Legs First, Then Arms for More Growth
When leg training is done right, it rewards you with pain and exhaustion, which isn’t much of a reward at all. It’s like handing out a frozen Thanksgiving turkey to a homeless person, only to have the homeless person hit you on the skull with it so that you see little birdies flying around your head, just like in the cartoons.
But leg training isn’t a complete SOB because it also rewards you with an increase in testosterone and growth hormone. Norwegian researchers at Lillehammer University College have figured out how to put those leg-training induced hormones to work for you.
The scientists say that if you train another, smaller body part after training legs, that smaller body part will grow faster and stronger than if the small body part had been trained by itself.
How They Figured It Out
The Norwegians recruited 9 males between the ages of 20 and 34 and had them follow a bodybuilding-style routine for 11 weeks. Two days a week, they trained only their left biceps with curls, hammer curls, and reverse curls.
On two additional days per week, they trained their legs with leg presses, leg extensions, and leg curls, followed by a training session for the right biceps, using the same exercises performed for the left biceps.
After 11 weeks, the right biceps, which had been trained during the same session as legs, was significantly bigger and stronger than the left biceps.
The researchers concluded that the higher levels of GH and testosterone generated during leg plus arm-training sessions were responsible for the additional growth and strength in the right arm.
What You Should Do, And Shouldn’t Do, With This Info
Leg training, presumably because it’s so damn taxing, causes the body to produce more GH and testosterone. Take advantage of it by training legs and biceps, or presumably any smaller body part, on the same day.
I follow this recommendation but I take it a step further. I split legs into two separate workouts, doing quad dominant exercises on one day and hamstring dominant exercises on another. I pair triceps training with the quad workout and biceps training with the hamstring workout. While the Norwegians didn’t test this particular protocol, it makes sense that it would work equally well as the experiment they conducted.
One caveat, though. This method may not work as well, or at all, if you train legs with another big body part, like chest or back. Training legs properly, i.e., busting a nut, probably wouldn’t leave you with enough mojo to properly train another big body part. Even with all that extra leg-training induced testosterone and GH, it still might not be enough to push the muscle meter to the plus side.
- Ronnestad BR1, Nygaard H, Raastad T. “Physiological elevation of endogenous hormones results in superior strength training adaptation, ” Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Sep;111(9):2249-59.