When I was growing up, one of my Aunts and I used to have a funny expression for the sadness we’d experience about mid-afternoon on Sundays- “Sunday Sorrows” as we called it, always crept in just before dinner time, as I felt the sun metaphorically set on my weekend. As I grew older, I assumed this feeling would just dissipate with age, but it never fully did. I continued to feel these mixed emotions on Sundays well into my twenties.
Then I came to a realization- that my lackluster attitude towards beginning the week, was directly impacting my exercise routine on Monday mornings. I’ll be the first to admit, in my late teens and early twenties, Monday was Chest Day. Period. Myself and every other “meathead” across America would cope with the fact that it was Monday, by sliding under our favorite bar at the gym for copious amounts of sets and reps of a bench press variation. If I ever “mixed it up” I would always substitute chest for some other upper body combination- because it was comfortable. It was fun to get a pump in and do exercises that I greatly enjoyed.
After a point though I realized a serious change in my routine was needed. My weeks lacked a mental edge and my workouts were stale. I decided to make a change to my routine. Beginning several years ago, I decided that Monday should be ‘Leg Day.’ It has the perfect analogy for the week ahead.
No matter how much you love your job or your co-workers, if you enjoy spending time with your friends and family, Mondays are undoubtedly initially uncomfortable…So is lifting legs! Many individuals (especially males!) will go weeks or months without squatting or lifting legs, and it’s usually associated with some BS excuse- but the reality is legs are skipped over because they’re extremely challenging and puts you well outside your comfort zone if you’re training them properly.
Why Should I Train Legs on Mondays?
The Mental Edge
Training Legs on Monday (morning especially!) is “embracing the suck” as the military would say. It’s the first action of taking control of your week. This is a positive example of going against the grain- doing something others won’t do- which will lead to a shift in your mindset regarding the entire week. Being able to do something as uncomfortable as lifting your lower body on a Monday will give you the confidence that you can handle any challenges coming your way that day or week.
The Physical Edge
Your full body strength all starts with your legs. Similar to building a house, you must lay a solid foundation and start from the ground up. There’s been a decent amount of research over the years that by doing big compound moves such as the Squat and Deadlift have the greatest hormonal release out of any exercise- which will directly benefit your total body strength. In addition, to guard against knee pain and even lower back pain, you need to fully train your glutes, quads and hamstrings, through various planes of motions. As long as you program your exercises properly to achieve your strength levels, strong legs will ultimately help prevent knee and lower back injuries.
The Practical Edge
Have you ever tried to perform a bench press on a Monday at peak hours in an overly crowded gym? The reason Mondays are often referred to as “International Chest Day,” is because almost every generic workout program in a bodybuilding magazine starts with “Monday: Chest & Tri’s.” Do yourself a favor, and the next time you’re struggling to get on a bench, look over at the squat rack in your gym. As long as there isn’t someone doing Bicep Curls, there’s usually practically cobwebs hanging off it on Mondays. Therefore, from a practicality standpoint, I know if I train my lower half on Mondays, I will basically have free-reign on whatever equipment I need to hit my workout.
Does This Mean I Must Squat?
This is a topic I plan to spend a lot of time on in future posts, but the cliff-note version is: find the squat pattern that’s right for YOU! Every single person that walks through a set of gym doors is different- from mobility issues, to femur length, hip angle, muscle weaknesses/imbalances- every trainee is different. Therefore, traditional BB Back Squats or Front Squats, may not be right for you- at this time- and that is OKAY! You don’t have to fit the square peg in the round hole and force squats upon yourself for it to be an effective workout program.
Some people, traditional BB Squat variations are just not right for- at this time. That doesn’t mean you can’t work towards them (if you have the goal of squatting ‘traditionally) nor should it mean you avoid training legs altogether. I encourage you to find a squat pattern that’s right for you- whether that’s adjusting your range of motion away from an “ass to grass mindset” and focus more on achieving a 90 degree squat. Or, maybe it’s performing a unilateral squat, which puts much less stress on your lower back and knees.
Put the onus on yourself to find the perfect balance of an exercise that pushes you outside your comfort zone, while remaining anatomically safe on your body. When I say ‘you should train legs on Mondays,’ I’m not talking about doing 3 sets of 10 on the leg extension machine and calling that a good leg workout. I always encourage clients to push themselves with intensity (whether that’s by added volume or added weight depends on the client) when it comes to lower half training. The key to making the connection between the mind and body with leg day, is to ‘conquer the workout,’ as opposed to just going through the motion.
Sample Leg Day
Everyone has different requirements, so my disclaimer is, “this workout may not be for everyone.” If you are unsure of how to make leg day work for you, within whatever limitations you may possess, I highly encourage you to hire a credible coach that will put together an individualized workout routine. For anyone looking for a simple yet effective workout template, it goes as follows:
Example Leg Day
1.Squat Variation (i.e Back Squat, Front Squat, DB Goblet Squat, Split Squat, Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat)
1a. Choice of Core exercise
1b. Choice of Mobility exercise
2. Hinge Variation (Conventional Deadlift, Trap Bar Deadlift, BB RDL, DB RDL, KB RDL, Single Leg RDL)
2a. Choice of Core exercise
2b. Choice of Mobility exercise
3. Hip Thrust Variation (BB Hip Thrust, BB Glute Bridge, Single Leg BB Hip Thrust, Single Leg BB Glute Bridge)
3a. Choice of Core exercise
3b. Choice of Mobility exercise
4. Lunge/Step Up Variation (Reverse Lunge, Front Lunge, Lateral Lunge, Straight Step up, Lateral Step up etc.)
4a. Choice of Core exercise
4b. Choice of Mobility exercise
5. “Isolation Work” (Swiss Ball/Sorinex Hamstring Curls, Eccentric Glute Ham Drops, Miniband ABDUCTIONS, Froggy Glute Bridges etc.)
5a. Choice of Core Exercise
5b. Choice of Mobility Exercise
*There is a ton of room for variation within this template, to find the exact right exercises for you. The core and mobility aspect of the “Tri-Set’s” are optional, but I love them because it takes my workout productivity to an entirely next level by using them as “rest.” You also don’t need to do core and mobility on every tri-set. Mix and match with what makes the best flow for your workout.
*The variables you choose to use with this template are totally dependent upon your goal as well. For example, if your goal is to lose some weight, you’d want to keep each of these tri-sets to only about 3 total working sets, with absolutely minimal rest time in between sets. You’d look to keep the reps anywhere between 6 and 15, with the lower reps being for the bigger compound moves (Squats and Deadlifts) and the higher reps occurring as the workout progresses.
*Conversely, if you were looking to put on muscle, you’d look to increase your volume. So rather than only 3 sets, look to perform 4-6 working sets of each tri-set. The rep range would look similar, 6-15 reps, but you’d add a little to your rest time and you’d also be looking to increase weight almost every set, so that by the last set you’ve almost reached failure at your prescribed rep-range.
*As I always advise, write down your workouts and chart your weights so you can look to improve in some way from week to week. This is how you’ll fully ensure growth and development of your lower body!
Falling into training ruts is one of the easiest ways to lose motivation to go to the gym. Especially if you’ve been using the same training routine for the last several months or even years, I highly encourage you to consider shaking up your training schedule in the new year.
As we approach 2020, there are an innumerable amount of ways you can adjust your workout regimen. By making Legs a priority and training them on the first day of the week, you’re taking a step to positively changing your workout routine from a physical perspective as well as improving your mental edge on the week ahead. Especially as gyms across the country start to get extremely overcrowded in the early months of 2020, consider going against the grain and train your lower body on Monday’s!
Yours in Fitness and Health,
Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass.