No matter who you are, or what you are training for there is one universal truth – EVERYONE HATES LEG DAY! But why?
The easiest and possibly most obvious answer is that oh my good god it hurts!! There is no pain quite like getting out of the car, or getting off the toilet for the couple of days following a leg session. The pain you feel after a leg session is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS for short. This is the term used to describe the pain felt after exercising, which if you have trained you will know tends to not be noticeable at first, but gets progressively more painful for the next 24-72 hours. There is no real definitive answer as to why we get DOMS and what is the best way to avoid/alleviate them. There are many proposed cures – massage, going for a run, protein shakes – which may slightly reduce the pain, however i’m afraid the best way to deal with DOMS is to man up and get on with it! Anyway back to the matter at hand, leg DOMS. Why are your legs always more sore than your upper body after a session? Truth be told (and by truth I mean in my opinion) there is no real reason that legs should be more sore than any other part of the body after training, and in fact for some strange individuals this is not the case. One thing you do have to remember, however, is that for the 72 hours after a big arm session do you walk everywhere on your hands? If not give it a try and then tell me you don’t suffer from upper body DOMS. In my humble opinion the main reason we believe our legs hurt more than anything else after training is that in everyday life we lunge, squat and step up on a very regular basis, the same exercises that caused the pain in the first place!!
This is an image you will never see in any gym! Why? Well other than the fact he is only in his underwear he looks ridiculous (pretty sure it is photoshopped but you get my point). The following pic, however, you will see in every gym across the world, just maybe with more clothes on.
The reason for this is plain and simple, if you are not a professional athlete you train in order to make yourself look better – vanity. There are those of you reading this that will say you are training for health reasons, which is a good and very valid reason to train, and not in order to look good. I can guarantee, however, that as you start to loose body fat you will look at yourself in a mirror and think to yourself “Damn I look good” or “just a few more kg’s and I can fit into that sexy red dress again”. If you ask a man who is lifting weights what his aims are it will 99.9999999% of the time be to ‘bulk up’ and to better fill a t-shirt, and this is due to the publics perception of someone who is ‘built’. If you see someone on a night out with what can only be described as a spray on t-shirt with bulging shoulders and biceps, peoples first thoughts are along the lines of – he’s a bit of a unit – or – he definitely lifts. Whereas if someone with Chris Hoy sized legs has crammed them into some similarly tight jeans and cannot bend over through fear of tearing is ridiculed for looking ridiculous. Exactly the same scenarios when looked at objectively, totally different in reality.
In order to do a leg session, everyone has to want to do it! If anyone shows even the slightest doubt about squatting, it is not happening. Anyone who has a training partner, or trains in a group will be well aware of this phenomenon. It pretty much follows the well known phrase ‘all or nothing’, either you all want to do it, or you aren’t doing it. As we have already discussed, however, no one likes doing a leg session, so the chances of finding more than one person on any one specific day who want to train legs is about as likely as West Brom winning the prem (nothing against West Brom specifically but you can see where I am going with this).
To conclude you shouldn’t neglect training your legs. Your legs are massive muscle groups in need of some serious training. Even if, and we know you do, you hate training legs the benefits far outweigh the pain. The core activation during exercises such as a squat and a lunge is massive, and in many cases far outweighs the activation during core specific exercises. Numerous studies have shown that training legs actually causes the body to release more human growth hormone (HGH) than upper body sessions, leading to bigger increases in strength and size. And finally if you are after burning more calories nothing kickstarts your metabolism quite like a leg session!
So, the long and short of it is we know you don’t want to train your legs, I don’t want to train my legs, no one wants to train their legs but we have to suck it up, get on with it, and avoid visiting the toilet for a couple of days after!!
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