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We frequently hear the phrase “Don’t skip leg day” when discussing workouts. This is because, more often than not, those who exercise neglect leg workouts and focus more on upper body work. Training the legs is absolutely vital, especially when one wants to achieve a balanced fitness routine, as it can help build muscle in the lower body. When you don’t do a leg workout, you end up creating a top-heavy asymmetric physique and you also increase your risk of injury.
A leg day workout a couple of times a week can help you attain a symmetrical, well-proportioned physique. You also improve your lower body strength, mobility, and stability. Additionally, you also enhance your balance, burn more calories, increase mass, and improve your overall foundation. If you’ve been skipping your leg day workout, this is your sign to start doing them now.
What is Leg Day?
Leg day has a pretty straightforward meaning: it’s any day in your week where the primary focus of your workout is to improve strength, endurance, or motor control of the lower extremity muscles. In short, during leg day, you may still do some upper body exercise but your main objective is to work your lower body.
The four major muscles you work on leg day are the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. Aside from those main muscle groups, a leg workout also involves improving your core and back muscles.
How Can I Exercise My Legs While Sitting at My Desk?
Do you find yourself unable to move away from your work desk? Are you too busy to get in some hours at the gym? Don’t worry, you can still do leg workouts even if you’re in front of your computer! Doing any of these leg workouts not only ensures that you get your leg day done but can also help you avoid developing stiff leg muscles or varicose veins. These lower body moves are also pretty straightforward, you don’t have to worry about disturbing your co-workers while doing them. Try them out!
While sitting at your desk, keep one foot on the floor and raise your other leg straight out in front of you. Make sure that the straightened leg is parallel to the floor. Hold for five seconds, then lower it. Repeat the motions with your other leg. Continue until you’ve raised each leg 10 times. You can also make this exercise challenging by tracing a circle with your toes while your leg is lifted.
Sit up straight in your chair with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart. Look straight ahead and contract your thigh muscles. Extend one leg as high as possible without raising your buttocks off your chair. Pause, then lower your feet back on the ground. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 reps for each leg.
Press your feet firmly on the floor with your legs positioned at a 90-degree angle. Lift both of your heels off the floor, lower them, and then lift both toes off the floor. Pull them towards your shins. Try to keep a steady rocking motion going. You can also alternate your feet by raising the toes of one foot while raising the heels of your other foot.
Before doing this exercise, make sure that your chair is one that won’t roll backward underneath you. To do this, stand up from your chair and put your hands on your thighs for balance. Keep your core engaged and your knees over your feet to hold the proper form. Slowly lower towards your chair, hovering over your seat until you feel the squat in your glutes. Lower yourself back down on your chair. Repeat about 12 times.
Sit on the edge of your chair with your legs straight out in front of you. Slowly lower your chest towards your thighs. Hold for about 10 seconds, and then slowly lift your chest back up.
Great Lower Body Stretch
Getting up from your desk to stretch once in a while is a great idea as it can loosen your stiff joints and muscles. To do this stretch, step forward with your left leg, positioning your body into a lunge. As you go down, place your right hand on the floor so that it’s even with your left foot. Your right knee should remain above the floor.
Move your left elbow inside your left foot, and rest it on the floor. Square your hips so that you feel a stretch on both sides. As much as possible, try to keep your back in a straight line. Move your left hand outside your front foot, twist, and reach for the sky. Try to pull your toes up to your shin if you can. Switch sides.
Best Leg Exercises To Try
The best leg exercises are ones that also work other muscle groups to help your body stay in proportion and keep it balanced. Aside from seated leg workouts, we’ve rounded up a couple more leg exercises that you can build a routine with! Do note that most leg exercises in this list make use of equipment but some of them can also be done without. Try incorporating any of these in your leg day workout!
Begin a regular barbell squat by grasping the bar as far apart as is comfortable for you and stepping under it. Place the barbell on your lower traps as you push your elbows up and nudge the barbell out of the rack. Take a step or two back and then stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your toes turned slightly out.
