Time to bring on LEG DAY ladies, who is with me and who is ready to crush it in 2017?!
If you’re heading into the gym for the very first time to lift, or getting yourself ready for a new lifting routine this lower body workout will be great to get you started. I train lower body two times per week, since it is the largest muscle group it takes some time to recovery after a heavy lifting session. It’s important to allow a rest day in between leg days to give your muscles the chance to repair, which is where the muscle gains happen. It’s also crucial to drink an AMINO ACID drink or BCAA drink to help with repair and recovery. I sip on this during and after all of my lifting routines and it has helped a tone in muscle soreness and recovery. My favorites are RSP Nutrition Re-Gen in Lemon Lime and BodyTech Critical Aminos.
Leg Day is my favorite day for a few reason:
- I am pretty petite and when I started lifting I had no curves at all. My butt was non existent and I was so skinny and frail. It was my goal to gain muscle and build a booty. Through heavy lifting and strength training I am proud of what I’ve gained but my driving force for leg day is always to get bigger legs and butt.
- It’s so challenging and there is no better feeling than being able to squat more and more weight every few weeks. It’s immediate gratification that the hard work you are putting in is working.
- There’s a bad ass feeling to walking into the squat rack and being able to load plates and squat the crap out of them.
- Feeling sore after just makes me feel like I am working hard toward my goals. By sore I don’t mean pain sore where I’ve hurt myself, but the sore you feel when you’ve broken down your muscle fibers from good, proper lifting
- You burn so many calories on a heavy leg day and when I used to wear a Polar Watch I loved seeing how much I was burning and how intense my workouts were on leg day. Some days I would burn 550 calories just from an hour of lifting
When it comes to leg day I train a few different ways. Some days I work with free weights like kettle bells, dumb bells, step up boxes, barbells and resistance bands. Those are the days I want to lift and focus on mind/muscle connection, get a bit more HIIT training in for calorie burn, and do lots of reps. I can grab all the equipment I need and go to a private area of the gym and just put my head phones on and train.
Then there are days I work with machines. Those are the days I want to do some super sets and bounce around the gym. Some machines are just better to isolate different areas of the lower body like the hip abductor machine which I love! I also love using the leg press and squat machines to just give me some variations. Some times I like to find different ways to use machines to target my glutes, hamstrings or quads.
And then there are my heaviest lifting days where it is all about high weight and low reps. I focus on big compound movements like back squats, front squats, dead lifts and lunges. A lot of the time I prefer to use the squat rack, but if it is full I put a bench under the Smith Machine and just do some pause squats. This allows me to lift heavy, sit and then drive up with my heels.
For me the biggest and most important lesson I’ve learned on leg day is FORM FORM FORM. There is no reason to increase your weight until you nail proper form. Not only to make sure you are hitting the right muscles, but to prevent injury. I can’t tell you how many people I see in the gym doing super heavy weight and using improper form and I just think to myself “wow they are going to be hurting tomorrow.” When it comes to squats and dead lifts there is so many things that you can do wrong with form that it’s crucial to learn how it feels to do the movement the right way before you add weight. I always like to look in the mirror and even film myself so I can see if I’m holding the form properly throughout the entire movement.
When I was younger I was a cheerleader and in my high school days I injured myself really badly with an over stretched hamstring stunt. I was unable to walk properly for weeks and it never healed properly. Fast forward ten years late in a yoga class I realized I couldn’t touch my toes and was in agony. I wound up having so much left over scar tissue that I had so much trouble doing dead lifts properly because every time I would stretch my hamstrings it would burn and hurt so bad. It took me one year of stretching and physical therapy to get my hamstring to stretch out. The point is, it was so important to me to take the time to land the proper form, even if it meant I had to lift light for awhile to get my hamstrings to stretch and feel good in the movement. If you lower back or hamstring tightness there are variations you can do, but never push yourself to where it hurts; ever!
Am I where I want to be yet with my lower body goals? No, but when I look back to where I was when I started I am pretty happy with my gains thus far. For me the hardest part is balancing wanting to gain lower body muscle and curves, but not have my quads explode and get too big too fast – which happens when I lift heavy. For that reason I make sure to focus on glute exercises and a bit less on quad exercises. I also prefer front squats to back squats since they focus a bit more on the glutes and a little less on my quads. Overall, it takes time and practice but here is a list of my favorite leg day exercises you can add to your workout programs:
- Stiff leg dead lifts
- Romanian dead lifts
- Front squats
- Back squats
- Walking lunges
- Hip abductor machine
- Leg Press
- Cable kick backs
- Goblet squats
- Box step ups
- Side lunges
- Reverse Lunges
- Kneeling squats
Some YouTube Videos to help you with leg day workouts: