If you regularly go to the gym for training, you have probably noticed that three-quarters of your fellow users are concentrating on their upper body, and neglecting their legs. You may even be one of them, but this is actually a big mistake. Here are 12 reasons why you should never skip leg day.
1. It Keeps You in Proportion
The reason you focus on your upper body may be that you believe it’s the muscular abs, chest and arms that make you look good, and this is what you usually see in the mirror. On the contrary, however, having a bulging upper half over spindly legs will actually make you look ridiculous, and this is what other people see when they look at you on the beach. The first requirement for looking good is a proportional body.
2. It Prevents Injuries
More seriously, a bulging upper body on top of feeble legs is dangerous. In fact, to keep you in proportion, your lower body needs to be twice as strong as your upper body, so having your legs weaker than your upper body could make you prone to injury. On the other hand, leg exercises like squats and lunges promote stability in your leg joints, which is the best way to prevent cartilage and ligament injuries.
3. An Attractive Backside
If you are really concerned about how you look, you need to remember that for most girls, as many studies have shown, a guy’s backside is one of his most attractive features. All leg exercises target the gluteal muscles (gluteus minimus, gluteus medius and gluteus maximus), which are the muscles in your posterior. So this is the best way to make sure you have a tighter and more shapely back end.
4. Increase Your Strength
On the other hand, if strength is your priority, leg exercises really are what you need. This is because lower body exercises engage the core muscles of your body, which is where your strength actually comes from. Your body can be compared to a tree, with the core as the trunk — it’s no good the tree having strong branches if the trunk is weak. It’s a fallacy that to be able to carry heavy shopping bags, or to push a car, you primarily need strong arms — you lift things primarily with your leg and back muscles.
5. Develop Your Abs
Many people who do strength training covet a taut, lean mid-section, and they think that abdominal workouts are the way to achieve this. However, crunches and sit-ups actually have little effect on abdominal muscles, or on the fat around the midriff. It is by doing squats and deadlifts that you make your abdominal muscles work harder.
6. Build Muscles
If you are honest, you probably really fancy the idea of having a muscular body with rippling pecs, biceps and triceps. If you really want to build your muscle mass, leg training, not upper body training, is the way to do it. What builds muscle is the release of growth hormone and testosterone, and squats and deadlifts release these hormones more than any other exercise. This is because they target some of the largest muscles in your body, and the bigger the muscle, the more of these hormones is needed to repair them — and, of course, the release of the hormones benefits the muscles all over your body, not just in your legs.
7. Burn Fat
There is no more effective way to burn fat than developing your muscle mass. The more you work your muscles, the more fuel they need for recovery, and the fuel they burn is fat. As the leg muscles are bigger, they will burn more fat, and the fat comes from all over your body, not just from the legs.
8. Boost Your Metabolism
Not only will you burn more fat, but you will burn it faster, by increasing your metabolism. Working your biggest muscles in multi-joint exercises like lunges, deadlifts and squats will require more hard effort from your brain and heart, and, as it were, get your engine revving at a faster rate. And working these big muscles takes more energy, which burns more calories.
9. Eat What You Like
As well as boosting your metabolism, working these big muscles also increases your insulin sensitivity. This means that your insulin deals more efficiently with blood sugars, even from fast-releasing carbohydrates. So if you crave a burger and fries, or a big bar of chocolate, after your workout, you can go ahead and enjoy it without feeling guilty, and you know it won’t be stored as fat.
10. Increase Cardio Fitness
In working to increase your strength, you must not neglect your heart, which influences your overall fitness — remember that your heart is a muscle too. Your body has a range of muscle fiber, or cell, types, from slow-twitch through to fast-twitch, and the fast-twitch fibers you activate through your squats and deadlifts are the most effective in improving your cardiovascular health, as they clear out plaque in your arteries. Working these fibers can give you an intense anaerobic workout that seriously pushes your cardio fitness.
11. Improve Your Balance
Balance is important for maintaining control of your body, not only when taking part in sport, but in ordinary situations like encountering a patch of ice on the sidewalk. Strong biceps will not help you there, but a strong lower body just might. Exercises like deadlifts and side lunges increase your stability, balance and equilibrium, and improve your proprioception — that is, your sense of spatial orientation.
12. Mental as Well as Physical Strength
Training your legs is both physically and mentally hard — that is probably the real reason why most people don’t do it. Doing the heavy squats and deadlifts requires serious willpower, and the day after the workout is equally painful, because of the sheer effort of walking around. This is why sticking with it really builds character and mental endurance.
In fact, you can see that strengthening your legs will make you a better person all round. You can be more good-looking, mentally tougher, more attractive to the girls, and healthier, just for deciding that you must never skip leg day again. All that effort will seem well worthwhile when you realize how good your life is.