Why Leg Day Needs to Die!
Have you ever heard of ‘leg day’? This is perhaps the most talked about day at the gym, the day everybody dreads. That day where you go to the gym and smash your legs with as many exercises as you can fit into an hour and then hobble back to your car questioning your every life choice.
What if I told you I love training legs but I hate leg day…
Yup, that’s right I hate ‘leg day’ just like I hate ‘arm day’, ‘back day’, ‘shoulder day’ and pretty much any day aimed at one body part.
Let me give you this example of the evolution of leg day over a week:
Monday – Leg Day
Tuesday – I can’t walk day
Wednesday – I can walk with some assistance day
Thursday – I’m a little bit sore but ok day
Friday – Loving life day
Saturday – Loving life day
Sunday – No physical pain at all, but nervous about leg day
What’s wrong with the above scenario? Well a few things but there are two main things that I think will lead to a suboptimal program and so sub optimal results.
Training legs only once a week may be ok for a beginner but as you move toward intermediate and advanced level, this simply won’t cut it. I love this quote by Jon Broz
“If your family was kidnapped and you had one month to put 100 pounds on your squat, would you squat just once a week?”
Logically for most of us the answer would be No. So why do we insist on doing leg day? Because that’s what the immortal bro-wisdom that’s been passed down from one gym rat to the next has told us to do? Lets break the trend – take the red pill.
If your legs are recovered enough from a workout then why wouldn’t you train them again? Why limit squatting to once per week when we could squat 2-3x easily (well as easily as squatting can ever be!).
If you structure your program well then you could be hitting a lot more weekly volume for legs and improving your skills in key lifts such as Squat and Deadlift and making more robust gainz. So why wouldn’t you…?
Bro 1 – ‘Because leg day kills me so much I need a week to recover.’
I’m glad you raised that point, onto point 2.
A good way to cripple yourself for a week and ensure you cannot train legs (or any body part) again for 7 days is to cram as much volume into a session as possible.
I’m talking maxing out that squat, drop sets, super sets, 10 movements per session and of course throw in some ‘finishers’ for good measure.
That ought to do it, if any of that sounds like a leg day for you, it’s time to train a lot smarter.
If you’re trying to cram as much of your weekly volume requirements into one session, you’re already onto a loser; on top of that, if you’re training most of these sets to failure then you’re on the pathway to injury as well as leaving gainzzz on the table.
A Smarter Approach
Instead of smashing all of that training into one day instead look at spreading your volume throughout the week. This will allow more quality volume, more skill development and less crippling DOMS.
If we compare a ‘Bro Split’ Leg Day to a more Total Body style training layout we can easily see that the amount of training is considerably more, leading to better strength and hypertrophy.
Tuesday – Leg Day (Squat, RDl, Leg Press, Walking Lunge, Leg Extension, Leg Curl, Glute Bridge)
Seven leg movements, lets say 3 sets of each – that’s a high amount of volume for one session and as we’ve discussed probably leads you in need of a Zimmer frame for a few days.
Monday – Total 1 (including Squat, RDL, Lunge, Calf Raise)
Wednesday – Total 2 (including Deadlift, Leg Press, Leg Curl)
Friday – Total 3 (including Squat, Hip Thruster, Leg Extension, Calf Raise)
This equals: 11 leg movements, as well as 2 Squat sessions, 2 Quality Hinges as well as a lot of accessory. Each session allowing a decent amount of volume but with a 24 hour+ window of recovery before training again.
Now don’t get me wrong sets, reps, intensity and personal volume landmarks will make a difference to how much you can fit in and adequately recover from.
Also we aren’t avoiding DOMS we embrace soreness but within sensible limits (i.e you can train again later in the week, you can still move like a human being)
Even with these considerations, I think it’s hard to argue that Example 1 would yield better results than Example 2.
Should I ever do a leg day? Sure, a leg day can be effective in certain circumstances and for certain people – a few examples:
– A beginner within their first 12 months of training
– A Leg, Push, Pull split with a x2 weekly frequency
– You are taking a lot of steroids
– You just really like ‘bro splits’ and they make you happy and adherent to your training.
– You’re taking a time out from a program and training ad hoc.
If you’re not one of the above then I would highly recommend letting the leg day die and experimenting with the idea of multiple ‘leg days’ as well as multiple ‘chest days’ and any other part days.
Build more skill on your big compound lifts, build more volume into your week, move more overall weight per week and I guarantee you’ll be pleased with the results.