Working out leg muscles once per week may be enough if your goal is lower body strength gains. However, if you are intent on building muscle growth in the legs, you should train them twice per week.
What Does Leg Training Involve?
When most people think of leg training, they’re talking about working the quadriceps. But there’s more to leg training than the thighs. It also includes the hamstrings and calves. Many people also include the glutes as part of their leg training program.
A complete workout training routine should include at least the quads, hamstrings, and calves. For greatest muscle growth potential you should do 10-12 sets for quads, with 8 sets each for hamstrings and calves. That gives you a total of between 28-30 sets for the workout. That should take you between 75 and 90 minutes.
Your leg workout exercise selection should be built around compound exercises like the bar squat, the Romanian deadlift, and lunges. Include other leg exercises to target the muscles like leg extensions, leg curls and calf raises.
How Often to Work Legs?
The question of the correct training frequency for leg muscles is one of the most hotly debated topics in bodybuilding. Most guys end up working out what training duration their body best responds to after a few years of training and tailor their training program accordingly. However, there is some research that can guide us.
A 2016 meta-study was conducted by a group of fitness experts led by Brad Schoenfeld. They analyzed 10 studies that had been conducted over the previous decade. The studies involved comparisons of training frequency, from a single workout to a 3 workout per week plan.
Every single study showed that training a body part more than once per week resulted in greater muscle mass increase. The average difference in muscle growth over a 3 month training period was 3.1 percent in individuals who trained 2-3 times per week, compared to those who trained once per week.
Another study compared the effects on muscle growth of training a major muscle 2 times per week and hitting it 4 times per week. After six weeks of training, upper body muscle growth was greater in the 2 times per week muscle group.
There have been no studies directly comparing the muscle-building effects of training 2 times with 3 times per week. However, we know that a muscle group requires between 48 and 72 hours of rest and recovery in order to fully recover, recuperate and grow from each workout. Working legs two times per week will still provide ample time to recover between workouts.
Finding the sweet spot between providing enough recovery time and hitting a body part often enough to ensure continued mass and muscular strength increases takes individual trial and error. I have found that a workout plan that sees me hitting a muscle group twice a week gives me the best results.
When it comes to leg training, on my current workout, I will train them on Tuesday and then again on Friday. That provides me with two full days of rest between workouts.
On this split routine, I am working my chest, shoulders, and triceps on Monday and Thursday and back and biceps on Wednesday and Saturday. Sunday is a complete rest day. On your day of rest, don’t do any exercise at all.
When I’m doing heavy compounded movements such as the barbell squat, I will have 2-minute rest periods between sets, with shorter rest intervals on higher rep sets.
How to Maximize Your Leg Training
Once you have figured out how many days per week to structure your workout routine, you then need to drill down on what exercises you should be doing and what reps and sets per muscle group you should be following.
On your biggest muscles, like quads, you should do 3-4 exercises per muscle group, with around 6 sets per muscle group.
Your ideal training exercise selection should begin with compound movements that allow you to go heavy on an exercise such as squats. I suggest working through a range of rep counts in order to stimulate both your fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers.
On your first set, use a relatively light weight for 20 reps. Then add weight to each set as you reduce the reps one each succeeding set. I recommend doing 6 sets in total, pyramiding down to 12, 10, 8, 8, and 6 reps.
Going to leg extensions and leg curls after your compound exercise will allow you to really isolate the quadriceps and hamstrings. Do another six sets on each, again pyramiding down from a high of 30 to a low of six. You will really feel the burn here, especially on the leg extensions. Be sure to keep each rep slow and strict.
When you’re doing leg extensions, cut out the first and last 10 percent of the movement. Keeping your range of motion to the middle 80 percent of the muscle will keep the tension on the quads while also reducing stress on the knees.
When it comes to training your calf muscles, perform both seated and no-seated versions to fully stimulate the muscle. My favorite calf extension variation is on the 45-degree leg extension machine. Be sure to focus on getting a complete calf flexion and extension on every rep, rather than concentrating on lifting heavy weight.
According to science and the in-the-gym trenches experience of many experts, training legs once per week is not the best option for effective training for muscle growth. Your exercise routine should involve working your legs twice per week to provide adequate time for recovery and for the best muscle-building results.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a 3-day full-body workout enough?
A full-body workout program of 3 sessions per week will be enough for your first year of training. When you are working your entire body, you are not able to do as many exercises for each body part as when you do a split routine. After a year’s training, you will need to increase your training volume for each body part. Move from full-body workouts to 3-day splits. Advanced lifters should try a 4 or 5-day workout split.
Which workout split is best?
There is no best workout split. It depends on which split works best for you. Ideally, your split should involve just two body parts. ever train a minor body part, such as the biceps, before a major body part, like the lats.
How many days per week should you work out?
The number of days per week that you work out depends on the training split that you choose. If you are a beginner (less than a year’s training experience), I suggest working out 3 times per week, every other day on a full-body program. After a year, you can go to a split training program, where you are working each body part twice per week. This will see you training either 4 or 5 days per week, depending on the split you choose.