Take a deep breath and bend your hips back, then bend your knees to lower your body as far as you can. Keep the arch in your lower back as you do this. Push your knees out as you descend. To come back up, drive vertically with your hips and continue to push your knees out.
Back and Front Squat
A back squat is a compound exercise that challenges every muscle in the legs. It also requires muscles in the upper body to stabilize the load to protect the spine, making a back squat one of the most effective full-body exercises that you can do. To do a back squat, begin by setting a barbell in a power rack to shoulder height. Load it with the appropriate amount of weight that you can lift. Get under the barbell and set the bar across your upper traps. You can also set the bar across your shoulder blades.
Next, brace your core and lift the weight out of the rack. Take small careful steps back using one foot at a time to get yourself into position. With your chest up, squat down until the bottoms of your thighs are parallel to the floor. Drive back up by pushing your feet through the floor.
As for a front squat, first set a barbell on a squat rack at about shoulder height. Next, grab the power rack with an overhand grip at shoulder width and raise your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Take the bar out of the rack, letting it rest on your fingertips. Your elbows should be positioned all the way up throughout the movement. Then, step back and set your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes turned out slightly. Squat as low as you can while keeping the arch in your lower back.
Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat, also known as a “rear foot elevated split squat,” is a leg workout that requires smaller stabilizing muscles in the hips and quads, forcing you to balance. To do this, hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand about a foot in front of a bench as your starting position.
Place one foot down on a bench. Brace your core and squat down with your standing leg until you bend your knees to 90 degrees. You can also squat down a little further but don’t let your knee touch the floor. Hold this position for a second, and then drive back up.
For a more challenging squat, you can try the pistol squat. Stand parallel to a ledge with one trailing leg hanging off. Extend your arms and your free leg out in front of you. Bend your working knee and hinge at the hips to lower yourself into a squat. Keep your back straight and your hips parallel as you try to touch your working hamstring to the calf. Squeeze your glutes and drive through your heels to stand. Repeat on the other side.
A hip thrust directly targets your glutes and helps strengthen your hip extension mechanics. To do a barbell hip thrust, lie with your upper back supported on a bench, your legs extended and feet planted firmly on the floor. Hold a barbell across your hips. Squeeze your glutes and drive your hips up, holding onto the barbell with both hands to prevent it from falling until your body is in a straight line. Hold this position for a second and lower the weight down.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Position them under the bar, right around where your shoelaces are. Hold the bar with both hands. Ensure that they are on the outside of both your legs, just slightly wider. Make sure that your shins are touching the bar and keep your arms straight. Next, sit back so that your hips move back. Keep your chest up, engage your lats, and keep your back straight.
Push your hips forward as you bring the bar up until you are in a standing position. Lift the bar, ensuring that it remains in contact with your body. Don’t let the bar fall forward as this will cause your body to fall forward as well. Lock out your legs and squeeze your glutes and quads at the top of the position. Bring the bar back to the ground in a controlled motion. Repeat. Be careful to not end up in a squat position whenever you do a deadlift.
You can also do a single-leg deadlift if you want a greater activation of the glutes and upper hamstring muscles. Moreover, you don’t need a barbell to do single-leg deadlifts. You can make use of dumbbells, light weights, or your own bodyweight instead. Hold two dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing inwards. Slowly lift your left leg straight behind you and position your right leg in a slight bend.
Slowly hinge at the waist, tipping your torso forward until your body forms a straight line from the top of your head to the bottom of your left foot. Lower the dumbbells towards the floor. Pause, and then return to a standing position. Do three sets of 10 reps and then repeat with the opposite leg.
A Romanian deadlift is another challenging form of deadlift that you can do. The Romanian deadlift is regarded as one of the best exercises to help with muscle growth, as well as to strengthen your hips and lower back. Hold a barbell with a shoulder-width grip and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your hips back as far as you can. You can also bend with soft knees as needed while you lower the bar along your shins and until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Keep your lower back in its naturally arched position throughout. Finish the Romanian deadlift by driving your hips forward, bringing the weight back to the initial position.
