Well, today was my favorite day…leg day. No joke, I love leg day. I am trying to get the word out about leg workouts men should be doing. I take a much different approach than most guys do when it comes to legs. After a pretty severe back injury in 2015, I HAVE to take a different approach to leg day. If you are looking for leg workouts that work the entire lower body, and also incorporate some upper body, then please keep reading. You might be surprised by what comes next.
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I also have to say that just because the title indicates this post is for men, women please don’t take offense. These leg exercises are great for women too. It’s just that I am a man, and men usually feel like they have to feed their ego by lifting an insane amount of weights. This post is not about lifting insane amounts of weight. A lot of men think that unless the barbell looks like the Gateway Arch, they didn’t have enough weight on. Well, that is exactly how I injured myself, to begin with.
I am not in the business of moving busses
I have discovered through this experience that I don’t have to squat absurd amounts of weight to get a good leg workout. I am not in the business of moving buses or lifting cars, but if I were…oh never mind. The exercises I do have really helped me with my back pain journey. Working the lower body and core have been key for me.
So, today was a day off from work for me. We are getting close to the end of the year and I have vacation days to burn. I took this rare weekday off and showed up at the gym when nobody was there. Glorious!! I pretty much had the place to myself. going to the gym mid-day, mid-week, I could get used to that. I didn’t have to fight anybody for any equipment :).
Hmmmm, elliptical or stairs
My workouts always start with 20 minutes on either the elliptical or the stairs, see my post here about strengthening core muscles. This is a great warm-up for me. Today was stairs. Now I do stairs a little differently than most. I don’t stand at the top of the machine with my arms fully extended to take all the weight off, giving me little to no legwork at all. No, I do the twenty minutes “look mom, no hand’s style”. I also try to keep my head as stable as possible, my spine neutral and push off with my calves on each step, just as the step is preparing to roll under, stepping midfoot onto the next stair in front of me.
Keeping my head still and back straight really makes me focus on pushing off with my glutes and hamstrings. This is also great for calves and quads. Anyway, this is the way StairMaster is supposed to work in my opinion. Have you ever walked up a flight of stairs and really concentrated on working your glutes with every step?
As I do my twenty minute warm up, I increase the resistance also. I start on something fairly benign like 6 (out of 20), then the last few minutes I am usually pushing 14. The no hand’s thing really makes me pay attention, no phone time now.
Warmup is over, now what?
So, twenty minutes later, I am sweating pretty darn good. Now it’s time for walking lunges. I do 4 sets of 25 steps for a total of 100. Now I am talking legitimate walking lunges, none of this lower my body halfway short step stuff. These are legit stretch my legs out, keep the knee and ankle aligned and make a 90-degree angle lunges. Okay, that might not sound like much, but we will come back to this later. That was the first round of lunges.
Then it’s off to leg curls. I have struggled with leg curls. My injury in 2015 involved a sprained pelvis. So, if I put too much weight on leg curls, I end up straining my pelvic area. I have had to build up over time. I started with super lightweight and worked my way up. Hamstrings and glutes are super important for me, to help keep me strong and avoid future injuries. I do 5 sets of 20 reps for a total of 100 reps on leg curl. That is why it’s so hard to find the right weight. At first, you think, I got this, this is too easy, so you put more weight on. By the time you are 3 sets in, you still have 2 sets of 20 to do, and you either can’t finish, or you end up hurting something. This took me a long time to get used to. Checking my ego before doing leg curls. I rest about 20 seconds between sets.
I mentioned earlier I would get back to walking lunges, so here we go, round two on lunges. I do another round of 4 sets of 25 lunges, so that is another 100 lunges. Now my legs are burning a bit.
Calves are one of the hardest things to work, in my opinion. I have a hard time hitting just the right spot. Sometimes it works my feet more than it works my calves. With that, I typically use the seated calf extension machine. It’s a cable machine, with pedals for each foot, that move independently of each other. The pedals are on a swivel, and I can find just the right angle to work my calves right where I want to. I have no idea what this machine is called, but you sit down with legs extended out in front and move the pedals, like pedals on a car. You can adjust the seat to fit how you need it to. Here is a video. Okay, again 5 sets of 20.
Back to lunges. Here we go again. Another 4 sets of 25. So all in, I have done 300 walking lunges.
My favorite new exercise!
Now it’s time for one of my newest, favorite exercises, goblet squats. I didn’t realize that this would quickly become one of my favorites until I tried it a few times. Remember when I said you can get some great upper body work in with leg day? Well, now we are talking. I use a 24kg kettlebell for this exercise. Now, I flip the kettlebell upside down. I see people doing these while they hold onto the handle of the kettlebell, but I prefer to flip it over. What this does, it allows me to squeeze the kettlebell between my hand’s, which engages my lats and really my upper back and shoulders. It kind of works everything. The squat itself works pretty much the entire leg, but I really focus on pushing up with my glutes. I feel this in my lower back as well. As I said, it’s pretty much a whole body exercise. Again, I do 5 sets of 20 reps.
Are we done yet?
After I am all done with that, I make my way over to the glute kickback machine. Now for some reason (because it works the butt), this seems to be considered a “lady” exercise. I am not afraid to admit that either! I don’t really care, I am over it because it works what I need it to work. Besides that, my wife likes my butt :). This is a great/tough way to end my workout, but it’s so worth it when it’s all over.
So, although I am not at the gym for three hours, as I have other obligations in life, I get a great leg workout, that also focuses on the core. I feel like moving from one exercise to the next is a little bit like a circuit and the fact that I take minimal rest between sets. This also helps to keep my heart rate up. The hardest part of a workout like this is to find the right weight. I had to start super, ridiculously light, and work my way up from there.
Well, I hope you enjoyed reading this post. I certainly enjoyed writing it. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks for reading!