Four MUST HAVES for Every Leg Day
Leg day doesn't come around often for most but if you're into your leg training you will understand the importance of leg day gear. There are many benefits of using different types of accessories to help with support, proper muscle activation and form. Here are four MUST HAVES for any leg day:
One of the most commonly used yet most effective accessories for squatting is the lifting belt. Some athletes prefer to use the belt to aid them throughout an entire workout, while others use it only when training with heavier weights. A weightlifting belt has multiple benefits. The most obvious being that it provides and extra level of support when performing squats. This allows athletes to lift more comfortably without putting excess strain on their lower back, giving them more confidence to lift heavier weights. Another benefit would be that when wearing the belt properly, it actually teaches athletes proper core bracing and breathing technique. The idea is to wear the belt at the correct tightness around the mid torso, not too loose or tight. Without wearing a lifting belt, this bracing technique can be difficult to master. However, when wearing a lifting belt, the lifter has something to brace their core against, in turn, increasing abdominal pressure thus creating a more stable core and safer environment for the spine during a lift.
Another essential leg day accessory is the use of resistance bands. When used during warm ups, glute activation bands can actually "turn on" otherwise unused muscles known as the gluteus medius, which are the outsides of your glute muscles, and loosen up your hip flexors. This can increase muscle fiber recruitment during lifts and increase weight lifted. Hip bands can also assist and improve your lifts during your working sets. When used during a squat, athletes will develop a mind to muscle connection to push their knees outwards and to keep them in line with their toes, preventing knee valgus, also known as knee cave. The use of mini bands can also improve overall lower body strength and muscle growth. Mini bands ridiculously versatile, they can be used to target any muscle on the lower body. A great feature of using any resistance band is that there's no way to "cheat" the rep. With freeweights, momentum can be used to help carry the weight throughout the rep range. With resistance bands, the band tension is constant and is unaffected by momentum.
If you're training to run a 5K, running shoes would be an optimal choice, however, they are NOT a good choice for lifting. When squatting, you want to be as stable as possible. Running shoes have a soft sole because they are designed to absorb impact. Weightlifting shoes typically have a hard composite sole and have a raised heel. This is a massive advantage, as it allows you to squat into a deeper position through increased ankle range of motion. Weightlifting shoes are also more stable than your typical barefoot or minimalist shoe, not just underfoot, but around your foot.
Knee Wraps or Knee Sleeves
One part of your body that you definitely want to take care of throughout your life are your knees. They carry you around everywhere you go, hence why taking care of them is so important. Lifting on a regular basis can put a lot of strain on your knees. Most athletes use knee wraps or sleeves to help protect them during heavy lifts. Both sleeves and wraps provide a level of compression around the knee, keeping the joint together and adding support. They also promote blood flow and will allow your knees to stay warm throughout your gym session. Wraps and sleeves are almost identical in the benefits they provide except for one. The main advantage of using knee wraps over sleeves are that knee wraps can actually lead to an additional 20% speed out of the bottom of the squat. This is possible because knee wraps are made from an elastic material that is stretched during the descent of the squat. The elastic properties of the wraps store this energy when being stretched and once the lifter precedes to ascend, the energy is then transferred to assist with the lift.