Leg day is probably the most hated workout day in the gym.
Some guys go so far as skipping it all together because they can’t handle the thought of enduring more squats, leg presses or lunges.
If you skip leg day, the gym police won’t come and arrest you — but you’ll be doing a serious disservice to your physique, athleticism, and overall health and fitness.
So what should you do if you really, truly hate leg day?
If you hate leg day, the best solution is to rewire your mind and boost your motivation by understanding what’s causing you to dread these workouts and why they’re so important. Next, switch up your leg day routine to include exercises that feel better for your mind and body.
In this article, we’ll get to grips with the psychology behind the hatred for leg day and, more, importantly, discover what you can do about it.
Why Do People Hate Leg Day?
You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out why so many people hate leg day; training your legs is damn hard work.
Your quadriceps — the primary target during leg workouts — are a large muscle group made up of four individual muscles.
To fully stimulate those muscles, you’ve got to work them hard and heavy.
And then you’ve still got your hamstrings, glutes and calves to work.
Here are the 6 main reasons why so many people have a dread of leg day.
1. Squat fear
For most people, their leg workout is going to be built around squats.
It will probably be the first exercise they do.
They’ll usually perform around 6 sets and pyramid up to real heavy poundages for 5 or 6 reps.
When you load a lot of weight on your back and then drop down to a full descent, only to push yourself back up again, it can be an extremely scary proposition.
You fear that the weight will crush you, that you’ll end up in traction or, worse yet, people will see you and laugh!
(Learn more about what to do if you hate squats.)
3. Quad pain & leg soreness
There is no other muscle on your body that produces the type of workout-induced muscular pain that you get when you train your quads.
And the difference between excruciatingly painful quads and sore arms is that the pain of a quad workout will reverberate with every single step that you take.
Sitting down will be a dreaded proposition, with getting back up even worse.
This lingering pain is a big reason people hate and skip leg day.
(Learn more about what to do if you can barely walk after leg day.)
3. Legs aren’t glamorous
Compared to the glamor of training your arms, it’s pretty hard to summon up the motivation to hit your legs.
After all, most of the time, your wheels are covered up, so people aren’t even likely to see the product of all of your lower body sweat equity!
Unlike bulging biceps, which easily pop in a tight shirt.
For most of us – apart from the genetically gifted – legs respond a lot more slowly than other body parts like the shoulders or biceps.
That can make you feel like you are expending a whole lot of effort for very little return.
(Learn more about staying motivated to squat heavy and often.)
4. You feel like puking
To get your legs to respond you have got to use some heavy weight.
They contain large muscle groups that can handle an incredible amount of resistance, so for serious growth, light dumbbells won’t cut it.
Whether it’s the squat or leg press, you have got to go super heavy – and that can be pretty daunting.
You might do thousands of pounds of total work in a single set, which is exhausting, and can make you feel physically ill.
(Some people even pass out while deadlifting, or suffer from nosebleeds.)
5. You fear injury
If you train legs incorrectly, you can quite easily cause injury to your hips, lower back, knees, ankles and could even open the door to shin splints.
Even the trusty squat can be extremely dangerous if done incorrectly with heavy weights – bad form, no safety arms, etc.
As a result, you may decide that it’s safer to just skip leg day!
Do You Really Need to Build Your Legs?
It’s not hard to understand why some people would question the benefit of doing leg day at all.
If you are not planning on becoming a competitive bodybuilder or powerlifting, but merely want to look good on the beach, what’s the point of forcing yourself through leg workouts that you absolutely detest?
The answer to that question is balance.
If you do not train your lower body as well as your upper body, you might become too top heavy!
Not only will that not look good, but it will also lead to a huge strength disparity between your upper and lower body.
When your muscles are not balanced you become less coordinated and balanced. You are also more prone to imbalance injuries.
Here are eleven other reasons why you should not skip leg day.
1. Leg workouts boost your metabolism
Training your quads, hamstrings and calves burns a lot of calories. Squats, in particular, churn through the calories, especially when you do high rep sets.
Squats also bring on the enhanced post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect. This effect causes you to take in more oxygen after your workout, resulting in a boosted metabolism for as long as 24 hours.
Training your legs hard and heavy will also add slabs of solid muscle mass to your lower body. Every extra ounce of muscle will boost your metabolic rate.
2. Working your legs can help to relieve lower back pain
Strengthening and increasing range of movement through the glutes, hips, psoas muscle, and hamstrings will take the strain off your lower back and spine.
This may bring relief if you have ongoing back pain.
Of course, you need to be sure that you are training with proper form in order to benefit your lower back.
If your squat form is sloppy, for example, you will make your lower back worse, not better.
3. Training your legs enhances athleticism
Training your legs will help you to develop the strength and agility you need in the lower body to be a better athlete.
You will become a better basketball, rugby, football, soccer and tennis player when you train your legs a couple of times each week.