Position your feet hip-width apart, engage your core, and look ahead as your starting position. Take a step forward with one foot and lunge. As much as possible, try to get your thigh on the lunging leg to be parallel to the floor so that your knee is at a 90-degree angle. Drive through your back foot, exiting the lunge. Smoothly bring your rear leg up and in front of you as you step into another lunge. Repeat.
You can make a walking lunge even more challenging by doing a weighted walking lunge. To do a weighted walking lunge, begin with a hip-width stance, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Put one leg forward and bend your knees to lower your hips. Dip until your back knee nearly meets the floor. Try to keep your torso upright and avoid moving your front knee past your toes. Put your weight on the heel of your front foot and ascend from the lunge. Switch sides and repeat.
A reverse lunge is something that you can do as well, especially if you’re a beginner. To do a reverse lunge, stand with the dumbbells in your hands and step back with your right leg. Lower your body until your left thigh is parallel to the ground and your back knee nearly touches the floor. Keep your torso straight. Step forward to return to the initial position. Complete all reps on one leg, and then switch legs.
One more variation of the lunge that you can try is lateral lunges. Slightly different from the walking lunge, lateral lunges are done by moving side to side, placing emphasis on your hip abductors. To do this, stand with your legs under your hips and hold a barbell on your back. Step your right leg out to the side and lower your body as you bend your knee. Keep your left leg straight. Drive yourself back up to the initial position and repeat on the other side.
Calf raises can be done using a machine, standing with a barbell on the back, or holding a pair of weights on your sides. Strengthening your calves can help bring more stability around the ankle. You can do either a seated calf raise or a standing calf raise.
For the standing version, you can use a standing calf raise machine or you can stand on a block while holding a dumbbell with one hand and holding on to something for support with the other. Lower your heels toward the floor until you feel a stretch in your calves. Drive the balls of your feet into the footplate and contract your calves. Raise your heels as high as possible. Control the descent on each rep.
As for the seated version, you can use a seated calf raise machine or sit on a bench and place a weight plate on the floor. Let your feet rest on the plate as you sit on the bench. Place a dumbbell on your knee, with your right hand holding the handle whilst your left hand holds the top. Lift your toes as high as possible. Pause, and lower the dumbbell back onto the weight. Repeat.
Lying Leg Curls
Lie face down on the leg curl machine and place your feet under the foot pad. Grab the machine’s handles as you keep your torso flat. Stretch your legs out fully. While keeping your legs on the pad, curl them as far as you can while you exhale. Pause for a second after fully curling your legs, and then go back to the original position as you take a deep breath.
Compared to other leg exercises, a leg press allows you to load up with more weight, making it a great workout to attain stronger thighs. To do this, sit in the leg press machine and place your feet in the middle of the sled, about shoulder-width apart. Press the sled out of the rack and lower the safety bars. Next, slowly lower the sled towards your chest until your thighs break 90 degrees. Press the sled up once more but don’t lock out your knees.
Glute Bridge Walkout
Lie on your back on the floor and bend your knees. Let your feet rest close to your buttocks. Brace your abs and drive your heels into the floor, raising your hips into the air. From there, walk your feet out into a V shape. Take small steps with your heels forward and away from the midline of your body. As much as possible, keep your hips up. Continue until your legs are extended and then walk them back in.
Lower body exercises that train your legs are vital to any fitness goal. Leg workouts greatly aid in building total body strength, increasing muscle mass, improving athletic performance, losing extra body fat, and enhancing your overall health. Now that you know the benefits of doing leg exercises, you’ll be certain to never skip them ever again!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is 1 leg day per week enough?
Generally, it’s recommended to train the legs two to three times a week. However, if you’re just starting out or if you have a busy schedule, one proper leg day a week is enough for you to make progress.
What should I target on leg day?
When it comes to training legs, having a variety is always a good thing. This means that it’s important to have multiple exercises in your leg workout routine. Having variety also ensures that you work out numerous muscle groups in your lower body, resulting in a more balanced form.