“Fat loss, cardio fitness, lean mass – whatever your aim, you won’t achieve it without lower-body strength,” says personal trainer Mun Dhariwal. “For starters, legs days not only provide a chance to exercise while your upper body recovers, but they also strengthen the injury- preventing stabilising muscles in your midriff and below.” Research confirms this: the University of Central Florida found that your risk of serious injury increases fivefold if you’re unable to leg press 1.7 times your bodyweight.
Even if your sole goal is to maximise mirror muscles up top, lower-body workouts are still essential. Working below your waist spikes testosterone and growth hormone levels that benefit your whole body.
According to Danish research, deploying a legs day within an upper-body program boosts biceps strength by 10 per cent.
And if a six-pack is next on your wish list, you’d better fire up your pistons to ignite your body’s metabolism. “The route to washboard abs is from the ground up,” explains Dhariwal. “To incinerate calories and strip abdominal fat, you need to work your body’s largest muscle groups, and the biggest single muscle of them all is your glutes.”
But there’s more to it than squats. Introduce step-ups to your routine – they activate your glutes twice as effectively as deadlifts, according to a recent Journal of Sports Science & Medicine study.
For an added kick, carry half of your bodyweight in dumbbells, reaching at least 20 steps on each side. To finish strong and hit your 2021 body goals, you need a leg up.
Try this killer leg day blast:
If you despise leg day, you want to get it over with as quickly as possible. This superset from Men’s Health Fitness Director BJ Gaddour will help you do just that.
You’ll perform a squat and a leg curl for 60 seconds each to thoroughly light up your quads and hamstrings. Looping a miniband around your legs will help you accomplish even more in less time: You’ll push out against the band to activate your glutes throughout the superset.
A few rounds of those two simple exercises are guaranteed to make your legs feel like jelly—in a good way.
How to do it: Perform a double dumbbell front squat with miniband for 60 seconds. Rest 30 seconds.
Perform a seated leg curl with miniband for 60 seconds. Rest 30 seconds
That’s 1 round. Do 3 to 5 rounds.
“You can speed up your reps to get more of a fat-loss effect or slow it down to get more of a muscle-building effect,” Gaddour says.