If you’re having trouble getting excited to go to the gym on leg day, the best weapon is education. Performing lower body exercises boosts testosterone production, meaning working out your legs today helps build muscle throughout your entire body. If that doesn’t motivate you, consider following a workout program that combines leg exercises and upper body lifts in the same program, instead of cramming all the leg exercises into a single day. Other methods for finding leg day motivation include keeping yourself accountable with a workout partner, boosting your energy with a pre-workout shake, and rewarding yourself after completing leg day.
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Why Do You Hate Squatting?
One of the common reasons beginners hate training legs is because they are inexperienced with complex lower body exercises such as squats and deadlifts. This, combined with seeing other lifters performing heavy lower body lifts, can make a gym newcomer feel self-conscious about stepping up to the squat rack. Don’t worry, we’ll help you break through this mental block.
- Inexperience with leg exercises.
- You’re lifting less weight than others in the gym.
- You don’t see the benefit of leg day in the mirror.
- Performing leg exercises causes more pain than other lifts.
For more experienced lifters, leg day is often less exciting because you’re not going to receive a visible “pump.” It’s great to work out arms and chest because you see those muscles at their best when you look at them in the mirror mid-workout. Plus, you know you’re building them, so they look better all the time. When lifting legs, you don’t typically see much difference mid-workout. Leg workouts may seem like a lot of pain for minimal gain, but this is far from true. We’ll cover exactly why the benefits of leg days go beyond building strong leg muscles.
7 Ways to Get Excited for Leg Day
Maybe you’ve skipped a leg day here and there. Maybe you have a hard time walking after leg day or know you’re not giving it your all when you go into the gym to perform squats, leg press, and calf raises. Either way, you hate the feeling of dreading the gym. Have no fear. We have foolproof ways to get you amped for leg day and ready to do your best once you step up to the squat rack.
Consider the Upper Body Benefits
University studies have proven that performing lower body exercises boosts your testosterone levels. Why is this good? Testosterone is the number one hormone linked to increased muscle mass. The more testosterone your body produces, the better it is at building muscle. So, by performing squats, you’re increasing your body’s overall ability to build muscle.
- Compound lower body lifts are scientifically proven to boost testosterone production.
- Increased testosterone boosts muscle growth throughout your body.
- By working out on leg day you increase your body’s ability to build muscle not only in your legs, but in your arms, chest, shoulders, and back.
The testosterone-boosting benefits of leg days go beyond the squat rack. Participants in the study were asked to perform squats, followed by biceps curls. Those that performed squats were able to better increase their arm strength and muscle mass during the study. So, when you head into the gym for leg day, remember you’re actually encouraging your upper body to reach greater heights as well.
Switch to a Total Body Workout Program
We get it—it can be daunting to look at your workout plan for the day and see a laundry list of lower body lifts. If this is the situation you find yourself in, consider switching from an upper/lower body split schedule to a total body workout plan. A total body plan includes 1–2 leg exercises per workout and a few upper body workouts. It can be a lot easier to complete your sets of deadlifts when you know you get to do bench press next.
- Consider a weightlifting program that combines lower body and upper body workouts on the same day.
- It’s easier to motivate yourself to finish a lower body exercise when the next exercise in your workout is for your upper body.
- Stronglifts and Starting Strength are two great total body workout plans.
Starting Strength and Stronglifts 5×5 are two popular total-body programs that include lower and upper body lifts on the same day. Yes, you’ll be working out your legs more frequently with these programs, but you won’t have to do nearly as many leg exercises in a single day. The draw of upper body exercises such as overhead press and pull-ups can help get you in the gym and work your legs.
Pick Exercises You Enjoy
Squats and deadlifts are often considered the foundational lower body exercises, and for a good reason, but there are many more leg exercises than just those two. If you hate doing squats, mix leg presses or trap bar deadlifts into your routine. Try barbell hack squats, calf raises, or split squats until you find leg exercises you enjoy doing.
- When weightlifting, search for lifts you enjoy. Try squat and deadlift variations such as the Zercher squat, front squat, trap bar deadlift, and barbell hack squat.
