The importance of leg day cannot be emphasized enough, yet it is often dreaded, or worse, skipped altogether. Upper body workouts are generally favored over lower body exercises because they tend to take less energy, the muscles are smaller and have countless movements one can execute to build them, and especially for men, having a toned, strong upper body is important for their physical appearance. The muscles in our lower body, such as glutes, quads and hamstrings, are crucial for our overall health and wellbeing. Here are a few reasons why we should take more time to focus on leg work along with a few exercises you can incorporate into your routine.
Let’s be honest, there are a lot of us out there who may have started focusing more on their leg workouts with a main focus on the booty, and this is not just the ladies.
Nothing is wrong with that; having a reason behind what we do is important for us to find our motivation and stay consistent even when we feel like quitting. A perky backside is not the only benefit of strong glutes though; consider the daily activities in which we find ourselves that profit from strong glutes–using the stairs at home or work, sitting down or standing up from a chair, all of which are very basic yet essential to daily function. If you don’t think you use your glutes much, build a workout that targets the glutes and see how much you feel it while going about those simple, daily activities.
Glutes are not always the main focus, however; there are many other muscle groups in our lower body that are fundamental to our physical health and injury prevention. Quads, hamstrings and calves are also all vital to maintaining a strong and stable lower body. By preserving your strength in your legs, you are setting yourself up for less injuries in the future. Consider a time when you picked up something a bit heavy, maybe moving boxes, furniture while rearranging the house, or a sleeping child, and didn’t engage your legs and core before standing up, I’m sure the sharp pain that went through your back is not a fond memory.
Not everyone has two hours a day to dedicate to the gym, which is why incorporating compound lifts can be highly beneficial, not only to save time, but also to burn fat more quickly and work more than one muscle group at a time. Deadlifts are an exercise in which you will engage core, hamstrings, glutes and even the back muscles all in one swift movement. Be sure to set up and execute with care to ensure safety, this includes keeping your hips low, shoulder blades back and chest up. There are countless videos on how to safely set up and execute a deadlift, so never be afraid to check them out to get the most out of your lift.
Another exercise that is beneficial to obtaining a strong lower body is split squats, or sometimes called standing lunges. This exercise is relatively safe not only because you can isolate each leg and not load weights on your back, but also because it is simple to set up which is why it is more popular. Remember to keep your feet hip-width apart, shoulders over hips, front knee over the ankle, and back knee under your hip for the most effective movement. Split squats are beneficial because they focus on various muscles in the lower body as well, including hamstrings, glutes, and a little bit of the quads. If your focus is hamstrings and glutes, try to press through the front heel instead of putting most of your weight on the ball of your foot.
Building lower body strength takes time, dedication and grit, but it is worth the sacrifice. Not only does developing and maintaining strength in your lower body provide extra confidence, but it also helps promote decades of strong bones, less injury, more stability, and overall better function for daily life. It’s more than aesthetics. It’s power, it’s strength, it’s a way of life.