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How to get the most out of your leg day workout

You should never avoid doing leg workouts if you really want to be fit. Here are a few ways you can make them more fun and effective

Always exercise your legs.
Always exercise your legs. (Istockphoto)

Leg days should not be skipped. Whether you are lifting, doing mobility work, or running, exercising the legs is the foundation of any fitness journey. The most popular workout split—the ‘push-pull-legs’—already allows for two leg days in the space of a week, but most people would choose to do just one because of the idea of pain attached to the concept of leg day.

Well, leg day need not be brutal, and it doesn’t all have to be done in one day at the gym. One smart way to approach it is to split the split into two leg days, allowing the body more time to recover. Doing this also allows all the muscle groups in the lower body to get more attention. The best part about breaking down leg day across your workout week is that there are no set rules. 

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But there are some basic concepts that can make your decision easy. While it comes with experience and knowing your body, a general template could be choosing between doing a quad-focussed day, a hamstring-focussed day or a glute-focussed day. You can also choose to switch between compound lifts: If you are squatting on one day, then focus on the leg press on another and deadlifts on the third. 

I find doing hamstrings on pulling day and leg press on push day works for me. My third day will focus on squats, knee stability, lunges, and hips. Choose any two days to hit the calves as well. The calves are extremely important to overall health, as I had explained in an earlier Lounge Fitness article titled Why You Need To Build Big And Strong Calf Muscles

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Training legs more frequently is not just about the mental comfort or the toughness of working the lower body. “There is science attached to the idea. Squatting, leg pressing, and deadlifting elevate your testosterone and growth hormone levels more so than lateral raises and bicep curls. That elevated testosterone and GH level then leads to faster recovery and more potential for systemic growth. The research is clear and leads to an all too obvious conclusion: If size matters, you need to train legs more often,” states a article titled Why You Need To Have More Leg Days

One thing to keep in mind before getting into the groove of more frequent leg days is to do isolation and activation exercises before moving on to the bigger lifts. It is an excellent idea to add some explosive movements to the workouts as well. You could skip 100 times after a heavy set of calf raises and do some jumping squats after a set of barbell squats. The lower body has so many muscles, and playing with combinations can make the workouts more fun than stressful. 

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While researching different splits to fit in an extra leg day, I came across experienced scuba diver and adventurer Adrienne Jordan’s website, where she lists a couple of splits which you could start using. 

Monday: leg day; Tuesday: upper-body workout; Wednesday: conditioning or rest day; Thursday: upper-body workout; Friday: leg day; Saturday: conditioning and cardio;Sunday: rest day

Another interesting split on Reddit page r/naturalbodybuilding also lists down the exercises to spread across two leg days. Leg day one would consist of barbell squats, lying leg curls, reverse deficit lunges, seated calf raises and leg extensions. Leg day two would be: barbell Romanian deadlifts, leg press, hip thrusts, standing calf raises and seated leg curls.

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It’s valid to wonder if one can do legs on back-to-back days. There is a research paper titled Effects of Consecutive Versus Non-consecutive Days Of Resistance Training On Strength, Body Composition, And Red Blood Cells, which proves that total weekly rest is more important than rest between two days when you target muscles in the same area. But one has to take care of other things first, before attempting to train legs two days in a row. 

“Eating enough calories, getting enough sleep, and finding ways to manage stress in your daily life can all go a long way towards making it easier for you to train your legs on consecutive days,” states a article, Can You Workout Legs 2 Days In A Row? (Pros & Cons). This might not be possible for those who don’t live the athletic life, so splitting the two days over a week is more feasible. 

While doing leg workouts more frequently also improves the body’s protein synthesis, only do so if you are not extremely sore or carrying a lower body injury, or a back problem. A lot of leg exercise will also work the upper body, so take precaution and once fit, try and get in a couple of fresh lower body workouts within the split. 

Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator, podcaster and writer.

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