4. Training your legs boosts muscle building hormones
When you work your legs with exercises like squats, lunges, and leg extensions, you will be giving your body a natural boost in its production of the two most important hormones for muscle growth – testosterone and human growth hormone.
That means that when you work your legs, you will actually be growing your entire body.
5. Training legs can directly work the upper body, too
When you do squats, you’ll be working the core (so long as you keep your abs tight and your lower back pulled in), and when you do deadlifts, your forearms and grip will be strengthened.
6. Training your legs can actually increase your bench press PR
A large part of the power that allows you to push the bench press bar off your chest comes from your legs.
So, the stronger they are, the more force your legs will be able to bring to the bench press.
If you’re struggling to hit that 225+ bench, more leg work might be the answer.
7. Training your legs provides aesthetic balance and symmetry to your body
When you hit the beach, you want people to appreciate the results of your hard work in the gym.
But what do you think happens when they admire your upper body and then look down below to see chicken legs? Yep, they’ll write you off as a pretender.
Don’t be that guy!
8. Training legs develops your mental strength
Your workouts should be enjoyable, but they should also be challenging.
If you bail at the first sign of discomfort, you miss a huge opportunity to build your mental fortitude in addition to your body.
Tom Platz, the guy with the best legs in bodybuilding history, said that he hated squats, but he hated feeling like a failure even more!
9. Training your legs gets you ripped
It’s a great calorie burner because the largest muscles in your body – your glutes, quads and hamstrings – are all in the lower body.
So, it’s no surprise that hitting your legs hard in the gym during a cut will help you get far better results than ignoring them.
10. Training your legs makes you a better runner
The stronger your legs, the faster they will potentially be.
People who squat and deadlift are also known to have far fewer hip issues when they run than people who don’t include those two lower body exercises in their program.
(Check out how you can train like a sprinter or distance runner.)
11. Training your legs enhances your flexibility
Contrary to what people may think, guys with big legs are not muscle bound or inflexible.
When you train a muscle through its full range of motion with exercises like leg extensions, leg curls, squats and lunges, you will actually be increasing your lower body flexibility.
What To Do if You Hate Leg Day
So, here we are. You know you need to be training legs, and hopefully the long list of leg day benefits outlined above have helped your motivation.
There’s just one problem — you still hate leg day!
So, what can you do about it?
Ditch ‘leg day’ and do full body instead
Rather than splitting up your body, train it as a whole.
That way you won’t have to dread leg day because legs will be just one part of an entire full body workout.
You won’t do as many exercises for your legs but you will be training them more often.
Stick with squats, lunges and leg extensions and do them 3 times per week.
After a good set of squats you can earn a few sets of bicep curls as a reward!
Drop the back squat
Despite the way many people view it, there is nothing magical about the squat.
In fact, it can be argued that, biomechanically, it is not even the best exercise for your quadriceps!
Leg extensions and sissy squats actually isolate your quads better.
Unless you’re training for the powerfliting “big 3”, you can try all sorts of different exercises to build your legs instead of the barbell back squat squat like:
- Cable squats
- Bulgarian split squats
- Front or zercher squats
- Leg extensions
- Leg press
- And more
More Tips from a Personal Trainer
We asked Dr. Coco Cabrel from what advice she would give to people who hate leg day.
Here’s what she said:
“Let’s face it, leg work is hard work. We’re trying to condition some of the biggest muscles of the body, and that requires big effort.
“From what I’ve seen, a lot of why people hate working their legs is actually the mental anticipation of putting in all that effort.
“So most people defeat themselves before even starting the workout.
“My 3 best tips to make leg work more enjoyable and effective:
“1) Switch up your usual leg workout with one that is a bit outside the box.
“A great example is a dance-based workout that is tailored to non-dancers.
“Dancers have to have incredibly strong legs, and these workouts use interesting moves and inspiring music .
“2) Use other parts of your body while doing your leg exercises.
“For example, while doing body weight squats, instead of simply keeping your hands on your hips, sweep the arms out to the sides and up overhead and then back down again.
“This will give your brain additional body parts to think about and make the exercise more interesting for the brain.
“3) Heading into leg day, give yourself a mental edge!
“Winning the mental battle against dreading leg day gets you a good 80% to a success.
“So instead of automatically anticipating how hard the exercises are going to be, and how much your legs are going to feel like rubber bands, and how boring the reps are going to get… spin each one of those thoughts.
“Think about meeting the challenge of tough exercises, how your legs will feel less jiggly as they get more conditioned, and the fact the each rep gets you closer to your bigger leg goals.”
You hate leg day because training your lower body is painfully hard work, but that doesn’t mean that you should skip it.
Training your legs is necessary to look good, to be strong, balanced and agile.
You can reinvigorate your leg training by doing full body workouts, dropping the back squat, changing up your training with out of the box style workouts, using other parts of your body while working the legs…
… and focusing on the great feeling of accomplishment you will have when you have conquered another leg day!
For more, check out what to do if you:
Hope this helps!