A lot of guys, especially younger lifters, tend to skip leg day. Instead, they focus all their energy on training their pecs, lats, delts, and arms. This creates a very unbalanced physique, which is why many men are happy to be seen shirtless but keep their legs covered with long pants.
In contrast, many women are overly focused on training their lower bodies, especially their glutes. Some even train their legs every day, combining their lower body workouts with hours of leg-centric cardio.
So, why are so many women unhappy with the shape and condition of their legs?
In many cases, the reason is quantity over quality. In other words, some women’s leg workouts are high in volume and frequency but low in effective exercises. So instead of using a targeted approach, it’s more of a kitchen sink affair, with workouts containing so many exercises that many of them are actually redundant.
While such enthusiasm and dedication are to be applauded, there are better ways to use your training time and energy. These are valuable commodities that should be invested wisely and not wasted on unproductive or unnecessarily long workouts.
Get better results from your training time with these three tried and tested leg day workouts!
Leg Anatomy Basics
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of effective lower body training, let’s take a moment to look at the muscles you’ll be working. That way, you’ll be able to name the parts of your body you can feel during each workout.
Located on the back of your hips, the gluteus maximus (glutes for short) is the largest muscle in the human body and potentially the most powerful. The main role of the glutes is hip extension, but it’s also involved in external rotation and abduction of the hip.
The hamstrings are a biaxial muscle that crosses the back of your knees and hips. As such, it has two main functions – knee flexion and hip extension. There are three hamstring muscles: biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus. You can develop the hamstrings by performing leg curls and hip hinging exercises.
The quadriceps extend your knee and flex your hips. There are four quadriceps muscles: the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. Known as the quads for short, these muscles are located on the fronts of your thighs.
The hip abductors are located on the sides of your hips and thighs. They are responsible for lifting your legs out and away from the midline of your body. The hip abductors are the gluteus maximus and medius and tensor fascia latae.
Located on the inside of your thighs, the hip adductors are responsible for drawing your legs in toward the midline of your body. The three hip adductor muscles are longus, brevis, and magnus, meaning longest, shortest, and biggest.
Triceps surae is the collective name for the muscles of your calves – the gastrocnemius and soleus. These muscles work together to point your foot in a movement called plantar flexion. In addition, gastrocnemius, the uppermost calf muscle, also works with the hamstrings to flex your knees.
Six Benefits of Leg Training for Women
Most women don’t have to be told to train their lower bodies. After all, sculpted, toned legs are a common training goal. That said, in case you are unsure about the benefits of leg training for women, here is a list of six reasons why you should work your lower body hard and often!
Increased functional strength
Almost all strenuous activities involve your legs. A stronger lower body will make these activities easier and less tiring. For example, walking upstairs, running, and lifting heavy items off the floor are less demanding when you’ve got strong legs.
More shapely legs
While lower body-centric cardio can help increase muscle tone and endurance, if you want your legs to look their best, you need to include direct leg training in your workouts. You can use strength training to target each muscle with laser-like precision, sculpting your legs to create the lower body of your dreams.
Stronger bones and healthier joints
Lower body strength training is not just good for your muscles but also for your bones and joints. Like your muscles, your bones get stronger with training. Load-bearing exercises trigger the release of bone-building cells called osteoblasts. Increasing bone strength and density can help ward off age-related bone loss (osteopenia) and may prevent osteoporosis.
Strength training is also good for your joints, namely the hips and knees. Lifting weights makes your joints more mobile and stable and can help prevent or reduce knee and hip pain.
Increased calorie and fat burning
Your lower body contains about 40% of your total body muscle – possibly more, depending on your build and genetics. Powering these muscles through a workout requires a lot of energy, which is measured in calories. Leg workouts use far more energy than most upper-body workouts. Training your legs can help increase your weekly caloric expenditure, leading to fat and weight loss.
Better balance and coordination
Balance is your ability to keep your center of mass over your base of support. In contrast, coordination is your ability to move your limbs in a controlled, harmonious way. Freeweight and bodyweight leg exercises enhance both of these fitness qualities. Better balance and coordination mean that you won’t just look more athletic but will feel it, too.