I have had the experience of observing many people training in gyms over the years. A common trend I see in many gym goers is doing minimal leg work or even worse none at all. The most ridiculous manifestation of this phenomenon is the guys who look like this.
There are many reasons that men and women avoid leg training. For some people it is a fear of squats and deadlifts (and all their variants), either because they don’t know how to do them or think they look too difficult.
Many guys only do ‘mirror muscle’ upper body work, because they mistakenly think the opposite sex (or their own sex) is most attracted to developed abs, pecs and biceps.
Also, many women avoid leg training, because they mistakenly think they will end up with big, bulky legs. Heavy leg training will actually sculpt your legs far better than most other forms of exercise.
So why is it so important to train legs?
Although there are a few exceptions, if you play sport then leg strength will play a large part in determining how good you are and how fit you will stay. If you jump, sprint, change direction or are trying to strike a ball, then having strong leg muscles will make you faster and more explosive. Leg training also improves your balance and your mobility.
This leads us nicely on to the next benefit of training legs and that is a reduced risk of injury, either during training or in life in general. For example, a common cause of knee injuries and lack of stability at this joint is weak hamstrings and glutes, as they play a major role in stabilising your knee joint. Strengthening these muscles can not only improve your performance, but keep you playing more regularly and for longer. Additionally, many regular runners neglect strength training legs to their detriment, increasing their risk of injury.
The glutes and hamstrings also play an important role in protecting your back. A common source of back pain is sitting all day. If you couple that with little exercise, then your hip flexor muscles (those at the front of your hips) will be tight and your hamstrings will be weak. Stretching your hip flexors and strengthening your hamstrings and glutes will reduce the likelihood of developing back pain or it recurring.
If you are looking to lose weight, then performing compound leg exercises that use your whole body will burn more calories than isolation exercises that involve using less muscle. This can help you achieve a calorie deficit much easier.
As you build more muscle you will also raise your metabolic rate. Strength training increases your metabolic rate more than any other type of activity.
Even if you don’t play sport, leg strength can still play an important role in everyday life. Carrying children or groceries, moving furniture or a host of other daily activities all become much easier and safer when you have been used to squatting and hinging properly at your hips.
There is much nonsense talked about ‘Functional Training’, but what could be more functional than being able to get up and down off a chair, or the toilet. It pains me to see so many elderly people who can’t perform these basic functions or are unable to walk unaided. Muscles quickly atrophy when not used, and this process is accelerated even more in the elderly.
Regular leg exercise, especially strength exercises can improve performance in life in many areas, but most importantly can keep you fit and healthy, and not only improve the quality of your life , but even extend your life.
Don’t skip leg exercises at the gym, they should form the core of what you do.