- Mix bodyweight leg exercises into your program. Training balance and stabilizer muscles may be more fun than other lifts.
Some athletes prefer bodyweight exercises for the lower body. Take a break from heavy compound movements to build flexibility and balance. Train with single-leg deadlifts, archer squats, or pistol squats. Building new skills and challenging yourself with new movements can keep leg day fun and fresh.
Find a Workout Partner
A gym buddy can help motivate you and keep you accountable. You’re less likely to skip leg day or put forth minimal effort when your friend is beside you. Friendly competition or even joking about the misery of leg day can make the workout less agonizing.
- Make a leg day pact with a workout partner to prevent each other from skipping legs.
- Bring a new lifter to the gym and set an example for how to do leg day right.
Even if your workout partner isn’t an experienced lifter, having a partner in the gym can be a great experience. Teaching a beginner the correct form for compound lifts, as well as the benefits of squats and Romanian deadlifts, can help motivate you to be a leader and set a good fitness example.
Reach for the Pre-Workout
Sometimes we all need extra encouragement to step up on the deadlift platform. A little caffeine goes a long way. Whether your go-to pre-workout is a supplement shake or a cup of coffee, down it 30 minutes before you get to the gym on leg day. The energy boost you feel will help you put forth maximum effort in the gym.
- Have a pre-workout shake or cup of coffee 30 minutes before you reach the gym for leg day.
- Extra energy from caffeine can help you feel energized and optimistic when facing a schedule of intense lower body exercises.
Even if you’re not a regular pre-workout user, you may want to make an exception if you hate leg day. A scoop of pre-workout can make you feel superhuman and energize you to do your best on those lower body lifts.
Reward Yourself After Leg Day
Every workout and diet plan needs a cheat day, right? If you lack motivation on leg day, promise yourself a cheat meal after completing your lower body workout. Whether your guilty pleasure is a donut or a few slices of pizza, promise yourself you’ll have that meal once you complete your leg workout. Here’s the catch—you only get that meal if you complete every exercise in your leg workout.
- Plan a cheat meal after your workout—or a cheat after leg day.
- Only reward yourself with your cheat meal if you complete leg day at full effort.
- This method will add something positive to leg day and motivate you to power through.
By building a positive association between leg day and reward, you’ll begin to regard the day as less of a slog. Remember, each rep brings you one step closer to a bowl of ice cream or a basket of fries.
Track Your Progress
This tip is great for beginners—keep a log of the weight you lift on leg day. In addition, set goals for yourself. Just like leveling up a character in a video game, level up your body by adding more weight after completing your leg workout sets and reps. Soon, you’ll be lifting with confidence, plus you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come.
- Keep a journal of your lifting progress so you can see your progress on each lift.
- Push yourself to keep progressing and take time to review your success.
- Set long-term goals for lower body lifts and work toward them.
Because compound lifts such as deadlifts and squats allow you to move more weight than other exercises, you have a very high ceiling on leg day exercises. Set a big fitness goal for yourself—maybe you want to squat 225 or deadlift 315. Each leg day you complete brings you another step closer to your goal.
How Long Does it Take to Get Used to Leg Day?
Some athletes who are used to running long distances for their particular sport love leg day when they start a weightlifting program. The rest of us dread leg day more than any other on the schedule. If you’re not a fan of leg day, you can start to get excited for it with the following tips:
- Keep in mind leg workouts boost testosterone and help you build muscle everywhere.
- Switch to a program that mixes leg exercises and upper body exercises in the same workout.
- Add leg exercises you enjoy to your workout.
- Work out with a partner for extra motivation.
- Drink a pre-workout energy booster before arriving at the gym for leg day.
- Reward yourself with a cheat meal or rest day after leg day.
- Track your progress on lower body lifts and work toward long term goals.
Each of these tips can help transform leg day from a dreaded event to your favorite workout of the week. In fact, since none of these tips are exclusive, you can combine some (or all) of them to transform your leg day outlook right away.