Intro to Leg Day
Most guys don’t think to train their legs. If they do, it’s as a distant afterthought to their chest and arm training. But how can you be truly strong if your legs are weak? Leg injuries can really detract from the quality of your life. Keep your legs strong and healthy and they will be less prone to injury. In other words, don’t skip leg day. Read on to see how you can get strong and muscular legs.
Exercises for leg day
- Squat. The squat is the king of exercises. If you do only one exercise on this list - if you do only one exercise, period - it should be the squat. Squats should be performed with a barbell in a squat rack, not a smith machine. Focus on form. Partially squatting 500lbs won’t do nearly as much as squatting 250lbs to proper depth.
- Lunge. Lunges are not only great for developing strong legs. They also develop mobility, flexibility and balance. Lunges can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, you name it.
- Leg press. While novices often confuse the leg press for the squat, and while squatters often dismiss the leg press as the inferior version of the two, this exercise earns its place in a serious leg day routine. The leg press, which targets the quadriceps muscles, is a good complement to the traditional barbell back squat, which focuses more on the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings).
- Calf raises. Calves are notoriously hard to build. Calf raises are the most direct solution to the problem. Unlike most of the exercises on this list, calf raises are the one that really benefit from higher reps.
Programming leg day
Do this routine once a week, or once every five days if you can:
- Squat 3x5
- Leg press 3x5
- Lunges 3x5
- Calf raises 3x10
The squat should be the centerpiece of any respectable leg day. That said, the squat has some interesting variations that should be considered, which from time to time can take the place of the traditional squat in a given lifting cycle. One awesome variation is the front squat. It calls for a more vertical spinal position, which can eliminate stress on the back. This can be really helpful for people dealing with back injuries. The different position also hits the quads more and the posterior less.
Another squat variation to try is the pause squat. Pause at the bottom of the movement - “in the hole” - for 3, 5, or 7 seconds on each rep. Pause squats help you develop proper depth and explosive power. These are very hard, so make sure to reduce your normal work weight by as much as 50%.