The infamous leg day has arrived. I feel like leg day for women is a bit different for men though.
While it’s true that both sexes want to have strong legs, for men, the upper body is where the sexy muscles are at, so that’s where they’ll focus.
And as women, we tend to pine over strong arms and a muscular chest. So it’s no wonder that men spend their time in the gym focusing on the upper body.
Of course, this is a generalization, and I realize that not all women have the same likes and dislikes. But hopefully, you get my point.
On the flip side, for women, having sexy legs is desired. Again, men are not shy about expressing their thoughts and feelings about shapely legs on a woman.
Having the right curves in the right places makes us feel good.
So with this post, I want to share some exercises, tricks, and tips to assist you on leg day!
What Are The Benefits of Leg Exercises?
There are several benefits of working your lower body. I’ll focus on just a few.
“You make my knees feel weak. Just kidding. Yesterday was leg day!”
1) Burn more calories – The glutes, quads, and hamstrings compose some of the largest muscles in your body. When you train the lower body, your body is working harder than say working your biceps.
Because of this, you’ll burn more calories working the lower body. Additionally, as you work those leg muscles, your body will repair itself while you sleep, which requires more calories, which will increase your metabolism.
2) Symmetry & curves – The symmetry of your body pertains to having well-rounded muscularity throughout your body. You’ve probably heard the term “chicken legs.” Most common in men, it’s when they focus their attention on the upper body and little to no lower body workouts.
When you see them at the beach, their symmetry is off, because they tend to have muscles throughout their upper body, but obviously don’t do much in the gym on leg day. For women, having sexy curves throughout the body is usually important. Doing lower body exercises can provide a round bottom, curvy legs, and calves (How to Tone Calves Without Bulking Up) that are usually highly regarded.
3) Mental Strength – let’s face it leg day is difficult. Doing squats, deadlifts, and lunges are hard. But if you can push through whatever excuses you can come up with, for skipping leg day, it will provide mental toughness.
Believing in yourself and fighting through obstacles, no matter if it’s at the gym, at work, or home will prove beneficial.
What Are The Best Leg Exercises for Women?
For me, the top two exercises for your lower body are squats and deadlifts. And I’m pretty sure over 90% (probably closer to 99%) of other trainers would agree with me. Squats and deadlifts are compound lifts, meaning they work multiple muscles at the same time. And not just lower body muscles.
For example, if you’re doing a squat, the weight is above your waist, meaning your core muscles must be engaged to prevent from falling over. The deadlift works your back, arms, and core. For these reasons, the squat and deadlift need to be in your repertoire.
Start With Squats
As mentioned above squats are one of the best exercises for your body. But there’s also an order of exercises you should be doing. By doing the big compound lifts first it ensures that you’re hitting these exercises with all your energy.
If you do a bunch of secondary leg workouts first, you’ll exhaust your energy and produce less output on your big lifts. If you exhaust your secondary muscles first and then try to go do squats, using your normal amount of weight, this can lead to injury and nobody wants that.
Use Full Range of Motion
You could probably put a ton of weight on the bar and squat down a few inches and go back up.
However, if you tried to go all the way down and go through the full range of motion, you would most likely drop the weight or get stuck. Going through the full range of motion is harder than just dipping down a few inches, but the reward is significant. The full range takes the muscle from the longest point to the shortest point, working the entire muscle. This is how growth occurs.
Often, pros will start with a full range of motion and then continue doing partial reps to completely exhaust the legs. When done like this, partials are fine, but only after you’ve gone all the way down and are finishing up your leg day.
What Should I Eat on Leg Day?
Overthinking your workouts and deciding on exactly what you should be eating might be a little “getting the cart before the horse,” unless you’re getting on stage. I do hear of people carb loading or increasing their carbs on leg day, so they have fuel to do the hard and heavy lifts.
However, if you’re a beginner, as long as your eating nutritious meals, that include protein, slow-digesting carbs, and healthy fats, I wouldn’t worry too much about hitting exact numbers for leg day.
If you’re looking to add muscle, you should be in a calorie surplus, and if you’re looking to drop body fat, you should be in a calorie deficit.
Which is Better For Legs, Cardio, or Lifting?
The question of which to do first has been going back and forth for years. And I think it comes down to what your end goal is. If you’re looking to add muscle and curves, weight resistance is a necessity.
If your goal is to expand your cardio health and improve heart and lung conditioning, then aerobic exercises might be your focus. If you’re set on doing them both, I recommend doing your lifting first and then your cardio.
Again, if you exhaust your legs running a few miles, and then move into doing weight resistance, you might not have the strength to lift much. This could increase your chances of injury, and your strength training output will be decreased.
How to Get The Most Out of Leg Days
What I mean by this is switch up the exercises you’re doing. If you do the same exercises without changing the weight, reps, or sets, your legs will adapt and work less. Even something as small as changing your foot position can work your muscles differently.
Every 6-8 weeks, I like to mix up my routine a bit. I can stick to the same basic exercises but add a little weight, or take a shorter break with a lighter weight. Maybe you go heavy and take a longer break between sets. Regardless, change it up a bit.
When Should I do Leg Day?
For me, it’s difficult to do a leg day in the morning. And I would even consider myself to be a morning person. I’m up between 5:30 – 6 am, but I take a bit to get going. For this reason, I do most of my workouts in the afternoon or after work. A morning run is a little different, and those feel great to me.
But I just don’t have the energy to hit the squat rack. But you’re not me. You need to figure out when the best time for you is. Some people like to get their workout done in the morning, so they can go about their day. Others, like me, do it later on. As long as you’re getting it done, go with that time.
If I tell you to do your legs after work, and after work, you’re completely exhausted, you probably won’t do it. But you will do them in the morning, then do them in the morning. Never skip leg day!
How to Recover From Leg Day
At some point, you’re going to lift heavy on leg day, and wake up in the morning and say to yourself “oh dear god!”
Having sore muscles is very common. As long as you’re not in incredible pain, you’ll get through it. Here are a few things you can do to get through the day or two after.
1) Stretch – periodically throughout the day stretch those sore muscles. This will help with recovery.
2) Foam roller – if you haven’t discovered the magic of foam rollers, you need to get on board. Take your time with foam rolling, and do it correctly. Stopping on top of a muscle until it releases might be painful in the short-term, but long-term you’ll be glad you did.
3) Massages – if you have the time and are willing to throw a few coins at the issue. A mild massage can help reduce the longevity of the soreness.
4) Ice/Heat – another technique is to apply ice wraps and then heat wraps. Alternating these two can help with the pain.
5) OTC pain reliever – if all else fails, a bit of pain reliever can help too. I try to use this as a last resort.
Check Your Form
The proper squat form is the key to preventing knee, back and lower joint pain. From where to place the bar on your traps/back to which direction your feet point, are all part of proper form. I would recommend starting with a low amount of weight and working your way up. If you find yourself really straining, and engaging other muscles to get the lift up, you need to decrease the weight and focus on form. This goes for any lift, not just squats or deadlifts.
Conclusion of Leg Day Tips
As you can see there are numerous benefits to leg day. But you have to be willing to put in the work, to get the gains or rewards. If you do hit it a bit hard there are mitigations you can take to get you ready for the next leg day.
Finally, some people just live to do leg day, and I think that’s great. But remember you need to work the entire body. If you’re new to lifting, take a look at some of the home programs I’ve tried out and think are excellent resources. Bodyweight exercises (Bodyweight Burn Review) are a great way to get started for those new to exercise or lifting.
I hope these leg day tips for women benefit you in your fitness journey. Good luck.
What other tips do you have? Leave a comment below.