How Important Are Leg Workouts for Muscle Gain?

If your backside spends more time on the bench press than it does working the lower body, you're missing out on the benefits of a leg workout. By training the powerful muscles in your lower half, you not only increase overall strength, but you also create a more balanced physique.

Leg workouts are a very important part of an overall workout routine. Credit: recep-bg/E+/GettyImages

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Leg workouts are an essential part of an overall workout routine. For optimal fitness, aim to train all of the major muscle groups at least two to three days a week.

Importance of Working Out Legs

Daily activities such as walking, going up steps, squatting, or bending and carrying heavy loads all require the muscles in your lower body to work together to perform these essential tasks. When your leg muscles are weak, or not performing at their best, your daily activity, as well as your physical fitness, can take a major hit, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Developing strength and power are just a few of the many benefits of a leg workout. Training these large muscles also improves athletic performance, making it easier to jump, run, kick, pivot, balance, accelerate, decelerate and turn. Plus, a strong lower body helps prevent injuries. And according to the American Council on Exercise, exercise may also help boost testosterone levels, especially in men over the age of 35.

If you're not a fan of leg day, you might think that you can get the same benefits from exercise just by training the upper body. And while it is true that you can build muscles in your chest, back, shoulders and arms without training the large muscles in your legs, if you want to maximize muscle-building results, you need to embrace the importance of working out legs. That's because the muscles in your lower body, which include the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors and calves, all play a key role in several compound movements.

Read more: The Best Combination Chest and Leg Workouts

Leg Day Exercises

Unless you have an unlimited amount of time to spend in the gym, including compound movements, which are multi-joint exercises that target multiple muscles or muscle groups at the same time, in your overall routine will help build muscle and strength. They also have the potential to possibly increase testosterone, as long as you combine the exercises with a short rest period.

With all of the many benefits of leg day, it's easy to see why it's so important to include lower-body exercises in your overall workout routine. To determine how much time you should spend in the gym, the National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends designing your resistance training workouts according to your fitness level.

Novices or beginner levels can start with two to three days a week of resistance training focusing on all the major muscle groups. Intermediate levels can bump the number of days to four, but that means using a split routine, which spreads four or more workouts evenly across the week. And finally, advanced levels can train four to six days a week by using a variety of methods including a double split routine or a "three days on, one day off" split routine.

Read more: Leg-Day Workout Habits You Should Never Ignore

When choosing your exercises, make sure to build your routine around compound movements, with some room for isolation exercises. Some good examples include:

  • Squats with barbell, dumbbells or kettlebells
  • Deadlift
  • Single-Leg Deadlift
  • Step-Ups
  • Lunges
  • Hip Thrusts
  • Glute Bridges
  • Leg Press
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