Leg workouts seem to be one of the most divisive forms of exercise among my clients. Women tend to love them and men usually hate them. It’s understandable why some people find leg workouts so unpleasant. Your biggest muscles are in your legs and many leg exercises work multiple large muscle groups at the same time. It’s a great way to burn some serious calories while building muscle, but it can be extremely taxing, not only to your muscles but to your cardiovascular system and nervous system as well. While most guys will feel pretty good after an upper body workout, many will feel absolutely wrecked after a tough leg workout (especially in the beginning).
On top of that, the soreness from a leg workout can also feel more debilitating than the soreness from an upper body workout. It may be easy to rest your arms when you’re upper body is feeling a little sore, but there is rarely a moment when you aren’t using your legs, so post-leg workout soreness can feel pretty miserable for a beginner (but don’t worry, it lessens significantly with each subsequent workout if you stick with it).
That’s just proof you should work your legs
The fact that it’s difficult to rest your sore leg muscles should be a sign of why it’s so important to work them in the first place. Your legs are your life. Whether you’re playing a sport, climbing stairs, or just trying to get out of a chair, strong leg muscles carry you through your day with ease. I understand leg muscles aren’t exactly the “show muscles” every guy wants like big arms, a six pack, or a big chest, but the show muscles aren’t nearly as important to your daily life as your legs. And quite frankly, the old body builder stereotype of a huge upper body sitting on skinny stilt legs isn’t exactly a good look anyway.
It gets better
Your body adapts quickly to what you throw at it, so it only takes a few leg workouts for the worst aspects of leg training to fade away. This also means it doesn’t take long for positive changes to start taking place. The 15 minute advanced workout in Easy Legs is the same routine I’ve been teaching MMA fighters for almost 15 years. We do it once a week because that’s more than enough for such an intense workout. While it’s tough enough for fighters, it’s really a great workout for anyone. In fact, we get plenty of people from all walks of life that come in just to do this leg workout.
I typically start people at half the reps and twice the rest time so the soreness isn’t as debilitating and then add 25% of the reps each week until they’re up to the full workout a few weeks later. Whether they’re professional athletes or absolute beginners, everyone catches up to this pretty tough pace quickly. You’d be surprised at how much you can handle when it comes to leg work.
When you do push ups and you get tired, that’s it, you just can’t push your body back up again. But leg work is different. No matter how exhausted you feel, you can still force your legs to stand you back up again. They’re just larger and more powerful muscles. That’s also why you can push yourself too hard and cause some absolutely miserable soreness for yourself the next day. Remember, this is the beginning of a lifetime process, so you don’t have to come sprinting out the gate on your first workout. Take it slow, and build up each time. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you improve. For people using Easy Legs, I recommend starting with the 5 minute workout and then moving up 5 minutes each week if you are hoping to get to the 15 minute level.
Endurance for life
The reason I run fighters through this workout is to keep them from getting jelly legged during a 15 minute fight, and it works great for that. It doesn’t matter how skilled they are, if their legs give out on them during the fight, they can’t hope to win. That’s true for any activity. Once you feel your leg strength go, it doesn’t matter how strong your cardiovascular endurance is, you’re done. An intense, circuit leg workout will improve your cardiovascular endurance far better than jogging ever could anyway, as I’ve mentioned in a previous article, so make sure both are strong with proper leg conditioning.
This is why we get so many “civilians” joining this tough routine. It only takes 15 minutes a week to drastically improve their endurance for all kinds of other activities. I’m not saying this should be the only thing you do all week, but if you’re not a fan of leg work, this routine can be enough to get you the results you want.
