First, let me just say that if you do any weight/resistance training at all, then you should be congratulated because this type of exercise demands a lot of effort. Most people simply don’t have the motivation and energy to do this type of training. So as a result of your hard work, you are much more healthy, fit, and functional than most people, and kudos to you.
However, men and women tend to fall into predictable traps when it comes to strength training, and it is to their detriment. This is the first of two articles on why a balanced approach to strength training makes sense, with the first post directed toward men and the second focused on women.
If you have spent any time at all in a gym, you have undoubtedly observed that most guys spend the lion’s share of their time working on their chest, back, shoulders, and arms. These are the “show” muscles that are on display day in and day out, so it is no surprise that guys focus on these. As a guy, how often does someone see your exposed legs or abs? Not very often. So these muscles are ignored by many men in the gym.
Again, I give these guys a lot of credit for at least being in the gym and working hard to improve themselves. However, if these fellas were to spend as much time on their legs and abs as they do on their upper bodies, they would benefit greatly from it, and I’ll explain why.
First, let’s explore the usefulness of leg training. There are several excellent reasons for men to train their legs, including:
- Well-balanced muscular development – If you have a muscular upper body and skinny legs, you look out of proportion. It is much more attractive, and healthier, to have a well-proportioned body that includes strong legs. When I see skinny legs, I can’t help but think the person is simply afraid of hard work. I happen to have legs that don’t respond very well to weight training, but I still work them hard, and even though they aren’t tremendously muscular, at least they are strong, athletic, and defined.
- Strong legs = strong heart – Since leg training requires a lot of energy and effort, it taxes your cardiovascular system and provides excellent exercise for your heart and lungs.
- Generate testosterone – While the science on this is still unsettled, it is believed that very intense exercise in which a lot of muscle fibers are engaged, as with leg training, generates and releases in the body the muscle-building hormone testosterone. If you desire to build muscle mass and strength, extra testosterone will aid your efforts. (For you women who are reading this, you also have some testosterone in your body, but don’t fear, working out hard will not increase these levels sufficiently to cause you to build unsightly muscle mass or develop male characteristics.)
- Body functionality – Whether you are young and want to enjoy physically demanding activities like hiking or long-distance biking, or older like me and just want to be able to perform everyday activities with ease and confidence, strong and functional legs should be a priority.
So there are many reason why men should train their legs. What about abs? There are just as many good reasons to train them, such as:
- Balanced muscular development – The same as with your legs, you want your entire body to be fit, healthy, and strong, so you need to develop your abdominal muscles.
- Strong connection between your upper body and lower body – Your core muscles connect the upper half of your body to the lower half, and therefore are a critical set of muscles in terms of body functionality. All bending, twisting, lifting, etc. relies on a strong core.
- Organ and spine stability – Many of your vital internal organs are held in place by your ab muscles, and the health of your lumbar (lower back) spine is greatly impacted by their fitness. Do you have low back pain? It would probably be mostly or entirely alleviated if you had very little excess weight on your midsection and strong abs.
- Attractiveness – Washboard abs simply look cool. Since almost no one has the discipline to diet and train sufficiently hard to get outstanding abs, when you have them, you are singular!
I know many of you guys will still want to mostly just work your upper body, and especially your arms, so that on that first day of summer you can declare, “Sun’s out, guns out!” But hopefully I’ve given you some good reasons to push beyond this mentality, and develop a balanced and truly outstanding physique.