T Nation

Upper-body dominant sports

I’ve been working hard for the past 3 years to bring my lower body lifts in line with my upper body, yet it still doesn’t seem to be working. I’ve prioritized lower body sessions, particularly squats, which are my biggest weakness. Even after three years of de-prioritizing upper body, my upper body numbers are still much more impressive than my lower body numbers.

I’ve reached a point where I’ve realized that I’m much more gifted for upper body strength/power than lower body. I’m not sure if it’s lever lengths, fibre type, or CNS activation, but there’s a noticeable difference between upper and lower body in my adaptation to training.

I’m considering reducing my lower body training from 2-3 sessions/week to 1 session/week:

Power clean 6-8x1-3
Back Squat 4-6x4-6
Snatch Dead 3-5x3-5

This would allow me to focus on my strength: my upper body.

Now I want to get involved in a new sport, and I want it to be something that I have the genetic raw material excel at. I’d prefer something that requires excellent upper body strength and that places less importance on the lower body. The only two things I can think of are bench press competitions (which I may enter at some point) and rock climbing. Rock climbing seems to favour tiny, light athletes, and I don’t really fit that description (nor do I want to). Any other ideas?

Arm wrestling, chin up contests IF Zeb is not entering, gymnastics, crunching steel beer cans after Patricia finishes the beer, etc.

with that once-a-week lower body workout and lots of emphasis on your strong point - upper body - you will be shaped like a light bulb in no time.

Do a lot of balancing exercises so you don’t fall over from being so top heavy.

It’s not so much that I have trouble gaining muscle mass in my legs - my legs are actually quite big and I can easily put size on them. It’s just that I don’t gain strength proportionate to their size.

Climbing is mostly lower body. Many people think that it’s all upper…but it’s reallty not.

Sounds like you’re just giving up. If you’re not gaining strength in your legs then why not try a different training method? I thought my legs were tapped out until I started Westside and put 30lbs on my squat in under 2 months.

Sorry to break your “bubble” but I highly doubt you are “gifted” as you put it, in upper body vs. lower body strength.

The point is this, you probably favor the bench and upper body in your training. Where do you train? What are your numbers? Have you ever done a goodmorning? or a reverse hyper? or a weighted back extension?

Go join a powerlifting gym, do some reverse hypers, good mornings, glute ham raises, cleans, etc. then report back in a few months.

If you train in a normal commercial gym, you have loads of variety, exercises, positions for upper body but only a few for lower body.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t get stronger forever, by using progressive overload. You must bring up WEAK POINTS. How strong are your hamstrings? Figure out what your weak link is…How strong is your lower back? I seriously doubt these two muscle groups have reached their potential.

If you don’t train your weak points, they will ALWAYS be weak points.

Try boxing. Although not completely upperbody, (ex. uppercut), a strong upperbody would definatly help. (shoulders and back a big plus)

i only do legs once a week because they’re sore from 5x week hockey practices. i do back and chest 2x week

upper body dominant sport? how about trying a lower-body dominant sport. maybe that will throw a wrench in your lower body program that will give you the stimulation you need to increase their strengths. i’m not being condescending, but i have to echo the remarks of others in response to your post: there are a huge number of things you can do to increase your leg strength, and many programs here have outlined how to do it (try the limping series by Ian King). have you looked at increasing total posterior chain strength? have you looked at weaknesses in your joints or your flexibility that may be hindering your ability to increase strength? to be honest, unless you outline all the things you’ve done to increase your leg strength, i think you’re actually copping out of working on your legs. your dilemma sounds more psychological than physical: you seem to validate your superior upper body strength to lower body strength - are you sure you’re not shutting your lower body strength down because you want to maintain your assertions?

to reply to the rest of your message, try climbing. it really is all in the legs, and you’ll get a feel for the wall/rock a few times through. i’m 250 and no slim guy and i go occasionally and love it.

Try gymnastics, specially apparatus like rings, pommel horse. Not tumbling or vaults, need speed and vertical leap for them. What about discus or javelin?

There are a few endurance sports that specialise in upper body: kayaking, water polo, swimming

Boxing is not a good idea, heaviest hitters use their legs.

From the information I gave you, I can see why it might seem that I’m giving up. However…

For the past three years I’ve been training my legs consistently 2-3 times per week. That includes 2 stints of 3 months training at an Olympic lifting gym with some of Britain’s top weightlifters. I’ve trained with Olympic and Commonwealth medallists and been coached by two of the best weightlifting coaches in the country.

During that time I increased my pulling strength to a respectable level, and was able to power clean & jerk 100kg (220lbs) at 85kg (187lbs). However, my squat strength during these periods really didn’t increase greatly, despite prioritising squats in my program. For one of the 3 month periods I trained squats (front or back) 3x per week, and made it the first lift in each session. My coaches and fellow lifters were mystified by my lack of squatting improvement.

When I was Oly lifting I did no upper body pressing or pulling exercises, and still, after only a couple weeks training upper body, my upper body strength came back in full force. My experience tells me it’s much easier for me to gain upper body strength than lower body.

Here are some personal bests, all at bodyweight of around 85kg (187lbs):

Power Clean - 100kg(220lbs)

Full Back Squat (Oly style) - 110kg (242lbs)

Front Squat - 100kg (220lbs)

Deadlift - 165kg (365lbs)

Bench Press (perfect form but no pause) - 130kg (286lbs)

Dips (full range) - bodyweight + 44kg (97lbs) for 4 reps

Chins (neutral grip from dead hang) - bodyweight + 24kg (53lbs) for 4 reps

Thanks for the suggestions so far and I’m interested to hear what you have to say with the added information above.

Don-
Based on your #'s - front squat and back squat almost equal, I suspect your posterior chain is weak. Olympic squats are more quad oriented. It could be that a weak posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, lower back) limits even your quad strength development.
Rx: good mornings, powerlifing squats, box squats (see Westside technique).

If my posterior chain is my weakness, why are my deadlift and power clean so high relative to my squats?

cannot help but notice that there is a huge difference between your back squat and your deadlift.

How is your physique proportioned? Long or short legs? long or short arms? long or short torso?

Relatively long legs and arms and short torso.

DonM
I don’t think the fact that you’re front squat is so close to your clean is that strange. I can clean 105kg but only front squat 110kg. My full oly squat is 130kg and my back squat is 142.5kg. My deadlift is only 160kg.

I think that Major Dan is spot on when he’s says that your posterior chain is weak. I know that is where my weakness lies. The fact that your front squat is so close to your full oly correlates with this. How much can you PL squat?
If it is not much more than your full oly then I would say you definitely have a weak posterior chain.