I’ve been doing this workout myself for those same 15 years and I can’t say enough about the benefits for your daily life. I did standard strength training leg workouts for years before and I’ll never go back to them for two pretty significant reasons:
1. Injury-free training: Strangely, when you load 300 pounds onto your shoulders and do barbell squats, you occasionally hurt your lower back (or knees or hips). The leg press machine is another exercise I recommend skipping since it stresses your knees and lower back with a rather unnatural angle. I know that good form prevents injuries, but even a seasoned lifter’s form will slip one time or another as they exhaust their muscles during a set. No one can maintain perfect form every single day, decade after decade. Eventually, every lifter will slip up and suddenly find themselves with a nagging pain or two (I know I have many times in the past). However, when your form slips during bodyweight exercises, the consequences aren’t nearly as dramatic. When you’re not desperately trying to keep a weight from crushing you through the floor, minor shifts in form are just that, minor. Not only are you less likely to injure yourself, but the exercises in Easy Legs are actually designed to make you less likely to injure yourself in other sports or activities (more on that later).
2. Never getting tired is nice: Whether it’s running, playing basketball, hiking up a mountain, or doing yard work all day, my legs never get tired anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I get still get winded, but I never get jello-legged. My legs always feel strong no matter how tired the rest of me gets. It’s really hard to understand until you experience the difference yourself. For many people, the weak link in their personal fitness chain is their legs. Too much sitting and too little activity leaves these big muscles pretty susceptible to exhaustion. Even runners and weight lifters will find their leg strength failing them as they try other activities. Your body adapts to what you throw at it, and getting too sport-specific in your training will limit your endurance to a handful of activities. If you want to be strong in everything you do, you need to incorporate a mixture of high-energy movements so your legs adapt to whatever comes their way. Like I said before, your legs are your life, and if they aren’t ready to carry you through your day, you’re not going to go too far at all.
Don’t just avoid injury, prevent it!
When it comes down to it, whether you lift heavy weights or not, most injuries don’t happen in the gym. You are far more likely to injure yourself playing a pick up basketball game, swinging a golf club, or even taking a bad step in the grass. Strong muscles support your joints and protect them from injury. Building up strong muscles with heavy weights can afford your joints some protection, but most sport injuries come during explosive movements (when you change direction as quickly as possible), and lifting weights just can’t prepare you for this the same way that the plyometric jump training found in Easy Legs can.
Your muscles are composed of individual muscle fibers that work together to move the joint. Some movements cause less fibers to work together than others. Isometric exercises for example have you hold a position for a long period of time. Exercises like invisible chair really get your muscles burning, and if it feels difficult it must really be making you strong, right? Not always true I’m afraid. Isometric exercises have been shown to actually reduce speed and power because they train all the muscle fibers to work in shifts to share the load. So instead of all your muscle fibers working together for maximum strength, they take turns exhausting themselves to help you make it through the entire hold.
The opposite is true for plyometrics. These explosive exercises recruit the most muscle fibers to move the joint as quickly as possible. I always tell people to train for what they need. If you’re hoping to get stronger for a sport, squats have their place, but to train your muscles to work together to move you fast and keep your joints safe, you need to add plyometrics into the mix.
Sports also require a lot of lateral movement, which is when most people experience significant knee injuries. In fact, teenage and college-aged girls have been shown to experience surgery-requiring ACL tears 3 to 5 times more than their male counterparts. There are various reasons why they are more susceptible, but one of the biggest factors is poor jumping technique. Proper jump training and lateral movement exercises like those found in Easy Legs can protect your knees during abrupt cuts on the court or field. The biggest thing to watch out for is letting your knees collapse inward. I did a brief segment on a local morning show about some things to watch out for to keep your knees (and your young athlete’s knees) safe.
Set your bone health foundation now
Another benefit for woman from plyometric and lateral exercises is that the impact from the jumping and irregular angle movements improves bone density and reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. While the benefits of starting early carry through to the later years, studies have also shown that impact-heavy activities like jumping can improve bone density in older women. Of course, check with your doctor first to make sure your bone density is strong enough for this kind of training.
Do something good for your life
Don’t let post-exercise soreness scare you away. The benefits of strong legs go far beyond simply looking good. It can be rough for a beginner, but your body adapts quickly and you’ll be less sore with each subsequent workout. You’ll feel stronger with every workout and stronger in every activity you do throughout your day.