Why I don’t believe in “leg day”

Given the fact that I just posted about how awesome squats are, the title probably comes as a shock. But that’s not what I mean. I mean that I don’t believe in the philosophy of “only-work-one-specific-muscle-group day.”

JohnnyBravo3I regularly hear people moan that, “today is leg day,” or, “my shoulders are so sore–yesterday was arms and back.” I guess I see the appeal. If you work out only one muscle group, you will obviously see more results more quickly for that one group. It’s the reason most guys don’t believe in working on their legs and end up looking like Johnny Bravo (news flash–stick legs aren’t cute!).

The catch with that school of thought is that you pretty much have to make time to lift every day to get consistent work in for each area: if you only lift 3x per week, and each day is a different muscle group, then you only work that group once per week. I love to lift, but given that there are only so many hours in the day, and that cardio is pretty darn important to me too, that’s just not going to happen. Abs are the only thing that I would work every day–unless it hurts to laugh, or sneeze, or breathe, in which case it’s time for a break.

That’s why I believe in doing full-body lifting sessions, pretty much no matter what. In triathlon, you work everything, so it makes sense to work everything as much as you possibly can. The same goes for normal people, who just want to get in shape and get their whole bodies “less squishy.” I absolutely get wanting to focus on certain areas for certain sports (runners don’t necessarily need to have Schwarzenegger-style biceps); in that case, skew the workout toward what’s important to you, but don’t eliminate the other stuff. Balance is key. For example, I recently cobbled together a lifting plan for someone who wanted to focus on upper-body. Out of the 6 total exercises, 4 focused on upper-body and 2 focused on lower-body. Do that same kind of thing 3x per week, and you’re working your upper-body twice as much as your legs. That’s pretty good, if you ask me. Just in case I didn’t just mention this: do as much ab work as you want.

Beyond the 4/2 strategy, I have a few other recommendations:

  • Add a move to an exercise so you work both upper- and lower-body in one movement. You can do your work out in just about the same amount of time, but work twice as much. Remember the squat press exercise from last post? Yeah, like that.
  • Super-sets. They are your friend. A super-set is when you do 2 exercises back-to-back with no rest in between. For example: do a set of pull-ups (I do 3 sets of 6) and then do lunges. They will make you very tired, but they are good for you, and you get twice as much benefit. You can also super-set 2 similar exercises to maximize the amount of time you get on that muscle group. As long as  you work the other half after.

Added benefits of full-body lifting? Generally higher calorie and fat burn–and if you miss a workout, you won’t get even more unbalanced. Want more? Check out this great post from Marc Perry on BuiltLean.com comparing full-body and split lifting plans.

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