It’s one of the dumbest ideas around. Not to mention one of the most common. The idea is that you should train legs just one day a week.
You hate leg day. I hate leg day. We all hate leg day.
You curse it, struggle with it, and then cope with debilitating soreness for three or four days afterwards every time it comes around.
You repeat the “same old, same old” cycle of stupidity every week, although you still find time to experiment with 274 ways to train your biceps and chest.
You’re probably sitting there reading this article thinking, “Yup that’s me!”
Well listen up, you are missing out on some serious gains for your legs AND other muscle groups, simply because you don’t have your priorities straight when it comes to your training.
Dude! It’s time to stop the madness.
You need to train smarter by training legs more often. I promise it will help your gains everywhere. This article explains how.
Why Frequency Matters
Frequency is a key component of a quality training split. Along with intensity and volume, frequency serves as one of the pillars of program design. By manipulating these variables, you can prioritize specific goals, aid recovery, and maximize your body’s adaptations to strength training.
Even though you already know all of that, you are still probably spending too much time worrying about all the wrong things:
- Overtraining...and how to avoid it
- How many times you can train arms in a 3 day span
- And why leg day sucks so bad.
And you are probably not spending enough time worrying about all the right things:
- Optimizing your training frequency for all body parts
- Training legs more than once a week
Newsflash: If you really want to grow, you need to train legs at least twice a week.
Research has shown that the sweet spot for maximizing hypertrophy (muscular growth) involves training each muscle group at least twice per week1. Although difficult to nail down causation from these short term studies, many researchers suggest this has something to do with the mTOR pathway, which is responsible for regulating protein synthesis.
A quality training session will stimulate elevated protein synthesis (and therefore muscle building) for up to 48 hours before returning to baseline. The peak elevation typically occurs about 24 hours into that time-frame2. Take these findings into account when designing or choosing your program.
When attempting to add size, your goal should be to use training and nutrition in tandem to maintain a constant level of elevated protein synthesis. Think of each workout as an on/off switch for gains. The longer that switch is on, the more muscle you can build.
Are you starting to see what all of this has to do with the need to train legs more than once a week? If not, keep on reading! Ultimately, it all comes down to systemic growth and recovery folks.
The hormonal cascade resulting from an intense training session is a crucial piece of the growth and recovery puzzle. However, knowledge of it is simply not enough. You need to TAKE ADVANTAGE of it.
This is especially important for natural lifters who rely entirely on endogenously produced anabolic compounds. Compound movements (like squats, lunges, and deadlifts) recruit more motor units and stimulate a larger uptick in testosterone and growth hormone when compared to smaller isolation movements.
The thing that is often missed here is the fact that growth hormone and testosterone are not localized hormones. Yes, the muscles that you most recently trained will demonstrate increased sensitivity to them, but the systemic effect of these powerful anabolic compounds cannot be ignored.
Natural guys, we need as much help as we can get. The higher your Testosterone levels, the more muscle you can build EVERYWHERE. That is not a claim, it is not a theory; it is a physiological fact. The best part is, you can increase your test naturally.
Squatting, leg pressing, and deadlifting elevate your testosterone and growth hormone levels more so than lateral raises and bicep curls. That elevated testosterone and GH level then leads to faster recovery and more potential for systemic growth. The research is clear and leads to an all too obvious conclusion:
If size matters (why wouldn’t it), you need to train legs more often.
How to Train Legs The Right Way
It’s time to start treating those legs like they actually makeup half of your body’s lean mass. Fortunately, training them is as straightforward as it gets. They tend to respond quickly when subjected to adequate training loads and don’t require a whole lot of equipment.
I’ll even hook you up with a sample program to get started.
A great approach to increasing the frequency of your leg training is to prioritize a hammy dominant and quad dominant day each week. This is a great method if you currently train legs once per week because it allows extra time for recovery. Your hammies might still be sore when it’s time to nuke your quads a few days later, and this split accounts for that.
Some things to remember:
- Repeat these workouts for 4 weeks, adding weight as necessary.
- Keep your rest periods between sets in the 30-45 second range. That WILL be uncomfortable.
- Choose a weight for each exercise that causes you to reach technical failure (form breaks down) within 1 rep of the prescribed range.
- Order is important. You are purposely performing isolation movements at the beginning of the workouts to activate your target musculature and tap into that elusive mind-muscle connection.
- Be consistent, put in the work and the results will come. No more excuses!
Legs A (quad dominant)
|1. Leg Extensions||4||25*|
|2. Front Squats||5||20, 12, 12, 8, 8|
|3. Narrow Stance Split Squat||4||15, 12, 12, 8|
|4. Back Squat||3||20**|
|5. Walking Bodyweight Lunges||1||100 total***|
*Last set pause on top of each rep
**No rest on top, dead stop on bottom
***Add 20 reps each week
Legs B (hammy/glute dominant)
|1. Prone Leg Curl||5||10*|
|2a. Straight Leg Dumbbell RDL||4||12**|
|2b. Weighted Hyperextensions||4||15***|
|3. Barbell Lunges (big step)||4||30 steps total|
|4. Sumo Leg Press||4||25, 15, 15, 10|
*Use a 3-0-1-3 tempo
**Use a 3-0-1-1 tempo
***2 second isometric hold on top
Enjoy the gains and good luck finding a pair of jeans that fit.
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Ratamess, N. A., Peterson, M. D., Contreras, B., & Tiryaki-Sonmez, G. (2015). Influence of resistance training frequency on muscular adaptations in well-trained men. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 29(7), 1821-1829.
- MacDougall, J. D., Gibala, M. J., Tarnopolsky, M. A., MacDonald, J. R., Interisano, S. A., & Yarasheski, K. E. (1995). The time course for elevated muscle protein synthesis following heavy resistance exercise. Canadian journal of applied physiology, 20(4), 480-486.