Health by Daisy M April 21, 2023
It’s simple for most people to create a gym plan, go to the gym and work through the exercises, but often this isn’t often the best way to really maximise your time and your results. This is your sign to take a step back and look at how effective your workouts really are and where you can really focus in on specific areas to make improvements. From boosting your focus and mood when exercising to mobility routine, making sure you’re hydrated and key exercises,these can be very small alterations, or even just a change in mindset, and they can transform your workout. Most of these things apply to all of your workouts, but there are a few leg-day specifics here. So, let’s get into it and see how you can really maximise your leg workouts.
Last but not least, we’re talking about the mind to muscle connection. Going to the gym is about much more than just completing exercises and movements. Your mental attitude means so much too. It’s what helps to push your body to the limits, not giving up. There are so many factors that can impact how you feel mentally in the gym. Some you can’t control, but some you can control, like making sure you’re wearing good quality, high waisted gym leggings that mean you can smash through your workout without anything holding you back. Or perhaps you have a playlist that completely transforms your mood.
One element of your mental attitude in the gym you can completely control is your mind to muscle connection. This is all about bringing attention to your body as it moves, moving with intention and actively engaging your muscles using that concentration as you move. For example, when you’re doing hip thrusts, when you really put your focus on squeezing the glutes and pushing your hips forward, rather than just throwing your body into the movement, trust us when we say it absolutely transforms the exercise.
No matter which exercise you are doing, before you start think about where you really want it to target and then make deliberate muscle contractions. This might take some time to master, but give it a try and we know that it will be a major focus for your future workouts.
When you’re short on time, it’s so tempting to get into the gym and rush to your first machine without doing a proper warmup. When it comes to leg day, one warm up set on your first machine isn’t sufficient to help you get the most out of it, instead you should be doing a mobility routine. This only has to take 5 minutes, but it can truly transform your leg day workout. This warms up the legs, increases blood flow to loosen muscles and loosen the joints, as well as helping you to prevent acute injuries that can really set back progress.
Aside from these advantages, quite simply, when you are more mobile, you will perform better. It improves your posture which helps with form, and it also helps you to get a depth on each exercise that you might not have otherwise. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges and glute bridges will all benefit significantly from you being able to move an inch or two deeper into the movement, putting more positive strain on the muscles, therefore causing them to grow.
Assigning just a few minutes to a quick mobility warmup before jumping on the weights will really transform your leg day. There are so many guided videos you can follow on YouTube, articles about maximising your mobility or if you are a confident stretcher, go with what feels right. Incorporate this and we know you will thank us for it!
Variety in your leg day routine is really important to make sure you are working and growing all of the different muscle groups in your leg. So, you need to be careful with the exercises that you’re selecting to make sure you’re achieving this variety. If you don’t, not only will you achieve less even muscle growth, but when you overtrain one muscle group and undertrain others, such as overworking glutes and underworking quads, it can cause injuries. We’re here to keep it simple, so with your next leg day, pick a minimum of one exercise from each of the three groups below. If you have time to do more, then go for it, but at least one from each section will help you to create a balanced leg workout. Do one warm up set at 50-75% of your full weight, then work up from there for 3-4 sets.
Back Loaded Movements
First up we have back loaded movements:
If you go too heavy with these exercises then you are at risk of developing an injury, however when you gradually increase the weight, they’re fantastic exercises that work a whole host of different muscles, not just in the legs. These are great core exercises to have in your routine.
Next we have hinge movements (a hinge at the hip)
These are some of the most foundational moves you can have, as they help to protect the back whilst also building serious muscle in the posterior chain (primarily the glutes and hamstrings). These weights also tend to be the ones where you can lift heavier, so it can be the more testing component of your workout.
Single Leg Movements
Single leg movements are also important:
Single leg exercises help to promote balance and strength on each side of the leg thanks to the isolated nature of the movements. This helps you to target unique muscles that you can’t always do in bilateral movements (two legs), which in turn can transform your bilateral movements. Your overall performance improves, the definition of your smaller muscles on each leg improves, your balance improves and you will generally become more athletic.
It can be tempting to get into the gym and try to lift as much as you can by the last set of each exercise, however this isn’t always the best way to go. When your form isn’t there, no matter how much you’re lifting, you won’t be getting the most out of your workout and you will also be risking injury.
So, it’s time to scale back. Read up on the correct form for each exercise you’re doing and draw back your weights until you have absolutely perfected it. From here, see how heavy you can go whilst keeping the correct form and aim for 5-6 reps for 4 sets. Once you can comfortably do this, say the week or two weeks after, then increase to 8-10 reps. Again, once you’re happy and comfortable doing this, it’s time to up the weights.
This is called progressive overload, and it helps you to avoid a plateau in muscle mass and strength by constantly pushing your body through strength training with the 6-8 reps, then endurance with the 8-10 reps, then back down to strength. Now that you have the correct form, your progress in terms of how you physically look and how you feel in the gym will be incredible.
Another great way to push your body and maximise your workouts, especially if you’re short on time, is to incorporate a super set. This is when you complete one exercise, then another different one straight after without taking a break. Great for increasing the intensity of your workouts, you will really be pushing yourself here and you can also add more volume to your workouts as you will be saving time, increasing muscle mass over time. Workouts with greater intensity can also help to increase your metabolism, so you’ll be burning more calories for the rest of the day. If you want to focus more on form on the other exercises, a super set is a great finisher. Try out goblet squats followed by kettlebell swings are sure to get the legs burning!
We hope we’ve provided some inspiration about how you can maximise your leg workouts! With some preparation and careful thought during your workouts, you can really transform the exercises, as well as the results you’re seeing. Support your workouts with the right diet and rest and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you are able to make significant progress.