T Nation

All Legs!?


I am considering dropping nearly all my upper body workouts for the next 4-7 months and to go all legs. The only exercises that will include upper body will be deads and cleans.
Here is my reasoning and my goals.

I am 25 years old and a senior in college. I will be joining the track team in the spring (feb-may) and will be competing in the 200m dash. It has been 8 years since I competed and now that I have the opportunity and I am not injured, I figured I should join the team and break the school records for my event. (cocky?)

I injured my lower back very severely over a year ago and since, my upper body has bulked way too much. I feel that since I will be sprinting competitively I should shed some weight up top. Now that my back is healthy I have been back to the lower body movements. Since June I have been destroying my lower body...in a good way.

My questions:

Since I will be dropping chest, shoulders, upper-back (pull-ups and rows), can I increase my leg workouts to 3 per week (not including track work)? Keep in mind that I have noticed that I have a high tolerance for training my CNS and it is difficult for me to over train, but over training is still possible and of great concern to me.

Has anyone ever done all lower body for an extended period of time? How did it work for you? Do you recommend it? How much volume were you able to sustain without over training?

Any comments welcome, track experts and/or coaches/strength coaches? comments are desired.


I'm just guessing here, but I see issues.

If you start track in Feb. how can you expect to do leg weight training on top of speed training that often?

Speed drills will probably be of as much, if not more assisstance to your goals as pure strength training.

A powerful upper body only makes you faster. Ofd course that can go to far, but to completely eliminate upper body, I think, is unnecessary.


I think you should check out Charlie Francis's work. Apparently, all Ben Johnson did in the weight room when Charlie was training him was Back Squats and Bench Presses. But I believe most of Charlie's athletes powerclean...

Regardless, some upper body work at a very low volume is probably advisable, something in the 3-5 sets x 3-5 reps range...

Just monitor your CNS status. Track work comes first.

Best of luck


If by not training upper body you mean you will only be doing squats, deadlifts, glute ham, reverse hyper, cleans, overhead squats, then you should be fine

Worse routines have been used, don't you think.


Thank you for your comments
1. yes I have issues with my upcoming training.

  1. Track work 4 times a week, 1 day at top speed. On the days where I do both track and weights, the weights come second. Once Feb. comes along and meets are coming up, my weight training will come down, way down. The 3 day a week leg inquiry is mainly for now until the begining of the season.

  2. I agree, the speed drills will be the focus, that is why I will do them before any weights as mentioned in #2.

  3. My upperbody is very powerful. I think I can maintain a good amount of upper body power for track by just doing deads and cleans. I do agree that it can help me go faster but I really want to get my weight down from 195-185 in 4 months. I can achieve that from half body fat, half upper body lean mass. I was thinking about a program to maintain upper body power but I wanted to preserve my CNS for track and lowerbody work.


exactly the types of some of the exercises I will be using


Thanks for the comments.
I am a member of the Charlie Francis website. I am guily of not doing enough research on the site and Charlie's programs. I find the site a little unorganized. I may be just a little unfamiliar with the way it is organized.

I like the comment about a little upper body work to maintain strength (3x5). I know this won't hypertrophy and I can maintain strength. I really want to delete a little mass up top and that is half the reasoning for looking to avoid upperbody work. The other half is to preserve my CNS for other stuff.


Ben didnt powerclean. he did deadlifts early on when he was building hypertrophy. i bet Ben did some pulling. i dont understand why he wouldn't do upperbody pulling yet do 400+ pound bench presses.


CF.com forums aren't that great. they keep deleting the archives (which used to be awesome) and putting them into buyable form. which is fine, just know that if you want good Francis info you're gonna hafta buy it. and yes, the site has become very unorganized.

if you're gonna delete upperbody mass then be sure you wanna do it. upperbody plays an important role in sprinting, but having too much mass is possible. if you delete mass you may very well delete strength which may hurt your performance.

what are you height, weight, bodyfat estimate, gym numbers? Ben could bench a shitload of weight, it took some solid upper body mass to do so.


5'11 195lbs
bf? 13? just a guess

bench 335
dl 440
frt squat 275
sqt 350
bent row 225*6
pull ups over 20, bw +90lbs 4 reps
clean 255
just recently tested my vert, 36"
I can do tons of ghr's


I'd keep weighted chinups... thats really about it.


I'd definitely still want some upperbody work but it would be very selective such as bench presses, chins and military presses


One word: Smolov

Look it up, attempt it, then die a happy man with massive legs.

Just don't try it in season.


