As legend has it…many years ago, there was a man named “Broses” who would forever change the way we train legs.
It was a normal Wednesday, Broses’s typical leg day (chest was Monday and arms were Friday). He was up early training hip drive on a mountain when he stumbled upon a slate of rock that had scripture written on it. After dusting it off, Broses noticed it read, “The 10 Commandments of Leg Day.” Unsure of its origins, Broses made it his duty to pass this knowledge onto the generations to follow. Broses and everyone else would never train legs the same.
After years of searching, I’ve uncovered this valuable piece of knowledge and want to share it with the strength community. It’s important to keep in mind that these commandments are not rules, nor should they be taken as an end all be all. These are mere guidelines and tips to well-structured leg days.
1. Thou Shalt Never Skip Leg Day
The first one is easy, it requires nothing more than showing up to the gym. Skipping unfavored days is a common issue I see as a trainer with clients. If you have to miss one leg day, that’s not a big deal, but one can easily turn into multiple. When you’ve missed multiple workouts, it can put a major damper on your motivation to get back into a rhythm.
2. Thou Shalt Work to Achieve Full Depth or Parallel In Thy Squat
Not everyone can squat to full depth, which is why parallel should be the minimal goal. Everyone has anthropometric differences, and some athletes, such as taller individuals, will actually benefit from avoiding full depth, as this can cause a butt wink and extra lumbar stress. Although there’s no excuse for not working to hit at least parallel. There’s a time and place for partial squats, and that’s not every workout.
3. Thou Shalt Load Thy Hips Properly During Thy Squat
Great squats are essentially curated transfers of forces. If form is on point, your ability to properly load the hips and glutes are a major determinate of a squat’s success. No matter the movement you’re performing; learn to hinge, load, and move efficiently to increase your productivity and reduce injury on your leg days.
4. Thou Shalt Wear Proper Shoes While Squatting
If you squat with a narrower Olympic style stance, use lifting shoes to support ankle mobility. If you prefer a wider, low-bar powerlifting style squat, shoes like Chuck Taylors are great. Anything with a flat sole is preferred no matter your stance. Avoid things like running shoes, as the foam sole can lead to an unstable surface, which can lead to injury.
5. Thou Shalt Squat For Those Who Hath Gone Before Them
Every time you’re in the gym you’re honoring those who’ve put in the work before you. Think about it, we move and exercise based off of a history of trial and error attempts of those before us. Everything we do in the gym is based off of someone’s previous experiences. Don’t take programs, exercises, and movements for granted – they were someone’s hard work at one point.
6. Thou Shalt Fuel Thy Body Properly
Besides training back (at times), I would argue that legs are of the most demanding training day. This being said, it’s important to properly eat before and after training. Especially those who are dieting will benefit from providing the body with the nutrients it needs to perform the work being asked. Nutrient dense foods (vegetables, fruits, whole gains, etc) and ample protein is your first step, nutrient timing is your second step.
7. Thou Shalt Use a Belt Sparingly and Knowingly
A belt is a great supportive tool when achieving new feats of strength and preventing injury. Although, avoid getting into the habit of using a belt for every lift, this can lead to a weaker core and back overtime. Try to create personal guidelines that you can implement when trying to decide whether you should belt up or not. An example I personally use is, anytime I pass 80-85% of my 1-rm for reps, I belt up. Think about your risk:reward ratio.
8. Thou Shalt Avoid The Squat Pad
This may be a controversial commandment, but avoiding the squat pad is good for two reasons. One, it will condition your upper back to become comfortable holding weight on it directly. Two, it will encourage you to build up your natural squat pad, aka the traps. If you find the bar seriously hurting your neck/upper back, there may a be setup issue that needs to be addressed – ask for advice from someone knowledgeable.
9. Thou Shalt Not Wuss Out The Last Set
It’s easy to convince yourself to skip out on the last set, hell you’ve done 4 – why do you need 5? Because at a subconscious level you know you’re cheating yourself, and the feeling of finishing will feel way better than the premature quitting. If you’re healthy and in no pain, make full effort to finish the volume your program asks, your future self and discipline development will thank you later.
10. Thou Shalt Check Thy Ego At The Door
It’s easy to get wrapped up in a number and goal, but take it from someone who’s learned the hard way. Progress at a comfortable pace. Listen to your body and make sure as your strength increases, your form remains consistent (maximal efforts aside). So many times (this has happened to me personally as well) we get wrapped up in hitting a number by a certain time, we neglect major warning signs our body could be giving. This can then lead to injury due to the unchecked ego.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Feature image @charity_witt Instagram page.