T Nation

Why Train Legs?


Hello everyone,

People on this board seem to love legs. Witness every single poster on the Photos forum being asked "where on the wheels." Witness also the general idea that "squats and deads are the most important exercises." I agree with you all that bodybuilders who neglect their legs and end up top-heavy with chicken legs look retarded. . .

. . . however I am seriously thinking of stopping leg training all together. First of all, I have naturally big legs. At 5'11, 185 lbs, my thighs are 24" and my arms are 15". I know that in his prime Arnold had 28" legs and 22" arms. So his legs were 16% bigger than mine and his arms were 50% bigger than mine. I'd say that I'm unbalanced.

Also, considerations of proportion aside, I'm not sure that I even want bigger legs, because quite frankly, no one admires big legs except bodybuilders. Look at the TRIBEX add on the T-Nation homepage. It's a picture of a cut up torso, could you imagine it as a picture of legs? Or look at every cover of Men's Health, which half of the body do they always feature prominently?

[And look, I know we all hate men's health and shouldn't be using any of their information, but I think their covers are a good indicator of what sort of body is valued in our society.] The bottom line is, so long as you don't look out of proportion it's going to be the your pecs, abs, and arms that attract women and intimidate men. [And yes I understand those aren't the only reasons to bodybuild, but they are mine.]

I know some of you are thinking. "But if you don't train legs you won't get the beneficial full-body affects of stressing your largest muscle groups and your upper body will suffer." On that one I call bullshit. Isn't one of the reasons we train legs to avoid our upper bodies getting too large in proportion.

So, in conclusion, I think I could put a lot more into my upper body if I ditched the leg training. I find those exercises really taxing and I bet I could keep up a much greater intensity if I didn't start with them when I arrived at the gym. And due to my genetic predisposition to large legs, I could probably gain 20 lbs of mass on my torso and not look unbalanced.

What do you guys think?


For me heavy squats and deads build overallmass, not just leg size. on those two exercises you can load very heavy .


As far as I understand, it's more of a health issue rather than an aesthetic one. If you look fine without training legs, alright, don't focus on lower body hypertrophy. But I think in terms of health benefits, you could possibly injure yourself.

The number one reason I squat and deadlift is to keep my core tight. A strong core is by faaaaar the most important thing to me in terms of health, and I'm sure to many people as well. The core is what joins your upper and your lower body together, it helps balance, it helps with back problems, it means not having to train your abs five times a day to get a six pack, the benefits just go on and on.

That said, I'm sure there are many exercises you can use to help build a strong core, but the fact that squats and deadlifts also make your legs stronger, faster, and they train the nervous system which translates to a myriad of athletical benefits, I don't see how you can't do them.

But again, if your legs are big enough, there's no need for the leg press or other such exercises.


Why would you think of something like that? Why does it have to be either "first in the workout" or nothing?
You're correct that it depends on body type. But not training them at all will make you regret it, trust me.

I have naturally more muscular lower body than upper body. What I do is train them last, never go really heavy so as not to waste energy and keep the volume pretty low compared to the rest of the body. I basically work out to make my legs lean and muscular, but not big. I concentrate on form, and am able to 'isolate' my quad or ham contractions more by using lighter weight. But please don't drop leg training alltogether. Just stop prioritizing them as it seems you have been doing.

It's interesting that you brought up 'ol Schwartz because as anyone can see his legs in Pumping Iron are not very big. He's talking about proportion and it's obvious from his physiqe that he didn't want to have large legs, it would ruin his look. The ideal bodybuilding physique would resemble the V-shape more than anything else.

But for skinny-legged bastards - it's squat and deadlift all the way.


I've found that the deadlift has so many real life benefits, that I can't imagine ever NOT doing them. Ian King has also said that the deadlift is pretty much the only exercise capable of counteracting the imbalance most lifters have from too much benching.
The squat I'm not so fanatic about.

The reasons these two movements are so taxing are because they are FULL-BODY movements. Leg press doesn't kick your ass in quite the same way, does it? :wink: Hell, right this moment my traps are sore from yesterday's deadlifting.

Personally, if I was really that concerned about my leg size, I'd drop all the leg exercises but keep deadlift and squat variations in there. Make sure you do at least enough to maintain your strength gains and then re-evaluate in a few months.

It's up to you what you do with your body.


First just because your legs are big does not mean they are strong or that what ever strength exists is balanced, also from a visual big legs do not always equate well developed or well shaped that alone should equate a reason to train legs.

Secondly as for the why magazine shot models from the waist up you gotta be kidding me can you imagine magazine with people photographed from the neck dow or waist down that is ridiculous we feel more in touch by seeing peoples faces, and a host of other psycological and marketing reason it has nothing to do with how we value leg developement.

As for not valuing leg development specificaly the only people I know who say things like you and I mean no offense as I am taking you at your word for your reasoning but the only people I have heard say similar are guys that either are to lazy or think the body only consists of chests and arms.

Women almost always train legs sometimes to the exclusion of upper body.

