T Nation

Explain this 4 me!!!

As my username implies I am a 100% squat fanatic. As much as I love squats I am humble enuff realize I still can learn more.

Can anyone explain 2 me why my upper body grows more by just doing heavy squats than benching & rowing. I have done bench routines that promised huge gains but have put more muscle on my upper body by just doing squats… that’s it!!! I think there something very “evolutionary” about human development and the anabolic effects that heavy squats have on the body.

Any knowledgeble answers would really be appreciated.


just because. Who cares why? Just know that it does. Probably because even though other muscles are just supporting the weight, it is still more weight than they see in any other movement.

Read “Brawn” by Stuart McRobert. He advocates the 20-Rep squat as the core of any bulking routine. I tried it for a while, perhaps not long enough, but I did see huge gains all around.

The lay explaination I have heard repeated here and on other boards is that you up your testosterone production by exercising your muscles and heavy squats happen to exercise the largest muscle group in the body. Quads, glutes, hams, back and abs are all worked in a heavy squat.


Your upper body is supporting enourmous weight; that should give you a clue. All those muscles need to stabilise and isometrically contract during the squat. They are all either directly or indirectly attached to the spine.

I once read that the signal sent to tell your muscles to grow “overflows” and hits other muscles also. The nearer the muscles the more powerful the effect, and the bigger the muscle, the more powerful the effect. This would mean that the squat would have a tremendous overflow.

I don’t know if there is any science behind this statement, but it sounded good to me.

The concept of the large muscle group and stimulus to produce more T makes some sense. I might have to try that high-rep angle for a bit and just see what happens.

I am adding deads to my workout next week, do you think the same holds true for this exercise? I haven’t done full deadlifts yet but the last time I did rack pulls, my back and traps were on fire for 4 days. I recall a great deal of pain when performing this exercise.

I wonder if there has been any research into the effects of pain triggering growth. For me, a 20 rep squat with a reasonable weight is going to cause a great deal of pain. I started training again about 3-4 months ago and have come to love pain; I really love leg day now. Time for some more squat volume I guess!

There seems to be a lot of truth to performing the basic exercises with a shitload of weight.

That’s great that your body responds that way.
Not sure if this was mentioned earlier, but a couple studies have shown that squats significantly increase levels of free testosterone over any other exercise. This is largely due to the fact that nearly all skeletal muscle is used during the movement. During a squat there is a large amount of direct force on the axial skeleton to trigger that particular muscular response, which (hypothetically) leads to the enhanced endocrine response.

Of course, I’m sure we all knew that already which leads me to repeat a previous comment: Who cares when your gains are that good?

maybe you train your upper body like a girl,actually i take that back, like motivationally deprived individual :wink:

Relative to squats maybe it is “like a girl”. I’m really going to have to research the correlation between basic exercises that work a great deal of muscle and isolation. Its been common sense to stick to basic exercises to make gains but there’s gotta be some science to it; prove it works for various reasons. The concept that squats increase free testosterone is very interesting. I know when I’m doing squats, I’m working my legs along with stabilization with trunk and even some stretching and stress on the shoulders.

I think I’m going to have to work squats a lot on leg day and increase my volume a little instead of relying on leg presses or isolation like leg extensions and curls. I have been tempted to suggest to my training partner that we do all olympic lifts for a while. Bench, squats, deadlifts, and maybe cleans with a press. I think if we worked this program with the 10x10 GVT methodology for 6 weeks the gains would be good.

I might have to mention this and see what happens.

In addition to T release from Heavy Squats, GH release is elevated four-fold as well. It can be assumed that this is true for most compound, multi-joint excercises, especially those involving large muscle groups.

Thanks to everyone who responded!!! Alot of insightful comments.

It’s a physiological fact that after human beings adopted the upright position the neck, traps, shoulders, etc., ALL greatly atrophied. Once you put a relatively heavy barbell on the back these muscles basically explode in growth to a far greater degree than any other muscle in the body. I think this says something about both human evolution AND the supreme effectiveness of back barbell squatting. Maybe I’m oversimplifying or excessively complicating this whole issue. I just want to know the why as to the results squats produce.