If your legs are not sore after leg day, there’s a good chance that you’re doing the exercises wrong.
Let’s look at 7 possible reasons why your legs aren’t sore after leg day, as well as ways to fix it.
Legs Not Sore After Leg Day?
In my 10+ years experience of working out, I’ve found the following reasons explain why you don’t have sore leg muscles after leg day:
- Too Low Intensity
- Your Leg Muscles Have Adapted To The Exercises
- You Have Weak Secondary Muscles
- Errors In Technique
- You Have Weak Stabilizer Muscles
- Too Low Volume
- Poor Mind-To-Muscle Connection
Let’s explore these in more detail.
1. Too Low Intensity
Soreness after exercise (delayed onset muscle soreness, aka DOMS) is the result of local inflammation in the muscle tissue.
This happens when your muscle tissue is broken down and repaired, giving you bigger and stronger muscles.
(In a process called hypertrophy.)
But for this to occur, you need to be training at an intensity that your muscles find challenging.
If you train at a low intensity, it’s unlikely that your muscle tissue will be damaged by the exercise, and as a result, you won’t feel soreness in that muscle.
Solution: Train To Failure
If you train to failure (i.e., you do reps until the point where you physically can’t do another), then your muscles will have no option but to adapt to the new stimulus.
2. Your Leg Muscles Have Adapted To The Exercises
Some people do the exact same workout with the same exercises every week.
But by training this way, you’re targeting the same muscle fibres in the same order at the same angles all the time. This results in your leg muscles adapting to the exercises. A sign of this is feeling no leg pain the next day.
That’s not to say you won’t get bigger and stronger muscles if you do the same workouts. You definitely will if you increase the weight over time.
It’s just that your quads and hamstrings have gotten used to the exercises.
Solution: Mix Up Your Leg Workouts
By mixing up your leg workouts, doing different exercises in different orders, you’ll be targeting a wider range of muscle fibres.
Since some of these muscle fibres won’t have been trained as hard before, there’s a good chance that you’ll feel soreness in these neglected areas.
Changing your leg workouts every 3 weeks or so is a great starting point.
3. You Have Weak Secondary Muscles
Many leg-building exercises are classed as compound exercises. This means they target multiple muscle groups – not just your legs.
For example, the front squat targets your quads, hamstrings, glutes and abs. Likewise with back squats.
In these exercises, your glutes and abs are called secondary muscles because they’re not the focus muscle of the exercise.
But if you have weak secondary muscles, there’s a chance that these reach failure before your legs do.
I.e., if you do front squats but have weak abs, your abs might fail first, forcing you to stop the exercise before your quads and hamstrings have started to weaken.
If this is the case, you probably aren’t training your legs to their full potential. And as a result, there isn’t enough muscle tissue damage in your legs to cause soreness.
Solution 1: Strengthen Your Secondary Muscles
By strengthening your abs and glutes, they’ll be able to keep up with your leg muscles during compound exercises like squats.
So, you’ll be able to do enough reps until your leg muscles start to fatigue.
Solution 2: Pre-Exhaust Your Leg Muscles With Isolation Exercises
Starting your leg session with isolation exercises like leg curls and leg extension is a great way to pre-exhaust your leg muscles.
By the time you get to doing squats in your leg session, your legs will already be somewhat fatigued so that you don’t have to worry about your secondary muscles reaching failure before your legs.
4. Errors In Technique
Another common reason why you don’t feel any leg soreness is errors in your lifting technique.
The squat is a great example here because many beginners squat and with a terrible technique.
Common technique errors that I see include:
- Failure to engage your core muscles
- Not keeping your chin up
- Not completing the full range of motion
Solution: Use A Proper Technique
Rather than squatting with a relaxed core, your abs should be tense and tight all the way through the movement. This will help you squat in the correct plane.
Keeping your chin up during the squat will stop you from arching your back too much, keeping the weight on your quads and hamstrings.
And completing the full range of motion by ensuring your quads are at least parallel to the ground with each rep is vital too if you want to maximize quadricep and hamstring activation.
(Watch below to see how to do the perfect squat!)
5. You Have Weak Stabilizer Muscles
Your stabilizer muscles are essential for compound leg exercises, like the squat.
They’re the muscles which stop your neck and back from buckling under the heavy weight of the barbell.
If you have weak stabilizer muscles, you won’t be able to lift enough weight to activate your legs to the point of soreness.
Even if you have strong legs, they alone can’t handle the force of compound exercises, like squats.
