One of my favorite recent memes is ‘education is important but bigger biceps is importanter!’, obviously at CSN having spent decades between us studying training and nutrition we strongly disagree, we believe ‘education in important but bigger legs is importanter!’. This article will hopefully convince some of you who may skip leg day, or for those of you who already train legs, give you some newer insights as to why training legs should be an integral part of your workout schedule. First and foremost creating a balanced physique: Most of us have seen the ‘friends don’t let friends skip leg day’ meme (if you haven’t check it out!), if there’s one thing guaranteed to make you look ridiculous it’s a big upper body and no legs. Yes, we understand we live in a cold climate and we can hide in board shorts even in summer, but eventually one day someone you love will notice and you will become a source of ridicule for them. It will be also be a topic of conversation every time someone mentions your big biceps, chest and shoulders, one of your friends will be guaranteed to pipe up with ‘BUT look at his legs’, this can ruin you forever socially (ok this might be an exaggeration but you get the point)!
As well as this to other lifters, lack of leg development says one thing, and that thing is that you are afraid of hard work! Training legs is never fun, but to us that’s what makes it satisfying, every achievement worth having is down to hard work. Look around the gym, how many guys have big arms and chests, but when you see a guy with good ‘wheels’ it instantly earns respect from even the most dedicated, hard-core lifters. This also brings us onto the second reason to train legs, it develops mental toughness. Training legs every week, brutally and hard, pushes your body and most importantly your mind to places that you just don’t require to make other body parts grow, the energy demand, size of the muscles and amount of muscle fibers to be targeted causes this demand. I believe if you can master leg day, surviving it and eventually relishing in it develops a mental toughness that you can apply to other workouts and life in general. Remember this one rule.. ‘if it was easy everybody would do it’, and speaking for myself, not being like everyone else is one of the reasons I love bodybuilding and taking that dedication and ethos of hard work to other areas of your life will lead you to be successful in whatever endeavors you enter.
Right that’s the ego and the mind taken care of, well what about the health benefits. Using compound movements such as squats and dead lifts (ok we could argue dead lift is a back movement, depending on technique, but this is my house so my rules!), increases bone mineral density, it is one of the reasons why women in particular (apart from the obvious benefits that women who squat get, if you catch my drift) should lift weights, as they are prone to developing osteoporosis, and loading bones through weight training increases bone turnover, making them stronger and maintaining health into later life. Another added health benefit is that strengthening the muscles around the knee, hip and ankle allows for greater stability at these joints and in combination with other stability training, creates greater protection at these joints to respond to external, unwanted loads. This could be the potential difference between getting an injury or not when playing sports, from both contact injuries and non-contact injuries, such as landing from jumps. Having strong muscles in the legs is important for athletic performance, improving sprinting, jumping and in contact sports like rugby for tackling the opponent effectively, safely and erm… shall we say ‘firmly’.
What exercises are best?
Compound movements such as the squat and dead lift also recruit many muscle fibers in the core, including the abdominal, obliques and the erectors of the spine, this creates a strong healthy core which again helps protect the body from injury. But also promotes increased muscle growth in these sometimes difficult to target areas. As is the opinion of many weight training experts, the dead lift can be considered the king of exercises because it targets so many muscle groups, laying a great foundation to build a balanced and strong physique. Energy demand is something that may not have occurred to you as being important. But when trying to encourage others, or yourself, to lose weight hitting big muscle groups depletes muscle glycogen quickly and encourages higher metabolic activity to free up stored fat to be used as energy or replenish depleted glycogen stores. The development of these large muscle also means an increase in basal metabolic rate, in short the more muscle you have, the more energy you require, so in order to maintain healthy weight or lose body fat it seems silly to avoid training muscles that are guaranteed to have a massive positive impact on your metabolic rate.
So heavy squats and dead lifts?
Obviously we are not suggesting jumping in at the deep end doing sets of heavy squats and dead lifts, for these movements a basic level of strength and technique should be achieved before the weights get serious. Instructional videos are fine, but as a group of people at CSN who have had their fair share of training injuries, we advise getting some proper coaching to keep you healthy, remember we want the benefits without the risk of injury. On a final note, obviously those with serious injuries we won’t judge to harshly for skipping legs, however this in many situations can make the problem worse. Although fear of re-injury may inhibit a person’s ‘want’ to perform these movements, speaking to an experienced and appropriately qualified medical personnel should be able to guide you on the right path to use exercises that will develop muscle tissue, increase function and hopefully alleviate some if not all of the symptoms and functional limitations caused by you injury. I hope this guide has been useful, and given you good reasons to put leg training to the forefront of your training schedule, where it should be. If anything at least putting leg day at the front of your training agenda on a Monday, you won’t spend hours waiting for the bench press! [Tweet ""If anything at least putting leg day at the front of your training agenda on a Monday""] Peace, weights and protein shakes, Paul Rimmer (BSc, MSc) [wpsr_socialbts]