They say that if you can walk normally after leg day, then it means that you need to train harder. We have no doubt that you need to train harder. After all, if you’re reading this article, there’s a high chance that leg day pain has brought you here.
Why is leg day such a pain?
Urban Dictionary has defined leg day as: “A day in which you work the lower half of your body until you cry blood, it is the ultimate way of proving that there is no God.” Although this is an informal definition that shouldn’t really be taken seriously, it’s a testament to how infamously painful leg days are.
Leg days are hard because legs are a big muscle group, and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) will usually hit legs the hardest. Leg days are usually the toughest and most exhausting days in one’s workout regime. This is due to the fact that our legs consist of massive muscle groups (including the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings) and they also carry our body weight daily, so it takes more movement and work to make them stronger.
But, why are leg days important?
As much as leg days are dreaded, it still pays to do them properly. Here are reasons why you shouldn’t skip leg days:
1. Calorie burning and muscle building
The largest muscle in our bodies, the gluteus maximus (aka our behinds) is worked during leg days. Because they are such a large muscle group, they require more energy when being worked. This keeps our heart rate up while working out, which in turn burns more calories. Compound exercises, which work our bigger muscles in the lower bodies, gives us an advantage in overall muscle building as well.
2. Better performance and less injuries
Leg days consist of different leg exercises, but ultimately their goal is one and the same: they make legs stronger. When your legs are stronger, you will perform better in other exercises, too, like running, jogging and walking. Best of all, when leg muscles are strengthened, risks of injuries are also lowered.
3. You engage other muscle groups
Even though leg days concentrate on strengthening and sculpting the legs, most leg exercises also engage several other muscle groups. Let’s take the example of the squat. When you do squats, you not just work your glutes and quads, but your core muscles as well.
4. Balance and symmetry
Many people concentrate on bulking up their upper body and arms. It’s natural to pay more attention to the upper body because this is what we see every day. However, this trend has led to a lot of people, men especially, to look like they have a strong torso and thin, weak legs.
Incorporating leg days to your workout and sticking to it will help your legs “catch up” with the rest of your body.
5. Avoid lower back pain
We’ve all heard it said before that in order to prevent lower back pain, one’s core and back muscles should be strengthened. One thing we should be aware of is that lower back pain is sometimes caused by weak stabilizing muscles. Working your lower body muscle group strengthens the core (including back and lower back), which in turn strengthens your lower back.
How to avoid injuries after a leg day?
Here are some tips on how you can avoid injury after a tiring leg day:
1. Ice your legs
When you get DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) after a leg day, it means that the muscles are sore on a microscopic level. This means there could be tiny tears and abrasions on your leg muscles. Ice or cold therapy is a tried and tested therapy for muscle soreness.
When you wear leg ice packs such as this one, your blood vessels will narrow and reduce blood flow to the area, which helps ease the swelling. You can ice your legs for 20 minutes, two to three times a day.
Because the legs are a huge muscle group, it pays to get an ice pack that has complete coverage of the legs, and wraps around the legs’ curvature perfectly and comfortably.
2. Do not do another leg day the following day
Having a rest day allows your body to consolidate all the hard work you’ve done. During rest days, your muscles recover, adapt and become stronger. You must give your muscles the time and chance to regenerate.
You will see more pronounced muscle results when rest days are incorporated in your weekly workouts. Whatever training program you are doing, appropriate rest is needed so you can prevent workout plateau or overtraining.
3. Spend time doing cool-down exercises
Taking time to cool down makes your muscles ready for recovery. A study was conducted where it was found that people who did 20 minutes of low to moderate intensity cycling immediately following their strength workout had less muscle pain compared to those who worked out but did not cool down.
4. Cherries and mushrooms
This is perhaps our favourite tip for reducing leg day pain. Cherry juice is filled with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. There was a study created a decade ago where it was found that long distance runners who drank tart cherry juice for eight straight days reported a decrease in muscle pain. Just be aware of the sugar content of this juice.
Mushrooms have long been identified as possessing anti-inflammatory properties, which could be effective in reducing muscle soreness.
5. Do a low intensity workout the following day
When you’re in recovery mode yet you do not want to completely skip working out the following day, it’s recommended that you do low-intensity workout or low steady state cardio. This is still good for your legs as they will get the blood flow going and the muscles can get all the nutrients they need to recover.
Go on a stationary bike ride on a slow and steady speed, do brisk walking or even swimming.
Your joints and muscles will thank you for it.
Overall, even if leg day gives you the kind of pain that feels like progress, we urge you to listen to your body and give it the proper rest and recovery it needs.
Are you currently reading this post through leg-day pain? If you need any questions answered regarding pain management, send us a note and we’ll be happy to chat!