This week’s blog post is the ultimate guide to leg day training. In this post, I am going to go over every detail regarding leg day training from the types of exercises one should choose to the benefits of training this large muscle group! From health to aesthetic benefits, one really should not skip leg day and miss these life-changing rewards.
First, what is the lower body?
The lower body consists of our hips, quadriceps, adductors, glutes, hamstrings and calves. The two largest muscles in our bodies are the quadriceps and glutes.
What are each of these muscles’ functions?
The glutes are the largest and heaviest muscles in our bodies. They aid with movements like hip stability and strength while doing activities like walking, jumping, sprinting and weight-lifting. The glutes are composed of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and the tensor fasciae latae.
These create the entire muscle and can be trained to grow and become the centerpiece of an aesthetic-looking physique.
The glutes function by moving in different planes such as extending the hip, externally and internally rotating and abducting. Strong glutes are essential for promoting longevity, reducing our chance of lifestyle related diseases, and even just to walk, stand and climb the stairs with greater ease (Gutman, 2021).
It is therefore imperative that one trains their glutes on a regular basis in order to reap these benefits! Other benefits of training our glutes are improved posture, preventing injury, aestheticism and athletic performance.
The adductors are also known as the inner thigh muscles. Its function is in adducting the thigh (having it move towards the body).
They also stabilize our pelvis and extends our hips during the back squat and deadlift. (Gutman, 2021)
The hamstrings muscles start at the hips and run down down through our thighs.
The hamstrings fulfill the functions of hip extension, extension, and stabilizing the knee. It is worked during most lower body exercises including the squat, deadlift, lunges, etc.
“If you’re training the lower body, they are involved in one way or another, even if you are not dynamically flexing and extending at the hip or knee (Gutman, 2021).”
Quadriceps help us in functions like kicking, jumping, cycling and running. They are our thigh muscles.
In everyday life, the quadriceps helps us get up from a chair, walk, climb stairs and squat (Physiopedia, 2022)
The calf muscle is is made of both the gastrocnemius and the soleus muscles.
It is responsible for pulling the heel up during walking, running or jumping therefore allowing movement to occur.
What are the benefits of training our legs?
There are numerous benefits of training our legs. They are the largest group in the body and can handle way more intensity and stress than our upper bodies. The benefits of training our legs range from aesthetic, health and performance.
These benefits include:
Symmetrical and proportional proportion
Greater overall muscle growth
Reduction in body fat and improved metabolism
Tones and sculpts legs
Improved mobility, stability and range of motion (“A firm, solid base will give you more stability, which in turn enhances your mobility, range of motion, and coordination (Healthline, 2020).”)
Engages core (“Lower-body muscles create a strong, stable foundation. Rooting your lower body into the ground helps to create resistance that travels upward into your core and upper body (Healthline, 2020).”)
Increased mental strength
Increase athleticism in other sports (“Leg workouts engage the major muscle groups of your body, which helps to improve overall athletic performance and support healthy movement patterns in your daily life (Healthline, 2020).”)
Reduces joint pain
Prevents injuries and lifestyle related diseases (“A strong lower body will also help to prevent injury and manage chronic conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes (Healthline, 2020).”)
Stimulates hormones (“Leg workouts can stimulate the release of large amounts of hormones. Working your legs helps to produce hormones such as cortisol, testosterone, and human growth hormone (HGH)(Healthline, 2020).”)
What are the benefits of stimulating our hormones? “Cortisol helps your body to respond to stress and increase fat metabolism. Testosterone helps your body to repair damaged muscle proteins and build skeletal muscle. HGH promotes muscle growth, boosts immunity, and boosts fat metabolism (Healthline, 2020).”
b) What are the Best Leg/Glutes Exercises?
Below are the exercises that target and grow our lower body muscles. Make sure to perform these exercises for 3-4 sets ranging from 5-20 repetitions.
Quadriceps, hamstrings, adductor, calves:
Bulgarian Split Squat
Nordic Hamstring Curl
Landmine Goblet Squat
Seated Leg Curl
Lying Leg Curl
Standing Calf Raise
Check out this article for the benefits of each of these leg exercises.
Here are the best exercises for the glutes:
Barbell Hip Thrust
Modified Curtsy Lunge
Cable Glute Kickback
Legs and Glutes Workouts:
The next section is dedicated for legs and glutes workouts that you can follow both at the gym and at home. Make sure to stay consistent with these workouts in order to reap maximum rewards!
Hamstrings focussed leg day workout:
Quadriceps Focussed Leg Day Workout:
Strong Legs and Glutes Workout:
Thick Legs Workout:
Band Only Glutes workout:
Leg Day Gym Workout:
6 Exercises for Hamstrings and Glutes:
4 Exercises for Bigger Glutes/Quadriceps:
What are the benefits of these exercises?
The exercises on this list can result in stronger legs and glutes as well as provide the aesthetic, health and performance-based benefits listed above. The squat for instance can activate the entire central nervous system and activate muscles in the entire body.
This makes it a noteworthy compound movement not to skip! “Working your glutes, quads, and hamstrings with exercises such as deadlifts, squats, and lunges helps to maximize and boost athletic performance (Healthline.com, 2020).”
The squat also recruits most of the body’s muscle fibers and utilizes them all at once. “The squat will activate muscle fibers within the quads, hamstrings, glutes, adductors, abductors, abs, lower back, and to a smaller extent the calves. So with just one set of squats, you can activate not only the muscles stimulated with the adductor machine, but many more to go along with it. Considering this point alone, it’s easy to see why focusing a program on an exercise such as squats could be beneficial for a female trying to improve her lower body (Pardue, 2020).”
5 Ways to Improve our Back Squat:
Cardio exercises for building glutes:
Incline walk on the treadmill at a steady state
Rotational and Diagonal
Check out this article on movement patterns for more information on this subject!
What is progressive overload?
Progressive overload means being able to handle more weight/develop our physiques over time. It is a process whereby we should aim to get stronger over time in order for our bodies to adapt to the increased intensity/volume/tempo/load.
Why is it important?
Understanding progressive overload will allow you to better understand the principles required to build muscle. Primarily involved in this process is the concept of body adaptations. Simply, the stronger you get, the more your body adapts to the stimulus. Aiming to get stronger in a myriad of ways over time is going to lead to body adaptations for the process of hypertrophy and overall muscle development.
Ways to Achieve Progressive Overload:
Aim to increase the weight, reps, sets, tempo, intensity or volume every week on the same lifts. You can also increase your training frequency and/or decrease your rest periods.
Check out this website for more methods to achieve this process.
Check out 6 Ways You Can Add Intensity To Your Workouts:
Check out this video for 5 Benefits of Training our Lower Bodies:
In conclusion, our legs are a huge and important part of our bodies and are responsible for many of the movements that we do in our daily lives. The benefits of training our legs can be an improvement in the areas of aesthetics, health and performance.
In this post are the functions and benefits of the leg day exercises as well as the workouts needed to grow and strengthen them.
I hope that you enjoyed this ultimate guide to leg day training, please let me know what you thought about it in the comments section below!