And I don't want to be to harsh but you must live in a very small circle of people cause women in general love muscular legs and glutes on a man and even comment on the legs of other women.

So I cannot agree with you that underdeveloped legs is more acceptable in society granted when someone say show me a muscle you flex your arm but most people don't have the leg developement to show anyway.

If you choose not to train legs I respect that. But society has nothing to do with whether you do that is just what you choose. There are far more reasons to train them than not.


Sopranos episode where AJ gets interviewed at Military School.

"We have a motto here. Whats best for the core is best for me. The core, the core, the core."

Yea I know it's corp but that wouldn't of worked.


Training legs is important. For everyone. Even endurance athletes. And in general, the likelihood of injury is much greater in sports when neglecting legs training. And from personal experience, I've always seemed more likely to get injured when neglgecting legs irrespective of what sport I'm focusing on. Maybe if you don't do anything and you're happy with their appearance, then you don't need to train legs.


Women do high reps on isolation exercises in the mistaken belief in spot reduction. They think it will give them sleek, 'toned', fat-free legs. A high commodity in a miniskirt, bikini, or tight jeans. Most aren't seeking much muscle. (Obiviously, heavy squats and other compounds would go much farther towards acheiving the look they want).

Not really an issue with men. I agree that society does not value very muscular legs. That does not mean women find skinny, chicken legs appealing. Many people in society have different standards of what's aesthetically pleasing than most on T-Nation. But I think greater muscularity in the upper body is preferred and more closely approximates though doesn't approach T-Nation standards than muscularity in the legs.


Only fools don't train their legs. Why just the other day I saw some chump at the gym with a huge upper body and a skinny, emaciated lower body. Your legs are where your body's strength and power come from. Neglecting the legs is the worst possible thing you can do as an athlete, bodybuilder, powerlifter, whatever. If you allow your legs to grow weak then the rest of your body will follow.

I love going to the gym and seeing these guys doing 20# bicep curls while I'm repping deadlifts, no straps, of 350+ pounds and grunting through them like a beast. There's nothing like that feeling of a hardcore squat workout when I can hardly walk down the stairs out of my gym.

It's good to have big legs, trust me. Your legs, your core and your lower back/posterior chain--this is where the horsepower of the body is stored, this is the might, the generator of contained energy and it is the mighty trunks of the legs which allow a man to truly realize his lifting potential. Why would you want the largest and brawniest muscles to atrophy?

Today I am going to the gym and doing my legs doubly hard after reading this ridiculous thread.


That you wrote too much and that you may be mildly retarded. Your arms are 15". If you call yourself anything other than a beginner with measurements like that, you deserve to be laughed at. That means that if you plan on getting bigger, something I would hope considering what web site you are on, your 24" quads will look less and less esthetic as you actually build some real size on your arms. I had 15" arms before I started lifting weights. Somehow that measurement has become respectable on a bodybuilding forum?


. . . however I am seriously thinking of stopping leg training all together. First of all, I have naturally big legs. At 5'11, 185 lbs, my thighs are 24" and my arms are 15". I know that in his prime Arnold had 28" legs and 22" arms. So his legs were 16% bigger than mine and his arms were 50% bigger than mine. I'd say that I'm unbalanced.

I am 6'3 225 lbs, my thighs are 24" and my arms are 17". My wife still tells me I have chicken legs. So women do look at legs, and as far as be intimidating to men, you might have to back up that intimidation, and strong legs will be helpful in any situation.


I am glad you brought this topic up brainfreeze.
I too am in the same boat. My legs are 26.6-27.5 depending on where I measure. My arms are 15 inches. As a someone who is no where near my goals(yet not a beginner), I question whether the squat and deadlift is neccesary for my body. I notice when I sprint my legs and core get a much different workout then squatting or deadlifting. I hit my entire leg every time i sprint, where as squatting anddeadlifting works the same muscles every time.

Plus, my core grows a lot stronger from running and generally moving, then standing in place and holding a weight over my head. Although I do think squats are good for developing the glutes more then any other exercise, the hamstrings have yet to become as strong(and defined) as they could be compared to running.

Furthermore, I am convinced what currently restricts my squat and deadlift going up is my core strength(mainly inner/outer abs+obliques). Therefore, squatting and deadlifting wont improve my weakness, nor will it significantly incrase leg strength. --Its kind of like having weak shoulders, yet a big chest and continuing to train bench. -- IT doesnt make sense

Question-What are the benefits to the rest of the body of squatting and
deadlifting compared to other excersizes that hit the rest of the body. And pleaes, no dogma stating -squats make you big cause they do- be specific

stats-5 11, 208 and I will hit my legs in some capacity or another, yet not squatting and deadlifting constantly like i do.


Let me preface this by saying you are all individuals with your own agendas so train how ever you want.

But the reality is even people who are unfamiliar with Bodybuilding, anthropomorphics, aesthetics, symmetry etc. can see a major imbalance in some one who is built like a light bulb.

In general society admire strength and fitness and yes if you have a well developed upper body you may be more highly regarded than the skinny guy but if you have overall developemnt you will be more highly regarde than the guy with pencil legs and a strong upper body.