I'd stick to two leg sessions per week, and I don't think you want to add unneccessary mass or perform wasteful movements since you are an athlete whose body mass to power/strength ratio is important.

I'd go ahead and train legs twice a week while training the upper body once a week with low volume/heavy weight to maintain the strength you've gained.

Squats should always be done on your lower body days. The supplemental work, i.e. glute-ham raises, reverse hypers, 45? hypers, good mornings, lunges, bulgarian squats, RDL/SLDL, etc. should be chosen according to what you are weak at. If you have very strong hamstrings but weak spinal erectors then the GHR is going to be a waste, and you'd be better of with back extensions (hypers) or deadlifts.

I don't know what Francis has his athletes do, but IMO abdominal work is important. The olympic variations like the power snatch and clean are proabably a good idea, too.

Lastly, I think 3 lower body days in addition to tempo/other running is too much. Like I previously stated, replace the third lower body day with a strength based upper.



Thank you for your input. No I don't care for hypertrophy or added mass as it will slow me down. The advice has been consistant both on and off the site to keep one upper body day and keep the weight high to maintain strength, as well as choose a few key upper body exercises to keep. Such as weighted pullups and military/shoulder press. My strength coach at school said I'm crazy (he's right) for thinking that I can handle 3 lower body days and 4 track days per week for my pre-season training. He said that there's only one way I can do it with out overtraining, but the NCAA tests for that stuff.

So far from various input I have an idea how to schedule my pre-season training (which starts this weekend if all is well). As of late, I've been doing a lot of single leg work, explosive lifts and plyos, and lots of squats. My running has been 400m sprints to shed some fat and get a general base conditioning.

I like your comment about the supplimental work and working on what you're weak at. For me it is lower back. My hamstrings are almost too strong (that's not possible). I can nail nearly 20 GHR's with just my bodyweight (195) but I can only DL 440. I've seen people DL 500 but couldn't get one rep on a ghr. The 45 degree hypers will be the way to go for a while.

When I complete my research I will post my training routing soon. It will probably be just a Nov-Dec training plan as I like to re-evaluate after 4-8 weeks.

Kir Dog


I asked a similar question (for rowing though) and was recomended Coach Davies "Nitro Squats" i'm just finishing week one, but it's godam awsome so far - seems very suitable maybe?


I have recently read that. I liked the article very much. I have been doing something similar and have been doing an incredibly high volume of leg work in my new program. I think I may have done chest once in the last 4-6 weeks.

So far I have been consistantly squating 2-3 times a week, deadlifting and cleaning once a week each and sprinting 4 times a week(It's cold out there). My squating is totally random as far as the type of squats I do. They are either front squats, oly squats or pl squats. I also do tons of assistance work, (ghr's, hyperextensions, single leg squats, sldl, abs etc). I am still avoiding upper body except pullups, cleans and deads.

I have lost 5 lbs in the last 3 weeks and haven't overtrained....yet.

Anywho...if anyone cares about the specifics of my workouts, I keep a training log...just let me know.

Again, as mentioned above, the goal is to:
1. drop 15-20 lbs in 3 months, so far I have gone from 195-190.
2. run really friggin' fast


For what it's worth, I believe Charlier once stated that Ben could do lat-pulldowns for high reps at well over his bodyweight. So he definitly was doing upper body pulling.

One thing James Smith has said repeatedly is that weightlifting is only general or general-specific means for everybody except powerlifters or oly lifters. Use the weight room to bring up your weakness and make sure you have the strength to keep proper running mechanics.


Just to clarify a bit on Ben's Bench strength. He did not regularly bench 400, he did it once. He regularly benched about 315-350 (according to my own witnessing at the York University Track centre in Toronto).

In "Speed Trap" Frances states (I don't have the book handy so the weights are approx.) that they were benching at the 87 World championships in Rome. They worked up to a heavy single thinking the weight was around 375 when infact they miscalculated the weight and he benched 400. I guess they were using Kilo plates and Ben normally used LBS plates. From what I remember his form was good with 315 but above that it got horrible.

Also wether or not that 400 took place and how much Charlie helped him is up for debate. My feeling is that if it wasn't done under competition rules I'm skeptical. I've seen far too many 350 benchers claim successful 400+ benches when their buddys helped them through the top half. Anyway, there is no doubt the guy was Strong!


sorry for the late response.

i'd keep upper body at maintenance and try to build lower body. dont try to lose upper body mass.

your bench is very good for a sprinter your size. keep it. dont attempt to lose muscle. also, your body fat should be at most 10% for competition, IMO.

just keep increasing your squat, ghr, reverse hyper.