Friday, December 16, 2011

Train Legs: Even if all you Care About is Upper Body

Let’s face it. Most guys you see in the gym are not bodybuilders. They are simply guys looking to get into shape so they can look good at the beach. It’s understandable that these beach lifters wouldn’t want to train legs. After all, legs aren't even visible to everyone else and they are the most physically and mentally draining day in the gym. Building a huge pair of wheels requires a tremendous amount of discipline. A good leg workout will have you out of breath the entire time and will make you feel like throwing up. Why should you put yourself through this torture when having developed legs is not one of your goals? Well I’ll give you an over looked important reason why you should train legs anyway and it’s not because of the “anabolic hormones” released while squatting.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase “if you want a big chest and arms you should squat.” The theory behind this is that when you perform a compound exercise like squats, your body releases both GH and testosterone which therefore will help build muscle everywhere and not just in your legs. This is a huge misunderstanding. It’s true that some GH and testosterone gets released by squatting but the amount is so little that it is insignificant. Those levels aren’t sustained for long periods of time anyway and that small insignificant increase will return back to normal within hours of completing your workout. Basically, squatting doesn't really increase any hormones in your body.

Sorry for breaking the news to you that you aren't really getting an anabolic response from squatting. It's fine though because there is a better reason to train legs. By training legs, your whole body will remain leaner all year round. Think about it. Legs make up half of your body. You commonly hear that under ideal conditions, your body can only put on .25 to .5 pounds of muscle per week. If you are only putting on .25 pounds of pure muscle a week, then you can cut that number in half if you aren’t training legs. You are now looking at .125 pounds of muscle per week or 6.5 pounds of muscle a year assuming you are doing everything correctly. If you continue to try to gain weight at a rate of a .5 to 1 pound a week, your fat gains will be much higher. Rather than excess calories be used to add leg muscle, they will be stored as fat. If those numbers mean nothing to you then just look at leg day as an extended HIIT cardio session. HIIT has been shown to be great for fat burning and training legs is like 45 minutes to an hour of HIIT. Your heart rate increases during sets and then slows down while you rest. This keeps your metabolism going strong for hours after your workout which will enable you to burn more calories throughout the day.

From personal experience, I can guarantee doing legs will keep you leaner. When I first started training, having a well developed pair of legs was not one of my goals. I trained 4 days per week but didn't train legs at all for roughly 6 months. In that time I put on 20 pounds which is about .8 pounds per week. This is a perfectly acceptable rate of weight gain yet my body fat levels increased dramatically. I thought about it after and realized that I couldn't expect to gain quality muscle at the same pace while only training half of my body. That's like answering half the questions on an exam and expecting to get them all right. It just can't happen. I learned from this and after a 6 month cut to lose all the excess fat I accumulated, I decided to bulk again for 6 months but this time I trained legs. In 6 months I put on 20 pounds again. However, my body fat percentage only increased slightly.

To recap, even if you are lifting just to look good on the beach, you should train your legs. It will enable you to stay leaner and that will make you look better at the beach. You may even decide to compete one day and it will be nice to step on stage with decent looking legs. I was a beach lifter when I started but now I actually enjoy training legs and they are one of my better body parts. Give it a shot. It's worth it.


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