This in no way means society thinks because you decided that training legs was just to damn hard that lack of leg developement is preferred over a well developed upper body.

Women don't stand around saying "hey Debbie check out the under developed legs and flat ass on that guy!"

But they sure as hell say "Wow did you see the butt on that guy!" Or "Your husband has nice legs"

If you have never heard comments like these you have no experiance with women.

Top heavy physiques with no leg developement look ridiculous and make you a laughing stock to those of us understand the importance to leg training.

If you think that haveing a well developed upper body and skinny legs is not off putting you are wrong.

Case in point facility I train at has to pools indoor outdoor. Lots of younf guys workout there they all wear those ridiculously long shorts you know the ones where you look at them and think if your shorts are that long why not just wear pants.

Anyway at least a few of them wear regulat bathing suits when they go out to the pools and I gotta tell you when those knuckle heads come strutting through the doors with their pumped up arems and chests and the shapeles little under pinnings they are laughed at and the girls are pretty harsh as well maybe they do not say confrontational things but they giggle and dog these guys.

Its really funny because these upper body guys are oblivious they just either don't care or really think no one notices. And they are not being laughed at cause they have big muscles, myself and several other menbers who may be out there on those days are also obviously barbell boys only we are a little more balanced we might not be the ideal to everyone but we don't get laughed at either.

while I absolutely respect a persons right to train however they please. I know for a fact human being instictually find aesthetics more pleasing to the eye.

I also from my own experiance find most people simply don't train legs because they don't have the heart for it. Because its just to much hard work.

Case in point you never hear people running around telling everybody why they train legs. But you will forever and a day hear people running around telling people why they don't.


Here's a mindblowing fact.... Your legs are supposed to be much larger than your arms. If your calves are smaller than your biceps than something is aesthetically wrong.


Professor, I'm a fan of yours but I really don't understand where 'retarded' comes from. I don't remember ever saying I wasn't a beginner or that I deserved respect. I've posted about how I think my legs are too big for my arms, and you posted that I was a retard with small arms. Well, duh, that's why I posted: because my arms are small. I know that, buddy.

I am intending to gain mass as you suggest, but my point is that I think if I gain 20 lbs and it all goes to my upper body I would probably look balanced. Therefore,do I have a better shot of of gaining 20 lbs on my torso with leg training or without?



P.S. I'm sorry if you think I wrote to much but since the idea I was forwardinig was very contrarian, I thought I'd better do a good job explaining it.


I dont train legs because I want a big bench and big arms. I dont train legs because that's the hard exercises. i dont train legs because my legs are already big. i dont do squats because i hurt my back when i was in highschool doing reps with 400lbs......

this list can go on forever.

anyone who doesn't do any lower body work looks ridiculous and people make fun of them behind their backs.


I have naturally more muscular lower body than upper body. What I do is train them last, never go really heavy so as not to waste energy and keep the volume pretty low compared to the rest of the body. I basically work out to make my legs lean and muscular, but not big. I concentrate on form, and am able to 'isolate' my quad or ham contractions more by using lighter weight. But please don't drop leg training alltogether. Just stop prioritizing them as it seems you have been doing.

Majin, thanks this is actually really insightful.

I should also probably mention that one of the things making me think about this is I felt something very strange the last time I squated [sudden burst of 'heat' in the ingunial region] and my doctor has referred me to a surgeon to investigate a possible hernia.

And, I don't think I would drop legs altogether, I was just thinking of doing so until my upper body 'caught up.


I understand the point of the original poster to a certain extent, my legs are a whale like 31 inches round the widest part of the thigh, but my arms are something like one just over 18 and ones just under.

In all fairness, my mother is very 'pear shaped' and I get some of those gentetics, but my dad has got quit big legs too, but not my thick 'orrible knees. I don't stop doing legs, just watch the volume.

BUT...I have bveen training a long time, it wasn't a decision I came too early on, and everyone should train legs even if they are quite big naturally, because as mentioned it helps overall mass and vitality and stuff.


First, I don't need "fans". I appreciate any compliments, but I am not here looking for a fan base. While your amazing 24" quads may have come without much work, that is a far cry from the 32" quads of many competitors. My legs haven't even reached that and legs weren't much of a weakpoint for me aside from hamstrings and calves. Your post would be very close to me logging on 10+ years ago stating, "hey, my arms are already 15-16". Does that mean I don't need to train them?!". Can I quite training them?!" While my arms may grow decently, my goal as a bodybuilder is full body development. While one trainer may reduce training one stand out body part to bring up other, you are no where near the point in any aspect where that needs to be your primary concern? Why, you ask? Because you are a freaking beginner. You have no clue if your legs will respond and gain any more size like they may initially be genetically blessed with. What you start out with and your genetic potential for growth are two completely different things.

In other words, your legs may be alright for someone with only 15" arms, but they won't be alright 2 or 3 years from now if your approach is to immediately being training with complete disregard for half of your body.

In fact, it speaks volumes about your work ethic in that you are just starting and already looking for ways to work less.