Thanks to Instagram and Snapchat, most people these days know never to skip leg day. But there's a critical difference between doing something for the sake of doing it and doing it correctly. If you're one of those guys or girls who hits the gym religiously but just can't seem to build killer stems, you may be suffering from one of these four common leg day mistakes:
1. Fearing (or Short-Changing) the Squat.
If only I had a dollar for every person who asked me whether they "really need to" squat. The answer: YES, you damn well do if you want decent legs! Of course, if you have a chronic knee injury that literally prevents you from getting into squat position, you get a pass. Otherwise, it's time to get that butt into the squat rack. Sure, leg presses, leg curls, and box step-ups have their place. But there's no substitute for the barbell squat when it comes to building legs of steel (and no, doing them on the Smith machine doesn't really count unless you train at a gym where you have no choice).
Closely related to the non-squatters are the infamous quarter-squatters. You know 'em: The (mostly) guys who load so much weight onto the bar that they can barely go 10 degrees for one rep before failing. This is completely pointless.
For meaningful results, you should be squatting below parallel, with your hip crease below the top of your patella. Going through the full range of motion is optimal for strength and muscle building. Also, contrary to what the gym bros will tell you, science indicates that full squats are actually GOOD for improving knee structure and avoiding injury.
2. Consuming Insufficient Protein.
Getting enough of all three macronutrients is important no matter what your fitness goals, but protein is the most critical for strength building. If you're serious about getting big, strong legs, you need to be hitting at least 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight (and sometimes more) on the daily.
3. Overdoing Your Cardio.
Are you one of those people who likes to warm up with 15-20 minutes of cardio? Or are you trying to slog away on the treadmill for miles after your weight lifting? Either way, you're not optimizing your cardio for strength and size gains. The best way to get your cardio in when trying to build lean muscle is to incorporate some High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT is excellent for boosting cardiovascular health while safeguarding your muscle mass and improving metabolism.
4. Letting Your Body Adapt.
Your body's pretty smart. When you impose stress on your muscles, they adapt to better deal with that tension over time. As a result, going to the gym for weeks on end performing the same number of sets / reps of the same exercises in the same order is a recipe for leg day disaster.
The whole point of strength training is to gradually progress in intensity so that your body never gets too used to the same routine. Some great ways to shake things up include adding (or decreasing) the number of sets and reps, boosting your weight volume, chopping rest times, using different equipment (dumbbells versus barbells), and throwing in some new movements.