While it is true that one must never skip leg day, it is more important to complete leg workouts the right way. Here are some of the most common leg day mistakes people make and tips on how to avoid them!
15 Leg Day Mistakes You Might Be Making
1. Looking for the Easy Way Out
One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to leg day workouts is not giving it enough effort.
Performing leg exercises can be extremely hard and painful, which is why it is no surprise that a lot of gym-goers try to exchange challenging workouts for the easier ones.
For many, it is one of the most dreaded days of the week.
Unfortunately, anyone who wants to build bigger and stronger legs has to accept that they should never skip leg day and try to find a way around it.
The solution? Acceptance. Leg day is tough and challenging, but it will give one the benefit of a symmetrical physique.
To achieve those bigger and stronger legs, never trade hard exercises such as squats for easier ones.
Challenge yourself to perform your leg exercises to a greater degree and with the right form to make the most out of them.
2. Not Taking Advantage of All That HGH
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The leg muscles are one of the biggest muscle groups in the body. As such, working them out causes the body to produce more HGH compared to working out the other body parts.
As much as possible, one ought to use leg day to help increase gains in the upper body as well.
Performing supersets of heavy squats with bicep curls ensures the body does not waste all the extra HGH it produces.
What is HGH? Human growth hormones is a peptide hormone responsible for stimulating cell reproduction, cell regeneration, and cell growth. The body produces this hormone during workouts and it is necessary for muscle growth and recovery.
3. Not Using a Full Range of Motion
Regardless of the exercise, a lot of people seem to think that lifting heavier is always better. This practice, however, can actually be detrimental to one’s gains.
Making the most out of an exercise requires the muscles to stay under tension for a certain period of time and in a full range of movement.
In short, as with most exercises, leg day workouts work better in slow, controlled repetitions under a full range of motion.
When it comes to performing the squat, for example, put on a weight that is heavy enough to pose a challenge while still allowing for more than a half-squat.
To find this weight, one must complete a warm-up set with only the bar to find his full range of motion. From there, it will be easier to increase the load.
4. Combining Cardio with Leg Day
Pushing the body to complete that 10k run after an intense leg day workout can actually hamper the growth of muscles, not enhance it.
In fact, strength gains were actually cut in half when one added cardio to the mix.
Both leg workouts and cardio activity utilize the same kind of fuel known as stored muscle glycogen. Regardless of which one comes first, the other will surely suffer due to the dip in the fuel reserves.
While it is tempting to always top up a leg workout with an intense run just to break a sweat, this is not recommended. As much as possible, one must allow the muscles enough breathing time.
A quick, light cardio workout after a killer leg workout can help enhance blood flow, especially during the necessary recovery phase. Anything more than that is no longer beneficial.
What is muscle glycogen? Muscle glycogen is the main fuel source of muscles during prolonged and intense workouts like weightlifting and powerlifting. When muscle glycogen level is low, the body is more prone to exhaustion and fatigue and will have a hard time reaching peak performance.
5. Avoiding the Squats
The barbell squat is one of the three kings of compound exercises. As much as possible, one shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that other exercises with a similar movement can substitute this one.
In fact, heavy squats produce as much as 200% more HGH compared to any other exercise. It hits every single muscle in the legs, making it one of the hardest but most efficient and rewarding exercises of all.
6. Thinking That Deadlifts Are Exclusively Back Exercises
Another of the three kings of compound exercises, the deadlift is not simply a back exercise. It is a great movement that targets almost the entire body.
An underrated leg workout, the deadlift mainly targets the back while also being a fantastic workout for the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
7. Considering Glute Bridges a Feminine Exercise
Glute bridges may be a movement the fitness gals of Instagram champion, but it doesn’t mean it is exclusive for them.
This exercise is one of the best glute exercises for strong glutes and hamstrings which, in turn, are necessary for developing overall strength. Plus, it is an easy and simple move to perform.
8. Thinking That One Can Never Skip Squats
While a proper squat is one of the best leg exercises there is, there is no point in continuously performing it if it results in injury.
Different people have varying levels of strength and flexibility. For some beginners, performing the squat to its full extent can cause injury.
As much as possible, perfect his/her form first using lighter weights. If this does not help, a full-depth leg press shall function as a great substitute for this exercise.
9. Looking Up
Looking up while performing squats may seem harmless, but they can prove to be quite catastrophic.
