Friends Don’t Let Friends Skip Leg Day
We’ve all seen the memes. The picture is almost always the same. Usually, a huge jacked guy that has arm veins that look like elevator support cables snaking around his biceps and forearms, shoulders that look like cannonballs from some Victorian war galley, and just an imposing physical form overall. From the waist up anyway. From the beltline down, however, looks like some kind of abstract work of structural integrity. The muscle packed upper body of the guy in the photo always has a stark juxtaposition of impossibly thin and frail-looking legs that look like they couldn’t possibly support the weight of his muscle-bound body. The caption is always the same:
“Don’t skip leg day.”
While the meme is usually hilarious in its own right, this post is going to take this in a different direction. I am going to give you actual reasons to not skip leg day. So, if you are one of those “everyday is arm day” gym bros, buckle up for a barrage of reasons you’re selling yourself short.
The Health Factor
Being strong is never a weakness and not a single person, alive or dead, has ever been too strong. This is reflected heavily in scientific literature. One recent study (1) followed 1.2 million 16 to 19-year old’s for an average of 30 years. The researches were trying to see if muscular strength at a younger age had any correlation with disability pensions later in life. They found a strong association between leg extension strength and disability applications. So, having strong legs early in life will lower your risk of disability later in life. Even though being stronger when your younger is beneficial, it’s never too late to start training.
An interesting study (2) looked at 36 previously sedentary elderly women. They broke up into four separate groups: a resistance training group, a functional training group, a hydro gymnastics group, and a sedentary group. All 36 participants performed pre and post-testing involving several clinically studied exercises associated with being accurate measurements of functional daily living and disability. Individuals that completed the resistance training regimen showed some of the greatest improvements across all the tests, including a self-reported quality of life assessment. The study concluded with a powerful statement: “The regular practice of exercise is important to reduce the deleterious effects of sedentary life over muscular strength, flexibility, functional capabilities and quality of life.”
Finally, if you needed more just general health motivation to crush some squats, muscular strength, in general, is linked to lower all-cause mortality at every age and in every chronic disease populations (3,4,5). Yes. Being stronger, in general, makes you harder to kill and less likely to die from anything and everything at every age.
The Vanity Factor
Everyone has different goals. But everyone should at least have the goal of not becoming a “never skip leg day” meme. Developing a little muscle mass on your legs helps to make a more toned physique. Even if your goal is not to step on stage a bodybuilding show, there are some very good (and maybe a little vain) reasons to get under a bar and squat.
Firstly, if you’re single and looking to mingle, there is some evidence out there to suggest that women and men both prefer physiques with a low to normal waist to hip ratio when assessing mate attractiveness (6). The best way to lower this ratio without drastic weight loss is to grow the glutes. A plethora of exercises stimulates the glutes. But, squatting heavy appears to be king (7). Also, guys, women prefer stronger men (8). If you are not training legs, then you are ignoring the strongest muscles in your body.
The Pain Factor
The instance of non-specific lower back pain is reported to be around 84% (9). This is a mind-blowing statistic. In layman’s terms, 84% of people will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. Chronic lower back pain afflicts 23% of people. 11%-12% of people are disabled by back pain. If you have made it this far in the article, you’re probably smart enough to figure out the solution I am going to offer. Having strong legs, strong glutes, and a strong back will absolutely help back pain sufferers (10). Exercises that target the lower body and posterior chain like squats, glute bridges, hip lifts, and the lumbar extensors (lower back) all seem to lend some relief to lower back issues.
The Awesome Factor
Look, I am a weirdo. I am one of the few people on earth that enjoys training their legs. I dream of a future where Monday switches from “International Chest Day” to “International Hamstring Day.” There is some aspect that just trims the fat off the soul about a heavy squat or a heavy deadlift. Think of a squat. Think of working up to your one rep max. You are basically just resisting being crushed to death as hard as you can. You have this weight that you are fighting. This gravity you are defying. There is something that just quiets the rest of the problems of the world when you’ve chosen to inflict stress like this on yourself. Nothing is more awesome than straining to win and then winning. Training legs will make you more awesome.
What do you think of these points presented? Did this convert you from an “everyday is arm day” bro into a “squat every day” bro? Let us know in the comments!
1. Henriksson, H. et al. (2019) Muscular weakness in adolescence is associated with disability 30 years later: a population-based cohort study of 1.2 million men. British Journal of Sport Medicine.
2. Machado, O. et al. (2019). Comparison of Functional Capability, Flexibility, Strength and Quality of Life in Aged Women Engaged in Resistance Exercise, Weight-Bearing Training or Hydro-Gymnastics. Journal of Sports Science.
3. Volaklis A. et al. (2015). Muscular strength as a strong predictor of mortality: A narrative review. European Journal of Internal Medicine
4. Francisco, B. et al. (2012). Muscular strength in male adolescents and premature death: cohort study of one million participants. British Medical Journal.
5. Garcia-Hermoso, A. et al. (2018). Muscular Strength as a Predictor of All-Cause Mortality in an Apparently Healthy Population: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Data From Approximately 2 Million Men and Women. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
6. Henss, R. (1995). Waist -to-Hip Ratio and Attractiveness. Personality And Individual Differences.
7. Barbelho, M. et al. (2020). Back Squat vs Hip Thrust Resistance Training Programs in Well-trained Women. National Library of Medicine.
8. Sell, A. et al. (2017). Cues of Upper Body Strength Account for Most of The Variance in Men’s Bodily Attractiveness. Proceedings of The Royal Society.
9. Balague, F. et al. (2012). Non-Specific Low Back Pain. The Lancet.
10. Charity, L. (2017). Posterior Chain Exercises for Prevention and Treatment of Low Back Pain. ACSM Health and Fitness Journal.