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Maximum Gain Per Week: Systemic or Bodypart-Specific?

Hard to decide a good title exactly. I am curious to hear opinions about how best to focus gains while maintaining your body’s maximum amount of protein synthesis per week. Say your body can put on .5 lb/week if you work all muscle groups but .4 lb goes to legs and only .1 goes to upper body. Is synthesis cap tissue specific or systemic? If you stop working legs can you get more upper body gains per week? Say .3lb? Obviously you wont put on .5lb to your biceps if you only work biceps but can you hit a systemic max that robs a specific muscle of its potential? I used to ( a long time ago) never work legs because they were already big and my arms got pretty big. Now that I am working out again and working full body I can’t seem to get my arms to grow like they used to. I am on TRT so high normal test levels but I am 38.

This seems like a particularly strained way to say: do a bit less work in the areas that you don’t want to progress and more in the areas you do.

Yes, that’s fine and yes it will work if you have everything else sorted out.


Yes and no. If I stop training lower body, all other things staying the same, will upper body grow faster from the same stimuli. What is the reason for/mechanism behind this?

It probably hasn’t been studied, but common sense says you would get more growth in the upper body of you stopped training Lower body. Stress has specific and general effects. Reducing training for one area would reduce general stress, and therefore (probably) allow you to recover faster from upper body training

My common sense tells me that if you want to make maximum gains then you need to make them systemically. While you might gain a little more in your upper body by not training your lower body, the total gains will be less. But I could be completely wrong.

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That actually makes a ton of common sense.

So if you trained upper and lower body, you’d make 1 unit of gains each, for a total of 2 units of gains.

If you trained upper body only, maybe it can make 1.5 units of gains. So you’ve increased your upper body rate of gain, but reduced your overall gains.


Something like this. I am curious to see what people think. The mechanics are intriguing. Also curious if the threshold for muscle mass is systemic or tissue specific. Like your body will only let you be 180 lean mass and if you want 5 lb more upper you gotta sacrifice 5 lb lower. I really just want 5lb more upper body and then a sacrificial 5lb more all over for a 10-15lb cut.

Maybe ask in #christian-thibaudeau-coaching , he has talked about this and would have practical experience.

I’d say unless you were destroying yourself before that you are probably going to struggle on this one, especially if you weren’t pushing the lower body stuff.

I reckon this would be impossible to measure in practice as well.

And if you just want to train your upper body, you can just do it, no need to rationalise it.

Research the indirect effect. Training lower body put stimulus on whole (upper) body. Not interested in debating this, as opinions on this differ. Just another theory in favor of legs included.

I’ve never had chest and shoulder gains as good as when I was doing my high rep / high volume squat stuff.
So big vote for systemic.

I will add; IF chest had been the sole focus I might have toned down the squats a touch and done more upper body work. But I firmly feel there is a balance. And its more systemic than not.

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I don’t know. I’m starting to change my mind on this subject a little. Just throwing some random thoughts out there:

Maybe it changes after we build a base. Like we won’t build any muscle until our body is systemically trained, but, once it is, recovery becomes the limiting factor instead. At that point, maybe it makes more sense to focus.

I think there could be some confirmation bias going on: we want it to be true that you have to train legs, because we’re all hard workers and we don’t want there to be an excuse.

Anecdotal evidence: some of the coaches most of us read will focus on weak body parts with significantly higher frequency while putting stronger parts on maintenance. Granted, that doesn’t support “don’t train legs at all,” but it is conceptually in that direction.

Super-credible, well-designed, peer-reviewed reference: we’ve all seen a dude with huge arms and chicken legs. Or Dani Speegle for the opposite.

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I gave my legs a break and just hit upper body last workout. It seems to make sense. I just don’t know what the limiting factors might be if nutrition is fully satisfied.

Synthesis of muscle occurs locally as far as I understand. Hormones and growth factors etc. however are limited in supply correct? There is no reason we can’t be making muscle in our quads and pecs at the same time is there? Is it the limited number of hormones and growth factors etc. as in not enough for all receptors so we see mostly repair and not so much growth? As in it takes a certain saturation to facilitate the necessary healing but much higher to achieve maximal growth? but with diminishing returns? Just curious… obviously I do not understand the thing in its entirety but someone with the science knowledge can expound I am sure.

I think maybe it’s a combination of signaling from the muscles (or lack thereof from the ones not used) plus more universal factors like hormones.

IMO a systemic approach to building muscle is optimal. I don’t believe we are limited to pounds of total muscle we can build in any one segment of time to the point if you could gain “x” pounds of muscle on your chest that there would be only “y” left for the remainder of your body.

The problem for the natural bodybuilder is cortisol. A heavy leg day would release sufficient cortisol to retard growth. (and a heavy upper body day too) Here is where body part specific might have some validity. There is only so much stimulation your body can endure before cortisol inhibits growth.


My experience makes me think muscle growth is both systemic and localized, with recovery being the limiting factor.

I had a massive leg injury and couldn’t exercise my lower body for six years. I used a walker or crutches for a year, and my triceps really grew. However, despite lifting with it a few times each week, my upper body wouldn’t grow or gain strength past a certain point. After recovering from reconstructive surgery, I was able to work my legs again. Despite exercising my upper body less, it grew and my lifts increased.

My whole body composition, total strength, and lift-specific strength improve when I’m exercising all my muscles. However, recovery is the limiting factor, as others have said. Heavy, compound, lower body lifts for a few reps feel like they boost my testosterone levels and positively impact my upper body development.

Because of my experience, if I were to emphasize upper body mass, I would only do two lifts for legs - squats/ rear foot elevated split squats/ lunges (one of the three) and deadlifts, both for low or medium reps using relatively heavier weights while emphasizing upper body lifting volume and frequency. The two lifts could be their own day like a traditional bro split or performed on different days.

(I also learned that daily, high-rep, low weight exercise like walking on crutches can have dramatic effects.)

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Thanks. This is good information.

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