Written by Ben Prinsloo
Don’t Skip Leg Day, Try This!
The moment after completing a leg workout consists of a very satisfying feeling. One feels achieved, and proud, that they managed to put themselves through arguably the hardest gym day. Leg day involves some big muscles and some big movements. The result is that it is a particularly taxing endeavour.
Not only does the biggest volume of muscle get torn up, but your central nervous system takes a whack from the big compound movements that you should go through. It’s no wonder then, that “leg day” is such an elusive occurrence – if you are predisposed to being lazy, it’s very difficult to motivate yourself to do it. Over the years, however, I have picked up a few tricks for making it easier to motivate myself for leg day, get through leg day, and get a quality workout.
#1 Spread It Over Multiple Days
This first trick is controversial. Some people say the leg muscles should all be worked sufficiently on the same day. I disagree. I think you can work them on the same day, but I prefer not to. The three main muscles in the leg day are the quads, hamstrings, and calves, and in some cases the glutes. I see glutes getting worked sufficiently by quad exercises, so I don’t isolate the glutes, but some people might need to, depending on their body or their goals.
Nonetheless, the quads, hamstrings, and calves can be split over your week – I do quads with shoulders, hamstrings with back, and calves with the chest. Because my workout cycle is only three days, this means every day is leg day. Despite this excessive state of being, I am isolating each muscle in the leg, while the others rest, so it’s not as if I am doing squats every day. This makes the leg workouts easier because there are less demanding exercises to do, it makes the workouts more efficient. Further, because I have fewer muscles to focus on, more focus is placed on the leg muscles of the day, and because I am looking forward to that shoulder pump, I’m keen to hit the gym despite my first exercise being a squat.
#2 Find Ways To Enjoy Leg Day
If you don’t enjoy it, you probably aren’t doing it well. It helps to make it an enjoyable experience because you look forward to it before it happens, which helps with motivation. Also, if you enjoy it while you do it, your focus and energy keep up. How you enjoy it depends on what makes you tick. In some cases, it simply means wearing a pair of shorts to see that pump. In other cases, lifting heavier with low reps, or lifting lighter with higher reps is a fun experience.
The other option is to do it with a friend. Make sure the friend wants leg day as bad as you do because you don’t want to demotivate each other. Of course, if none of that works, there is always classical conditioning – make your cheat meal the meal after your leg workout. At least that way you will associate leg day with a pizza, or ice-cream, and that pizza or ice-cream will taste so much better knowing what you went through to get it.
#3 Carbs & Pre-Workout
Of course for some people, this goes without saying. As someone who eats low-carb most of the time, and does not use pre-workout religiously, having a high carb day, and a good serving of pre-workout before leg day can make a big difference. As pointed out earlier, leg day is one of the most strenuous days, so having access to extra energy, whether through carbohydrates or caffeine makes the workout a lot better, and a lot easier to get through. Myprotein has some great options for this, otherwise, a classic coffee can always help!
#4 Structure Your Timetable
Making leg day, or squat day, your first workout of the week means you get it done. When it’s at the end of the week, and you’re tired, it is very easy to just decide to give it a miss. Making it your first workout means it gets done, and you’re satisfied for the rest of the week.
The other side to this is to make leg day early in the day. Some studies have found that weight training yields the best results when done late in the day or a couple of hours before sleep. I can believe this because sleep means your body quickly gets to work on repairing the damage done after your squats. That being said, I think this makes a minor difference, and if working out in the morning guarantees that you will actually get the workout in for the day, the trade-off is worth it. So it also helps in the prevention of skipping leg day by making it early in the day – enjoy your Monday mornings!
Leg day ought to be the most important day. The bulk of power and strength lies in your lower body, and the best way to stimulate strength gains in your body (for your whole body) is through your legs. You would find that an increase in strength in your legs has the effect of a gain in strength in your upper body, and the same is not true on the reverse.
Of course, there are those who have very responsive legs, and for their own reasons, they need to calm it on their legs and bring up their upper body a bit – if you are one of those blessed individuals, of course, this does not apply to you. However, if you are not, and if you don’t already, try and put a priority on your leg day, and hopefully some of these tips can help you in achieving your goals, and getting you through what can be a very epic workout.