓stress & anxiety
- ↓ depression
- ↑ happiness & well-being
- ↑ sleep & restfulness
- ↑ self-esteem
10) Improved Balance & Proprioception
This can make you a better gymnast or simply prevent a slip-and-fall during an icy Michigan winter! Whatever end of the spectrum you’re on athletically, everybody can benefit from becoming more coordinated & less clumsy.
So skip leg day at the risk of falling down in public. If you do, They're All Gonna Laugh At You! They’re all gonna laugh at you! 🤣
11) Increase Your Range of Motion
If you spend a lot of time at your desktop, you’ve probably developed tight hip flexors and weak, overstretched glutes. Getting into a squat or performing a deadlift are great ways to reverse common muscle imbalances, improving your mobility.
You may say, “mobility is overrated, I have a remote control”. Yes, but can you tie your shoes or pick up that $5 bill off the ground?...
…Well, do you want to be able to continue to do so? Alrighty, then.
12) Improve Posture & Reduce Low Back Pain
Poor posture and low back pain are often the result of tight, overactive muscles on one side of the body and weak, overstretched muscles on the opposite side (again, a common consequence of prolonged sitting).
Our joints are engaged in a daily tug-of-war between opposing muscle groups; when one side (agonist) becomes significantly stronger than the other side (antagonist), joints are pulled into awkward & unnatural positions. Little by little, our bodies try to compensate by altering movement patterns which only serves to the further the muscular imbalance, increasing discomfort & potentially leading to permanent deformity.
Stretching tight muscle groups in the legs, hips, low back & abdominals is only half the solution to relieving low back pain & improving posture. The other side of the coin requires the strengthening of the weak, underused & overstretched muscles on the opposing side. By balancing out the forces created on both sides of a joint, we bring the joint back into its intended position & orientation, thus correcting minor deformities & alleviating chronic pain.
13) Improve Circulation
If your lower extremities are always cold or if you experience sensations of tingling or numbness, you might be suffering from poor circulation.
A few sets of heart pounding, blood pumping squats may be the perfect prescription for a weak circulatory system. (…I’ve got a tingling & the only prescription is more kettle bell!) Stick to it and you’ll probably find that those annoying sensations diminish in severity or disappear altogether.
This should probably be its own bullet point, but since we’re on the topic of improved circulation to the lower extremities…increased libido (there, I said it!) 😲
14) Become More Attractive
Aesthetic, symmetrical bodies are simply more appealing than asymmetrical, unbalanced & freakishly deformed physiques. That’s not being mean, that’s simply science. Balance & proportion are indicators of overall health & virility/fertility - people chose mates based on this criterion - So, don’t skip out on your leg days. If you keep at your lunges, deadlifts & squats you will start to turn heads…as eligible singles stare at your butt 😊
15) Reap the Benefits of Cardio Without Doing Cardio
Anyone who has ever deadlifted for volume knows where I’m about to go with this argument... I could go into a full sprint uphill on a treadmill and not increase my heartrate like a single set of 25-30 rep deadlifts @ 315 lbs. would do. Not only is it liberating to be free from that monstrously monotonous hamster wheel of a treadmill, but your knees won’t miss the high impact forces associated with running. (I’ve never seen anybody smile when running. Is it just me, or does every runner look like they are in pain?!...it’s probably because they are.)
The only times I’ve ever ran a mile in my life were because of military requirements. Suffice it to say, I don’t like cardio. In fact, during my stint in the Air Force I would hide in the locker room with my lifting buddy, “Big Hungry” prior to “mandatory” squadron PT. We risked bringing military discipline upon our souls so that we could avoid running & lift weights in peace. (726th Hardrock, rocks!) 😜
Anyways, although I only ran once a year, because I didn’t skip leg days and stuck to high volume exercises with short rest, my resting heartrate was/is on par with your typical Tour De France cyclist (resting heartrate of 41 BPM, still awake).
Not bragging (too much), just making it clear that you can be in great cardio shape from lifting weights faster (less rest, that is) and not flaking out on your leg training…no treadmill required!
In fact, if I had to compare enjoyable forms of exercise that I prefer to treadmill cardio and rank them based on their ability to take my breath away that list would look something like this:
- Treadmill Cardio ←( is lame)
16) Your Upper Body Will Get Stronger
What gym bro doesn’t want bigger arms? Well, going back to the idea about how working larger muscles stimulates more testosterone, Norwegian researchers found that training your legs immediately before performing biceps work actually develops bigger & stronger biceps than performing the arm work without the leg exercises.5 It stands to reason that if a small muscle group like biceps can benefit from a few quick sets of squats then chest, back & shoulders can reap similar rewards.
