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Why you shouldn’t skip leg day

It can be tempting to skip “leg day” when the results from your upper body and core workouts are more noticeable. But it’s essential to work all muscle groups for your overall health and well-being, says Marquese Stallworth, EP-C, a Piedmont exercise physiologist.

“When you train each muscle group, your body will work optimally,” says Stallworth. “Each muscle group plays a role in supporting the others.”

The health benefits of lower body workouts

Having strong glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles gives your body a strong foundation and can:

  • Tone your lower body muscles

  • Boost your metabolism as you increase muscle mass

  • Experience a higher calorie burn as you train larger muscle groups

  • Improve your balance

  • Strengthen your bones

  • Reduce joint pain

  • Reduce your risk of injury, particularly in your back and knees

  • Decrease lower back pain

  • Prevent injuries

  • Prevent age-related muscle loss

  • Improve range of motion and mobility

  • Improve cognitive function

  • Improve athletic performance, boosting speed and power in sports and other workouts

  • Work your core if you incorporate single-leg exercises

  • Help you manage stress

  • Improve your posture

How often to do lower body workouts

Stallworth recommends incorporating lower body workouts into your fitness routine two to three times per week, in addition to two to three upper body and core workouts, and several cardiovascular workouts (depending on your fitness goals).

Just be sure not to work the same muscle group two days in a row—give your body at least 48 hours to recover in between lower body sessions (this goes for upper body and core workouts too).

The best types of lower body exercises

Lower body toning moves include:

  • Deadlifts (including Romanian deadlifts, sumo deadlifts and single-leg deadlifts)

  • Squats (such as split squats, bodyweight squats or goblet squats)

  • Lunges (including front, back and side lunges)

  • Leg presses using a machine at the gym

  • Leg curls using a machine at the gym

  • Calf raises

  • Bridges

  • Leg raises

  • Hip thrusts

  • Step-ups

  • Good mornings

You can perform many lower body moves with your own body weight or with added resistance from dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands or machines at the gym.

When it’s OK to skip a lower body workout

It’s OK to skip a workout if you’re sick, injured or very fatigued. Listen to your body. But if you feel well overall, don’t put off working your legs and glutes. Your whole body will thank you.

If you have questions about what workout routine is right for you, consult with an exercise physiologist. A fitness professional can help you come up with a customized routine and schedule to incorporate:

  • Lower body workouts

  • Upper body workouts

  • Core workouts

  • Cardiovascular exercise (such as walking, running, swimming, cycling or aerobics)

  • Flexibility training

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