The perfect leg, back, & abs day

A gym routine for nervous students

It can be scary to go to the ARC. 

Before I started going to the gym, my biggest fear was that I’d embarrass myself—I really had no plan going into it. What do I do? How do I do it? Where do I go? Will the gym bros judge me?

The fear of judgement truly made going to the gym so hard.

However, when I started to look at fitness influencers, workout guides, and Pinterest workout sets, it helped me develop workout sets to use when I got to the gym. It made going way less scary.

Whether you feel the same as I did, or you’re a regular fitness enthusiast and want to switch up your workout, here are some sets for a good leg, back, and/or abs day.

If you don’t want to be able to walk tomorrow:

One of the common misconceptions about working out is you need to do more than six different exercises to feel anything. In reality, using heavy weights to do four-to-five exercises that target certain muscles will work better than doing six-to-nine different exercises.

For each exercise, do 12 reps per leg, and repeat four times.

The first exercise is reverse lunges with a dumbbell. I suggest a heavier dumbbell as you’re working one leg at a time. Hold the dumbbell in the hand parallel to the leg doing the lunge.

Similar to our last exercise, Bulgarian split squats are next. Instead of standing on the ground to do reverse lunges, you’re going to take a box or bench and put your foot back on the bench so you’re in a lunge position with your back foot elevated. From there, lunge.

Next, Romanian deadlifts. Grab one dumbbell in each hand, both the same weight. Put a slight bend in your knees, keep your arms straight, and bend at the hips to guide the dumbbells down your shins, then bring your body back up.  You’ll feel this tomorrow in your hamstrings.

Lastly, if you’re just starting out, squats are going to be our last exercise. If you’re a regular and want to change your routine, goblet squats—a heel elevated squat—are a step up.

I suggest not starting with a squat rack or Smith machine, but instead squatting with a dumbbell in hand so you can ensure your form is right to avoid hurting yourself. Once you have the correct form down, you can work your way up to using a machine.

How to look good from the back:

If you’re in the women’s only section of the ARC, the three-part machine at the back right corner is going to be your best friend—there are even instructions on the machine to show you good form.

Each of these exercises strengthens your upper back. For each exercise, do four sets of 10 reps, and aim to lift heavy. Push yourself—you’re stronger than you think!

Let’s start with the low-seated row machine on the left side of the gym.

This machine is straightforward. Adjust the knob to whichever weight is best suited for you. Grab the row handles and, with your back straight, pull the handles toward your belly button. Slightly pause once you’ve pulled toward you. This will target your upper back.

The second exercise—directly across from the seated row—is the lateral pull-down machine.

Again, keep your back straight, reach up, grab the bar on both ends, and pull down toward your chest. Pause slightly. Make sure to control the ascent of the bar back upward—don’t just jolt your arms back up.

Third, we’re going to do face pulls—the name is more intimidating than the actual exercise, I promise.

Two short ropes should be attached to the pulley on the third part of the machine we used in the last two exercises. This part is facing the back wall. You’re going to get down on one knee as if you’re proposing. Then you’re going to grab the two short ropes and pull them toward your forehead, so the two ropes are going toward each of your ears. Keep your back straight and don’t sway back when pulling toward your face. It’s that simple.

The last exercise is called a reverse fly.

You’re going to use two dumbbells, one in each hand. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, slightly hinge at the hips, and slightly bend in the knees. Let your arms hang down, with your palms facing each other. Slightly bend your elbows and then raise both arms up. Your arms should be moving outwards like they’re wings.

For this exercise, three sets of 12 reps is great.

Six-pack nation

These exercises will be sure to strengthen your core at the end of each workout. Whether its leg day, back day, or something else entirely, we can’t skip abs!

At the end of the workout, get nice and comfortable on a mat on the ground and start with 15 reps of leg raises.

While you’re lying down, straighten your legs, bring them up so your body is the shape of a capital L, and then drop them to the ground. Do this thirty times. 

Next: scissor kicks. Stay on the ground, keep your legs straight but slightly lifted off the ground and cross your legs over one another while keeping them straight and a couple of inches from the ground. This will work your lower abdominals. Do these thirty times.

After, we’re going to sit up from the ground—literally. Thirty sit-ups are next.

Keep pushing through—we’re almost done. Bicycle crunches are next.

Lie down and bring your head up a bit. Put your hands on the back of your head for support. Lift your legs up, keeping your knees bent. One leg at a time, bring your knees toward your face to meet the alternating elbow. Do these bicycle movements thirty times.

Lastly, plank for one minute.

Repeat this set of exercises four times, and you will have crushed your abs. 


I’m not a fitness trainer, nor can I guarantee these specific workout plans will work for you, because everyone is different. It’s a start, though, and you can modify and adjust the plans for you.

Hopefully, this will give you the push you need to go to the gym or give the gym guys and gals a new set for their leg, back, or ab day.

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