About 20 years ago when I was in the infancy of my bodybuilding journey, I remember reading one of the old muscle mags which contained an article titled something like, “You Don’t Get Big Arms from Doing Curls…” The conclusion to said article was, “…you get big arms from getting big all over.” That always stuck with me; turns out this broscience was legit.
17) You’ll Be Hitting Your Core
Squats recruit more muscles than any other exercise (300+ by some estimations)! While the lower body is doing the heaviest lifting, it is the midsection that must stabilize & balance strong forces that are constantly changing throughout the entire range of motion.
Remember when I mentioned I didn’t care for cardio? Confession #2: I rarely if ever work abs directly. Leg day just crossed another chore off my training list. 😉
18) You’ll Avoid Being Memed, “To the Shame”
You knew I had to mention this eventually, but it’s too big of a deal to ignore. The more upper body gains you make the bigger the target you become for a life altering leg day meme. The choice is clear: do your squats or never wear shorts again in public. A little weekly discomfort is a small price to pay to avoid suffering humiliations galore. (there is the setup…)
(↓…and here comes my quasi-recognizable Princess Bride movie reference…↓)
If you ignore my advice the first thing you will lose is your gains below the waist, then your pride. Next your bros. The next thing you lose is your dignity followed by your Instagram followers. But your internets you’ll keep and I’ll tell you why: so that every ROFL is yours to cherish. Every babe that giggles at your flat butt and pencil legs will echo through your perfect wifi connection. That is what “To The Shame” means. It means the internet leaves you memed, wallowing in freakish misery forever. 🏴☠️ (I watched too many movies growing up…sorry.)
Have fun storming the squat rack! 🏰
19) Develop Discipline & Build Character
If you continue to perform tasks that are difficult or unpleasant regularly & reliably, it can lead to the development of discipline in other areas of your life. These days, the only character most kids have ever built was in a World of Warcraft creation screen. In a society where the majority follow the path of least resistance, don’t be a cookie-cutter. One of the worst things you can be in this life is an unoriginal cookie-cutter just like everyone else. Thinking of getting some tattoos or piercings to be unique? Most people are already doing that. Be different. Embrace the pain; do squats.
20) Fix Your Weird Feet, Fix Your Gait
I guess I should explain myself as this point is a little cryptic. We are a society that sits entirely too much (I may have already mentioned this a time or three). People who sit too long tend to develop tight hip abductors. Muscle tightness in the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus & tensor fascia latae will cause the toes to angle outward when you walk. (This is kind of a big deal if you don’t want to walk like a penguin.) The solution is to strengthen the adductors of the inner thigh which are responsible for pulling the legs toward your centerline. I know hip adduction machines are typically viewed as a “girlie” equipment, but if you want to walk like a normal person you should strengthen these inside muscles in addition to stretching and foam rolling your glutes.
Contrariwise, if you are pigeon-toed with inwardly pointing feet you want to do the opposite of what is mentioned above. That is to say, you strengthen the abductors on the outside and stretch & roll the inner thighs.
Additionally, if you can manage to keep your toes straight ahead when you squat you will be reinforcing proper muscle balance. Being able to bend with toes straight head puts less stress on the knees and is thus another way lower body training can prevent injury.
21) You May Just Earn an Epic Nickname
So maybe I’m just reaching for an extra bullet point on this one, but with everybody & their grandmothers religiously training upper body it got me to thinking that there is a lot more competition for those nicknames.
By working your legs intensely & often you have the chance to earn an awesome nickname such as: Quadzilla, The Quadfather, Big Wheels, etc. The point is, if you skip leg day then half of these names are not only taken off the table, but could be replaced with loathsome labels like, Twig Legs, Bird Legs, Chopsticks, Don Flamingo, etc.
So here comes my parting thought…
Whenever bodybuilders & weightlifters talk about great legs, the name that most commonly comes up is that of Tom Platz. His legs were so legendary that he earned not one, but two unforgettable nicknames describing his massive quadriceps.
If we were to go back to ancient times and hear tales of mighty warriors and deeds of valor one couldn’t help but think of the name Achilles, who despite many heroic feats is best remembered for being vulnerable in his legs. His Achilles heel led to his downfall; perhaps Achilles simply skipped one leg day too many.
People will remember, so don’t skip leg day!