Squatting with all that weight resting on one’s traps puts a significant load on the tissues close to the spinal column as well as the upper spine’s disks.
Looking upwards rounds the cervical spine and shifts the pressure on the neck disks.
A sudden turn of the head left or right can also be detrimental. All these can compromise the alignment of one’s spine and cause problems that may permanently keep one out of the gym.
To be safe, it is best to maintain a neutral gaze and simply look straight ahead. This keeps the neck in a neutral position – one that is neither flexed nor extended – and protects against spinal injuries.
10. Raising the Heels
When doing leg presses or squats, a lot of people make the mistake of lifting their heels at the bottom of the movement. This can be a sign of poor ankle mobility.
Later on, heel raising may cause numerous injuries as the balls of the feet and the knees support the entire weight.
This improper form can also lead to imbalance and a reduced ability to complete a controlled repetition.
To address this, it is important to own a pair of flat-soled lifting shoes while continuing to train and develop ankle mobility.
Start by performing bodyweight squats, making sure to keep the feet planted firmly on the ground. The goal is to support the weight and drive power from the entire leg.
Continue to increase the weight without sacrificing form.
11. Rounding the Back
Rounding the back during leg day exercises places a dangerous amount of strain on the spine. Unfortunately, most people who commit this leg day mistake are not aware they’re doing it.
This is a common mistake not only when doing squats but even with other leg exercises such as the deadlift, leg presses, etc.
In fact, even on machine movements such as the lying machine squats, taking the back and glutes off the pad may cause enormous strain on the back.
These seemingly harmless mistakes can cause back injuries that are incredibly painful and expensive to cure. Even then, damaged disks never quite perform the same way again.
When it comes to these exercises, it is important to keep the concept of “quality over quantity” in mind. Performing the motions in slow, controlled movements is a lot better than simply speeding through them.
If possible, grab a spotter who understands proper form. They can guide a gym-goer through the proper way to perform leg exercises without risking injury.
12. Allowing the Knees to Stray Inward
One of the most common leg day mistakes people make is allowing the knees to stray inward in exercises like squats and leg presses.
As much as possible, avoid this mistake as it can lead to ACL tears.
Weak hip abductors often cause this problem. To avoid this problem, strengthen the hip abductors by adding strength bands to squats as a reminder to rotate the knees outward.
Additionally, exercises like deadlifts and lunges, as well as machines like the hip-abductor machine, can also help strengthen the group of muscles that make up the back of the body.
13. Neglecting the Hamstrings
Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. Since they are not visible, the hamstrings are one of the most often overlooked muscles to focus on during leg day.
Ignoring these muscles can cause strains and more serious knee problems later on. Some of the more common injuries weak hamstrings cause are ACL injuries and hamstrings strains.
Many also make the mistake of thinking squats and hip-extension movements are sufficient to train the hamstrings. While these exercises do utilize the hamstrings, the degree to which the body uses them is very limited.
Ideally, one should add hamstring exercises on his/her leg days. These are exercises that require the bending of the knees and hips.
14. Lifting Only Heavy with Low Reps or Only Light with High Reps
One should not do these exclusively as training through a combination of weight and repetition ranges is necessary for consistent muscle gain.
For one to lift heavier and achieve the desired definition, training through a combination of 1-6 and 7-12 repetition ranges is necessary.
The former should help develop strength and build muscle; the latter, to help increase definition.
Continue to lift heavy regularly while watching calorie intake and adding progressive cardio to the workout.
15. Planning Leg Day on a Friday
Another leg day mistake many beginners make is planning leg day on a Friday. While not necessarily to do with form or injury, dedicating Friday as one’s leg day might ruin all weekend plans.
A killer leg workout often means delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). In turn, this means the death of all those dancing, hiking, or whatever other plans one may have made for the weekend.
Schedule leg day somewhere during the middle of the week. This shall give the muscles enough time to recover before the weekend comes.
Don’t forget to download, save, or share this handy infographic for reference:
Nothing looks worse than a toned upper body resting on a pair of chicken legs, which is no wonder why one must never skip leg day.
Make sure not to commit the mistakes listed above to make the most of the leg workouts and to avoid injury. While you’re at it, work out in style on leg day for some extra motivation!
Are there other common leg day mistakes we may have missed? Share them with us in the comments section below!
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