Gym goers consider leg days to be the hardest in their workout schedule. It can be akin to Monday blues in some, while there are a few who are outrightly intimidated by the daunting prospect of lifting weight on the shoulders and squatting or lunging with it. It is a fact that people skip exercises for the legs compared to any other body part. No wonder that the most given and taken advice in the gym world is ‘do not skip leg days’.
What happens when one avoids working out the legs?
Moving about with weak leg muscles is the obvious and first consequence. They make one susceptible to injuries and in the long run, lead to postural issues. It can even lead to weakening of the upper body muscles, experts say.
However, despite being aware of the consequences, people tend to omit leg day from their repertoire.
“Legs are the foundation of the whole body,” says Bhupendra Dalal, a fitness trainer from Delhi. “If the foundation is weak then how will a building stand? The human body is like a building. If the leg muscles are not strengthened, then at one point in time it will be unable to bear the weight of the upper body. This can lead to injuries.”
Why do people skip leg days?
“One of the major reasons for this is that the majority of workouts for leg muscles are compound exercises which require a high amount of energy when compared with exercises for other body parts,” says Lalit Kumar, a fitness expert based in Noida. “Secondly, the soreness caused in the leg muscles is also a bit hard to bear. And people are unable to tolerate this soreness which is felt even while doing simple activities like walking or climbing the stairs.”
Aesthetics, or people’s idea of a beautiful physique has a role to play too. People love to flex their muscles. And, when it comes to showboating, the lower body muscles are at the bottom of the pyramid.
“As compared to the upper body, lower body muscles are hard to develop,” says Kumar. “Also, these sets of muscles are not easily visible at the time of flexing when compared to muscles like the biceps, triceps or the ones in the back region.”
Consequence of skipping leg days
Weak lower body muscles directly lead to postural issues and related injuries.
“If leg muscles are ignored then, one may develop injury to the lower back, the knees and the ankle,” says Kumar. The hamstrings and quadriceps muscles play an important role in supporting the body, so if they don’t have the required strength, then it is inviting trouble when being physically active.”
It affects physical performance, not just while exercising or playing sport but over time, it will affect daily activities and lifestyle too.
Leg exercises and burning of calories
Most of the leg workouts are compound exercises. They engage muscles in other regions, and influence upper body strength as well as calorie consumption.
“In exercises like squats, deadlift and lunges, multiple muscle groups and joints participate,” says Dalal. “This directly influences the strength of upper body muscles, and it also helps in prevention of injuries while doing upper body exercises.”
Another aspect is the strengthening of the core muscles. Dalal stresses that exercises for legs strengthen the core too since the core is engaged while doing most of them. One need not elaborate on the importance of a strong core in stabilizing the body.
“Calories consumed during leg workouts are also high, so it helps in fat loss,” adds Dalal. “For those who are into activities like running, walking, or playing sports like cricket or badminton, leg exercises are very important. Strong leg muscles are directly related to strength and endurance in sports performance.”
Leg exercise and growth hormones
Exercise stimulates the release of growth hormones and testosterone in the body. Leg exercises are known to trigger the release of these hormones in a higher amount, which benefits muscle hypertrophy.
As per a 2021 research paper by Johan Jakobsson et al., growth hormone, testosterone and bioavailable testosterone was recorded to have increased in the two groups who were subjected to different types of lower body resistance training protocols.
So, next time you think of skipping leg workouts, think again. It can have a detrimental impact on those biceps and pectorals. And a small flip in the schedule might do the trick, if it is fatigue that’s been the impediment between you and squats.
The common practice is to have a leg day at the end of the week. However, keeping it at the start or midweek works better, say experts. One is relatively fresher and sans the stiffness that accompanies four or five days of lifting.
- Many gym goers skip leg day and avoiding lower body exercises leads to postural issues as well as increases the chances of injury to the lower back, knee and ankle.
- Leg exercises not only strengthens the lower body muscles, but it also provides strength and conditioning to the upper body as well.
- Strengthening leg muscles also helps in improving strength and endurance needed for sports performance, and daily chores.