T Nation

Lower vs Upper body frequency


Sorry for the wall of text lol

Have any of you guys noticed a benefit from training the legs less frequently compared to other bodyparts? Say for example you respond well to a basic split where you train bodyparts up to 2x/week, have you ever experimented and lowered the training frequency JUST for legs?

Reason why I ask is because I've found this to be the case. I found that legs seem to grow bigger by training them less often - less often than my upper bodyparts. Not only that, but my upper body responds BETTER too when I train legs less often.

The funny thing is, in the days when I used to be apathetic towards leg training (maybe only did them a few times in a month) - I made my best gains! lol. Bodyweight, and muscle girth went up the easiest. This flies in the face of the theory which says you can't build a big upper body without squats or whatever. I've seen this with many other big lifters aswell - some apparently hardly give any attention to legs, yet are big (whether it be less frequency via hit and miss, instinctive training or very low exercise selection/volume).

I believe it's simply a case of catabolism - leg training is highly demanding (e.g. squats/deadlifts/leg machines etc). So if you give them enough recovery, and don't train them too often, they'll progress better and you won't dig into recovery for all other bodyparts too.

Just to clarify, each time I kept leg training frequency the same as upper body (about 1.5-2x/week), I always took good care of the diet (to make sure THAT wasn't the limiting factor). In fact, calorie intake had to be increased to crazy amounts just to gain a little: up to 7000 cals/day for several months! It wasn't until I reduce leg frequency when I managed to gain on less and much more smoothly (less fat gains compared to before). So it's nothing to do with diet (lack of eating/protein).

Who knows, maybe this could be the reason why Tom Platz struggled with his upper body - his legs took up all the "resources"?

I've noticed that not many routines have you training legs at a different pace to other bodyparts. It's like they don't seem to take demanding leg training into account? Or maybe it's just my results...what do you think?

PS - obviously this is assuming you are doing your best each time you train (not reserving much/anything when you've finished a bodypart/exercise)


I will typically train my upper body muscles all twice a week and my legs once.


I'm still a noob, but in my case it's really hard to do train my lower body after doing a squat workout. The DOMS in my legs won't go away for 3-4 days.


This is a topic that's interesting to me as a relative lightweight/newjack.

  1. How do you feel that your frequency has related to recovery in terms of gains? Ie., do you feel that it's a matter of recovery (your legs not having actually recovered while you may feel that they have) or simply a matter of frequency (for other reasons...?).

  2. This part of your post was of particular interest to me: "It wasn't until I reduce leg frequency when I managed to gain on less and much more smoothly (less fat gains compared to before)." I assume that your gains, despite the lessened calories, were roughly the same in terms of bodyweight (i.e. the variables being food consumption and leg frequency). I find this comment interesting for two reasons:
    a) do you mean to suggest that perhaps working legs increases appetite in a way unrelated to either metabolic increases associated with the exercise or increased caloric needs for the growth the body would spur because of the activity level? This idea seems like it might make sense--perhaps when we train legs we automatically register that as "needs to consume more" despite the fact that our increased metabolic activity might not have been as high as we thought. In other words, we automatically supercompensate.
    b) In another thread (things I can't prove, but I believe), there was much discussion of the whole debate surrounding something to the effect of "if you burn 500cals doing cardio and consume 4500cals, you will see greater muscle gains than if you were not to do the cardio and only consume 4000." Do you think that there is some sort of relationship in your case re: leg frequency as well?


Exactly what I've found to be effective

Yeah DOMS tends to be worse as a noob. When you get more used to it, it can be deceiving because sometimes you may hardly even feel anything in the worked muscle the next day (especially if your training is low volume).

I wouldn't get too anal about it (better to focus on the basics), but in general, I believe that legs tend to respond better to high volume, and because of the size of them (and systematic demand), they need longer to recover optimally for size. Strength is a different issue IMO. I believe that you can get better strength by training them more frequently (and reducing volume), but better size with less frequency and high(er) volume.

1) Training a muscle before it's FULLY recovered is counter-productive (unless this is just because you're getting used to the routine/exercise or whatever). A muscle may not be fully recovered even after the soreness has gone. This is why leg training can be "tricky", because you may feel recovered, and you may get stronger, but it may not be optimal.

2) You cannot out-eat a badly suited routine (people say that bad routines don't exist, just bad diets...which IMO is too simplistic and wrong). Whatever type of training (e.g. low volume) works for you while not having to stuff your face to the point of puking, will work for you even more when you do over-eat. My gains were leaner when I got frequency sorted (especially for legs). Before they were either non existent, or too much fat. I made these gains with fewer calories than training lower body more often. Once again, to reiterate; if catabolism/training is too demanding, gains won't be great (they'll be little or not very lean) - got to get a good balance. This applies less for those with good genetics/on drugs.

a) Training bodyparts more frequently can be good for newbies, in that it builds strength/size faster (while they make newbie gains), but there comes a point of diminishing returns (for bodybuilding) when strength gets to a certain point (especially on the big exercises like squats/deadlifts).

b) Leg training is both metabolically and systematically challenging. The bigger "after-burn" means you have to eat more (speeded up metabolism). And more recovery resources are needed (hence more calories yet again). I don't see the point in burning more calories just for the sake of it (especially if there is no direct size advantage from it). If you are trying to gain, then more exercise other than just enough for building muscle is not going to be productive.

I believe for individuals like myself who have poor recovery compared to most, they need to use their gym time wisely (i.e. keep fatigue/'catabolic' activities to a minimum...which may mean lowering volume and having more off days than the average person).

A fast metabolism (whether naturally or via exercise) doesn't automatically mean leaner gains. There's much more involved than just metabolism when talking about lean gains/easy gains etc. A fast metabolism simply means that you have to eat more, when gaining, compared to someone with a slow metabolism.

A person with good genetics (whether fast metabolism or slow), will make good gains. A person with bad genetics (e.g. unfavourable hormone profile) will make gains that aren't very lean (even if they have a fast metabolism...because they HAVE to eat to the point of gaining).