Leg Day: The Stru…gg…l…e

Have you had days where you just don’t want to move? Like that Looney Tunes cartoon where the character’s feet are in blocks of concrete and trying to chase after Tweety or Roadrunner? Or, between the nostalgic tunes of “I believe I can Fly” and “Fly like an Eagle”, I got into a Space Jam mood, and you feel like one of these guys from the Toon Squad bench:

tune squad injured bench

I’m like Wile E. Coyote.

For me, that “legs are like jello”/”I don’t wanna get out of bed today” feeling comes right after leg day. What is leg day you ask? It’s to make sure your scrawny legs can hold up your jacked frame after a hard day of lifting. Weight training is fun for the upper body because you can see the immediate results and, presumably, take the next day off with little consequence for your day to day. Well, maybe except typing at work, but that’s another story.

Leg day is when you crush some heavy duty weights at the gym and the next day, still expect your body to function normally like:

  1. Get out of bed
  2. Transport yourself to work
  3. Get up for classes/meetings
  4. Grab coffee
  5. The Throne (no longer a game, sh**t go real)

toilet

As humans, we don’t really walk on 4 legs. Evolution nipped that in the butt several million years ago with Australopithecus…except he wasn’t fully erect. But, we’re homo sapiens, and we stand fully erect. Therefore, we walk everywhere.

ross never fully erect

However, when your legs have squatted more than 1.5x your body weight or lifted that amount several times the day before, they don’t wanna do jack shit. They have a not so gentle way of protesting by sending you tiny jolts of pain through your nerves each time you try to go use the can. Good luck to ya!

Gym rats have fun memes that show you what leg days does to you and they can be really cute:

puppy leg day

What they don’t show is, there are multiple struggles with leg day before you reach the stage of cute puppy lying on soft sheets. First one is motivation.

Struggle Theorem 5: I’m walking everywhere, that doesn’t count as leg day?

Corollary 5.1: No dude, that’s cardio, sort of. Actually, if you’re not running, that’s not even cardio. See Struggle Theorem 1.

Running/walking burns a lot of energy. But, you’re not really putting your muscles under more stress to help them build, strengthen, and condition. That’s what deadlifting 200 lbs is for. Properly developing all muscles in and around the legs also help, as I found, for mobility, agility, and overall awesomeness when trying to jump higher on the bball court or move faster on the tennis court.

athlete collage

Federer’s calves, Nadal’s glutes, Jordan’s Air (aka from the Freethrow Line), Jordan’s Heir (aka Kobe) all thanks to one part beautiful athleticism and one part leg day.

Ever wonder why Olympic sprinters look like they’re jacked? That’s because they incorporate muscle building workouts like weighted lunges, jerks, and cleans, among other strength related exercises into their routine. Buzzfeed don’t lie, they’re like Snapple facts:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/sallytamarkin/sanya-richards-ross-ftw?utm_term=.bhRWQy2Mx#.duB4ypodj

Corollary 5.2: Lifted something, ouch my back >.<

Another struggle is doing leg day properly. When you do leg day, you’re working other parts of the body as a secondary workout. To properly lift anything, the common phrases are “Lift with your legs.” And, living in New York, no, I cannot pivot a sofa properly around a walk up without using my legs. But, I also have to keep my core tight, back braced, so that once I get into the lifting motion, I don’t pull a muscle.

baby squat

We were born to do this!

For anyone going into the gym and thinking, “Sure I’ll squat my body weight,” please please don’t do that because you’ll be one of those ugly folks and possibly truly injure yourself. Get someone who look like they know what they’re doing, like these goodies and have them show you how not to hurt yourself. Then, you can be on your way to doing these cool things:

leg day exercise collage

Top left to right: Back Squat, Split Squats, Kettlebell Swing, Deadlift. Bottom left to right: Box Jump, Lunges, Hip Thrusters.

Notice how in each photo, the girl is doing her thang with a solid core and neutral spine? Don’t be scared guys, I’ve seen a few men do that stuff in the gym as well. 😉

Struggle Theorem 6: Friends don’t let friends skip leg day.

Once you have the motivation down, it’s ’nuff said. If you have a stable gym buddy, hold them accountable. No one wants to see a jacked up guy with chicken legs. If I wanted chicken legs and feet, I’d get dim sum.

chicken

Left side: Yum! Right side: Ewww.

Corollary 6.1: Snapple and real life fact: legs are stronger than arms.

As a guesstimate, if you can bench 75lbs, you can probably lift twice that, with proper training, using your legs. I’m just using my numbers as a rough estimate. Everyone is different, no doubt, but for 99% of the population that hits the gym, your legs are stronger than your arms. Doesn’t matter if you’re lifting 100lbs, 15lbs, 2lbs, be confident to try something heavier when using your legs. It never hurts, in the long run, to challenge yourself.

Corollary 6.2: So many real life applications I don’t even know where to start!

baggage claim

With great power comes great responsibility. For instance, when you tell your mom you splurged on plane tickets to China and can check two suitcases, at 70lbs each…you’re carrying a mini pharmacy and apple store in each bag and you have to lift them off that conveyer belt at the baggage claim.

delivery box

Hello 4 giant blocks of ice and food!

Or, when you’ve ordered a ton of food in the hopes of actually cooking, rather than ordering seamless all day. Them boxes won’t be moving themselves.

Or, PIVOT:

pivot

Step 1: Have a sketch. Step 2: Try to find Joey or Monica (oops). Step 3: PIVOT!!!

It’s not easy building up those calf muscles. Certainly not easy getting that rear end from flat to fab. Beyonce wasn’t born bootylicious folks. And, there’s no pimp my ride spoiler you can add to your derriere as a shortcut, as much as Xzibit would like you to believe. It requires hard work (nooo) and lots of food (yayyy)…*ahem* good food (>.< doh)…to reach that level. But to get to that pot at the end of the rainbow, you may have to crawl. Because with a successful leg day, comes the morning after struggles:

after leg day

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