You need your lower body to be strong, agile and powerful in order to complete a variety of tasks in everyday life as well as keeping you safe in old age. Regardless of the health benefits, a muscular lower body will keep your physique balanced and complete your look.
There’s a lot of things that you shouldn’t (and should) be doing on leg day so it’s important to get things right. That’s why we’ve compiled this helpful list of do not’s in order to make sure you’re getting the most out of your training.
1. Only Sticking To Squats
Squats are a great exercise but squatting isn’t the only thing you need to do. Sure, if you ask almost anyone what the most important lower body lift is then they’ll respond with squats but a training based solely on this one exercise won’t get you where you want to be.
2. Not Going Hard
Just because you don’t enjoy leg day is no reason not to push yourself. Squats and deadlifts may not be as fun as barbell curls and bench pressing but you still need to try equally as hard. If not then you won’t grow, you won’t get results and you’ll hate leg day even more. The trick is going as hard as you can without mentally tormenting yourself. If you put in the effort then you’ll reap the rewards. It’s as simple as that.
3. Only Having One Leg Day
As leg day isn’t quite as enjoyable as other days in a split then people often make the mistake of only including it once in the week. Yet, your lower body makes up 50% of your physique and so you need to treat it as such. Having, at least, two leg days is vital. You can’t expect to see results training with a low frequency.
4. Overdoing The Cardio
If you’re the type of person who likes to warm up on the treadmill, elliptical machine or stationary bike then you could be doing yourself more harm than good. A lot of people like to spend 20-30 minutes doing cardio before jumping into the weights section Yet, this will just tire you out and you won’t be able to give your all for lifting.
Instead, warm up by doing lighter sets. If you’re working sets are squatting 100kg for 5 reps then a warm up like this will be more useful than running.
- 20kg (just the bar) x 5 – rest 2 minutes
- 40kg x 5 – rest 2 minutes
- 60kg x 5 – rest 2 minutes
- 80kg x 3 – rest 2 minutes
- 90kg x 1 – rest 2 minutes
This way your body is prepared for the movement and the right muscles have been activated to make sure that you excel in the lift.
5. Not Making Use Of Compound Lifts
Assistance exercises like leg extensions, leg curls and the leg press are good but they shouldn’t be the bread and butter of your programme. Instead, place the most importance on exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, Romanian deadlifts and pistol squats.
6. Bringing The Heels Up
If you’re the type of person who raises their heels when squatting on deadlifting so that only the toes are resting on the surface then you could be missing out on some vital gains. By doing this you’re putting more strain though the calves than the quadriceps and glutes which means the latter muscles will not grow as much.
Keep your heels on the ground or surface you’re pushing against to get maximum activation in the thighs and posterior chain. Save the calf training for calf raises where they can be properly activated and you can stimulate growth effectively.
7. Letting The Knees Track Inwards
One of the most common mistakes in lower body exercises is letting the knees come inwards. This dramatically increases your risk of injury by placing a lot of strain on the ligaments of the knee.
The reason this problem arises is normally from weak abductors and glutes. You can train these muscles by doing banded squats with a lighter weight, doing barbell glute bridges and actively pushing out the knees when squatting.
8. Becoming Immobile
A lot of us carry most of our tightness in the lower body, especially in the hamstrings. This can carry over to our lifts and effect the amount of weight we put on the bar.
Never neglect mobility and always make sure to foam roll and stretch after each workout. You can also dedicate specific days for mobility work if you don’t have enough time after your workouts. After just 1-2 weeks you’ll notice a dramatic difference in not only how you feel when you lift but in everyday life as well.
9. Neglecting The Hamstrings
When we think of leg day our minds jump to squats, lunges, leg extensions and leg presses. However, the hamstrings need to be addressed to reduce injury and thicken the legs up. Missing out on hamstring exercises is a common factor in hip and knee injuries and the muscles on the front of the body can become too strong comparatively.
Make sure to include exercises such as deadlifts, cleans, snatches and leg curls in your workouts to target this important muscle group.
10. Rounding The Back
If you take a look at a new lifter when they do squats there’s a high chance that they’ll round their back at the bottom of the lift. This places a lot of stress on the lower back which creates disk injuries and pain. If it’s not corrected then the problem will only get worse as the weight increases.
Avoid this by doing exercises that strengthen this area such as deadlifts and back extensions.