As covered earlier, compound exercises recruit multiple muscle groups, not just your legs.
Solution: Strengthen Your Stabilizer Muscles
To strengthen your stabilizer muscles, you should focus on free weight exercises rather than cable or machine exercises.
This is because free weights require you to control the weight as you exercise, rather than relying on the machine to do this for you.
Once your stabilizer muscles are up to speed, you’ll then be able to increase the weight and work your legs harder.
6. Too Low Volume
Simply doing too few sets and reps can be another reason why your legs aren’t sore after leg day.
Each rep you do activates your leg muscles somewhat.
By doing a small number of sets and reps, your legs will experience less overall activation in your workout.
But to feel soreness, your legs needs to activate to the point where the muscle tissue is damaged and in need of repair.
Solution: Increase The Volume
If your leg workout currently consists of 6 sets of 8 reps, you’re only activating your leg muscles 48 times.
By increasing this volume to 9 sets of 12 reps, you’re activating your leg muscles 108 times!
So, by increasing the volume of your leg workout, you have more opportunity to target your leg muscles which will increase the likelihood of soreness the next day.
7. Poor Mind-To-Muscle Connection
One of the most ignored and underappreciated aspects of training is the mind-to-muscle connection.
This phenomenon describes the deliberate effort of contracting a specific muscle.
If your mind-to-muscle connection is subpar, you’ll recruit less muscle fibres when completing a certain exercise.
Obviously, the less muscle fibres you recruit, the less opportunity you have to work your legs to the point of soreness.
Solution: Dial In Your Mind-To-Muscle Connection
There are many ways you can improve your mind-to-muscle connection for leg exercises.
For example, when doing leg extensions, rather than thinking of moving the weight from point A to point B, imagine that you’re pushing the weight as far away from you as possible with your quads.
Or when doing squats, rather than thinking of pushing the bar vertically, imagine that you’re driving the weight up with your leg muscles.
While this may seem a bit woowoo, research shows that it actually works.
In one study, 30 subjects were split into 2 groups. One group were told to simply move the weight, and the other group was instructed to focus on contracting the muscle.
The results showed that after 8 weeks, those who were instructed to focus on muscle contraction experienced significantly more bicep growth than the other group.
Are Your Legs Supposed To Be Sore After Leg Day?
If your leg workout was intense and of high volume, you should expect them to be sore the next day.
That being said, everyone is different, and our muscles all respond slightly differently to the same stimulus.
If your legs aren’t sore, that doesn’t necessarily mean your leg workout was ineffective, it could just be that your legs have adapted to the exercises.
Why Doesn’t Your Legs Hurt After Squats?
The most common reason why your legs don’t hurt after squats is using a poor technique.
Most people don’t squat with a full range-of-motion, which means that your leg muscles aren’t working as hard.
Also, many people do squats with an unnatural arched back, which puts a lot of tension on their lower back.
Using incorrect technique on heavy compound lifts is not only ineffective, but it can significantly increase your chances of injury, so should be avoided at all costs.
Where Should You Feel Sore After Leg Day?
This depends on what exercises your leg day comprises of.
If you do only isolation exercises like leg extensions and leg curls, you should only feel soreness in your quads and hamstrings since these exercises don’t recruit other muscle groups.
Whereas if your leg workout is heavily focused on compound exercises, like squats and lunges, then you should expect soreness in your quads, hamstrings, glutes and possibly abs.
That being said, you may not feel pain in your leg muscles at all due to the reasons outlined in this article.
Will Your Legs Still Grow If They’re Not Sore After Leg Day?
This depends on why your legs didn’t get sore.
If it’s because you’re not training at a high intensity and you do too few sets and reps, then your legs won’t have enough stimulus to grow.
Whereas if it’s because your leg muscles have adapted to the exercises that you do on a regular basis, you can expect muscle growth as long continue to increase the weight.
It’s incredibly frustrating when you wake up after leg day, and your leg muscles feel like they haven’t even been trained. Luckily, there are several solutions:
- Train To Failure
- Mix Up Your Leg Workouts
- Strengthen Your Secondary Muscles
- Pre-Exhaust Your Leg Muscles With Isolation Exercises
- Use A Proper Technique
- Strengthen Your Stabilizer Muscles
- Increase The Volume
- Dial In Your Mind-To-Muscle Connection
That’s all for legs, but why isn’t your chest sore after chest day?
Thanks for reading!
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.