I’m often asked in the gym: why is leg day so hard?
After researching this question, I came up with 7 reasons, as below:
- 1. Your Legs Are Your Biggest Muscles
- 2. You Expect It To Be Difficult
- 3. Leg Day Focuses On Compound Movements
- 4. It’s Harder To Focus On Leg Day
- 5. You Fatigue Faster On Leg Day
- 6. Training Legs Can Make You Feel Nauseous
- 7. You Don’t Train Your Legs Consistently
Let’s explore these in more detail.
1. Your Legs Are Your Biggest Muscles
When you work out, blood flows to your muscles to help give them oxygen and nutrients for energy.
(This increased blood flow is what gives you the infamous pump.)
Now, since the legs are the biggest muscle group in the body, your heart must work even harder and faster to ensure enough blood is flowing to them.
As a result, you have blood from all over your body flowing to your legs at a rapid pace.
This puts your body through a lot of stress.
2. You Expect It To Be Difficult
Never underestimate the power of the mind.
Since leg day has so much stigma around being difficult, you approach leg day with dread and a mindset that it’ll be hard and uncomfortable.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you and say that leg day is easy.
After all, this article is all about why leg day is hard!
But if you go into leg day with the mindset that it’ll be grim, it’ll appear even more challenging!
(Similar to how if you anticipate an exam to be hard, you’re more likely to perform badly.)
3. Leg Day Focuses On Compound Movements
Many of the exercises performed on leg day, like squats, box jumps and leg press work multiple muscle groups, such as your abs, at once.
(In other words, they’re compound movements.)
This means that your body uses a lot more energy when training legs compared to other muscle groups.
So once you’ve finished your squats, your body has used a ton of energy which means the next exercise will be even more challenging.
It also means you’ll feel more tired after leg day.
4. It’s Harder To Focus On Leg Day
As covered earlier, when training your legs, blood is directed from all over your body (including your brain) to your leg muscles to provide them with oxygen and nutrients.
But, your brain also needs a lot of oxygenated blood to function optimally.
When this blood is diverted from your brain, your brain stops working optimally which can make it hard to focus on your training.
The mind-muscle connection is real, and any disruption to this mind-muscle connection can make exercise a lot more challenging.
5. You Fatigue Faster On Leg Day
Another reason why people struggle on leg day is fatigue.
When you’re working your leg muscles, your body burns a ton of calories (i.e. uses up energy).
This, combined with lactic acid build-up in your leg muscles, can make you fatigue much faster than when training a smaller muscle group.
As your muscles start to fatigue, you’ll find that the number of reps you can do decreases dramatically.
6. Training Legs Can Make You Feel Nausous
Leg day nausea is real.
If you’re someone who pushes yourself to your limits on leg day, the chances are you’ve been close to puking before.
(Or have maybe even puked!)
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I’m close to puking, most of my attention is on how I can avoid embarrassing myself in the gym by not puking.
This distracts you from focusing on your exercises.
(You’re also unlikely to push yourself as hard when on the verge of being sick.)
7. You’re Someone Who Skips Leg Day
I’m sure we’ve all skipped leg day once (or twice) in our lives.
But not only will this limit your leg development, it’ll also make leg day more difficult.
Well, like any muscle, your legs will start to lose strength and muscle when you stop training them, so by having smaller and weaker leg muscles, you’ll find it harder to train them.
4 Tips To Make Leg Day Easier
While a challenging leg day can be intimidating, there are ways to make it more bearable.
Let’s take a look at how you can make your leg sessions easier.
1. Carb Load The Day Before
As covered earlier, leg day exercises use up a ton of energy, which is why leg day is so draining (and hence challenging!)
So, a great way to reduce fatigue on leg day is to carb load the day before.
By eating a ton of carbs, your glycogen stores will be full which means your muscles will have as much energy as possible for when you train.
2. Change Your Mindset
Thanks to the negative stigma around leg day, many people go into it with the mindset that it’ll be awful.
Well, if you go in with that mindset, chances are it will be awful.
Whereas if you go into leg day with the mindset that it’ll be a fun and exciting challenge, it’ll seem much more bearable and enjoyable!
3. Train Your Legs Consistently
I know this probably isn’t the answer you’re looking for, but by training legs more frequently, your legs will get bigger and stronger.
And the stronger your leg muscles are, the easier it will become over time.
That being said, progressive overload is key for progress so you’ll need to start increasing the weight and reps over time.
4. Train A Small Muscle Group The Day Before
The last thing you want to do is to a heavy back session before leg day.
Since back day includes many compound exercises (deadlifts, pull-ups, etc.), some of the muscles used in leg day will be fatigued from the back exercises.
So to ensure your muscles are as fresh as possible for your leg workout, focus on a small muscle group, like arms, the day before.
Or, you could even have a rest day.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Does Leg Day Get Easier?
The only time leg day gets easier if you keep training with the same amount of weight.
Well, once your muscles have adapted to that weight, they’re comfortable lifting that amount and hence it’ll feel easier.
But why on earth would you do that?!
The whole point of going to the gym is to push yourself to your limits and to lift weights that your muscles find challenging to help gain muscle.
So embrace the difficulty and quit your whining.
Is Leg Day The Hardest?
For most people, leg day will be the hardest workout. This is mainly because your legs are the largest muscle group and so it requires the most amount of effort.
How Hard Should Leg Day Be?
Leg day should be noticeably harder than your other workouts. If you train your legs properly, you’ll probably sweat more, be in more pain, and have a faster heart rate compared to other workouts.
What To Do After A Hard Leg Day?
Going for a 15-minute walk or jog after leg day can provide many benefits. There’s some research to suggest that it can reduce muscle soreness in your legs the next day. Other than that, you should follow your leg session with a protein-rich meal and some relaxation so that your muscles have everything they need to recover and so that you don’t stress your body any further.
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.