Lots of people hate legs day. Mostly it's because they don't do it enough, so they're not very good at it, but another reason that people cite, is that legs day DOMS is so much worse than any other kind of DOMS. In fact, the DOMS is the same. If you're feeling worse after legs day than you do after chest day, it's because you're getting the balance wrong.
There are 5 muscle groups in the legs (6 if you include the foot extensors, but I don't because you don't exercise the foot extensors). The 3 major muscle groups are the quadriceps, gluteals, and hamstrings. The 2 minor groups are the groin and the calves.
You have to exercise your quads, glutes, and hammies every time you do legs, and you have to spend roughly the same on each group. If you skip a major leg group, or if you over-train a major leg group, then your hip movement becomes uneven, muscle overload to compensate for the change in movement, and you end up with sore shortened muscles that you think is DOMS.
You can stand to skip calf or groin exercises every now and then. The groin has very little influence on the biomechanics of the hip joint - the medial quads and hammies take a lot of that load, but if the groin muscles become chronically weaker than the glutes, then you will be facing trouble. Simmilarly, the calves don't influence the hip directly at all, but they do need to carry the weight of the legs. If the quads, glutes, and hammies grow much faster than the calves, you may damage the calves.
It's easy for me to write about balanced gains, but if you're not sure which lifts exercise which muscle, then how are you meant to follow that advice? For that reason, I've written this quick guide:
Leg Press - machine
Hack Squat - machine
Squats (elevate heel to disengage glutes)
Lunges (also engages glutes slightly)
Hip Thrusts a.k.a. Bridges
Single-Leg Straight-Led Deadlift (also engages hamstrings)
Step-Ups (also engages quads)
Squats (also engages quads)
Deadlift (all types, but the original is the best)
Floor Glute-Ham Raise (also engages glutes)
Power Cleans (full-body exercise, but hamstring dominant)
Cable Hip Adduction
Leg hip adduction (machine)
Extreme Incline Walk/Run
This is not an exhaustive list. If you can think of more exercises to add, or if you don't know where a particular exercise would fit-in, use the comments section to contact me.
For more information on legs exercises, email me directly via the contact page. For specific information on an injury you have, or for treatment, contact one of my clinics directly. You can find that information here.
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Dr Mitch Clark