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Ryan Jawad

Frequency Of Exercise In Legs Vs Arms

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Ryan Jawad

at some point, i remember reading somewhere (i think in Coach Sommers book) that, optimally, you should only exercise your legs once a week.  this is in contrast to your arms which should be exercised 3 to 4 times a week.  

 

a lot of leg movements have an analog in the arms.  for example, squats are like handstand pushups.  it seems weird that the frequency is different for the legs and the arms.

 

i was wondering what is the rationale for this difference?  is it because the leg exercises recommended are more intense than the arm ones?  or is it because they are fast, and the others are slow?  or is it just from experience with injuries.

 

 

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AlexX

Typically speaking if your goal is to get a front lever, iron cross, planche and other moves, leg training isn't exactly going to be a priority. Gymnastics is a shoulder girdle dominant sport. That's not to say that leg work is not important, it is. You just get more bang for you buck from focusing on what gives you the greatest gain for your goals. Usually training legs once a week is just fine for what the gymnast needs in terms of strength as they do a ton of plyometrics in their training already (tumbling and sprinting.)

Also remember that bigger legs are a hindrance in a a few of the events. Things tend to get bigger with volume and frequency. 

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Daniel Burnham

Alex beat me to the punch...  I would like to add that there are also a greater number of movements with the upper body.    Ill use your example to help explain this point.  If a squat is the equivalent to a HSPU then what  about dips and pushups?  We just don't use out legs in different planes so there is less to practice.

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Ryan Jawad

oh alright, thanks.  i thought it had something to do with overtraining and injuries, but that makes more sense.  

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Quick Start Test Smith

The other replies are assuming you have only gymnastic strength goals (FL, BL, upper body work mostly), but it depends on your goals, rjawad. If you want strong legs, you need to exercise them more than once a week.

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AlexX
The other replies are assuming you have only gymnastic strength goals (FL, BL, upper body work mostly), but it depends on your goals, rjawad. If you want strong legs, you need to exercise them more than once a week.

I would say that this depends on the type of routine you are using. I've seen quite a few successful hip dominant athletes only train legs once per week on an upper, lower, upper split. And as the athlete gets more advanced they generally gravitate towards doing lower body once per week vs multiple sessions. 

On the other hand the most common set up I've seen, that a large majority like, is lower body 2x per week. But yeah if your goal is VERY strong legs for a hip dominant sport I would say you should be training them more than once per week. Especially in the off-season.

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Quick Start Test Smith

A hip dominant athlete who only trains lower body strength once a week would still be getting a good bit of hip/leg training in his sport specific practice, don't you think? It wouldn't technically be lower body strength/conditioning work, but it would explain why they're strong despite seemingly low LB training volume/frequency. If the OP isn't participating in a hip/leg dominant sport regularly, I think he should maintain higher frequency in his LB training. Twice a week seems to be the norm in my experience...

 

Definitely agree with you on training more than once a week in the off season.

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Joshua Naterman
The other replies are assuming you have only gymnastic strength goals (FL, BL, upper body work mostly), but it depends on your goals, rjawad. If you want strong legs, you need to exercise them more than once a week.

I think I would say that if you want the best possible gains from leg training, then you should train more than once per week.

 

You will make strength gains on 1x/week training, especially if form is good, but I will agree that typically you'll want 2-3 very short training sessions per week with just 2-3 sets of 2-5 reps, with the weight being appropriate for the rep range, if you want very good strength gains AND limited mass gain.

 

If you want to see how strong you can get without gaining weight, you will have to figure out how much protein you need to just break even. This will be around 0.8 to 1.2g/kg of body weight but will be different for each person. The calories will also be important to track, but if you are maintaining a very small deficit (like 100-300 kcal) and getting just enough protein to not lose muscle with the small deficit then you should be able to get quite strong without getting heavier.

 

That doesn't necessarily mean that you won't get larger leg muscles, because you will to some degree.

 

Also, HOW you squat/deadlift will determine whether your thighs grow more or your glutes grow more. This has a large influence on how big you grow, obviously.

 

For us, growing at the hips/glutes is preferable to growing at the legs. Except pommel... you want small legs and small butt on pommel, but doing anything meaningful on pommel takes several years and is a competitive gymnastic thing, not part of the GB fitness program so I don't think that matters for most of us.

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Quick Start Test Smith
Also, HOW you squat/deadlift will determine whether your thighs grow more or your glutes grow more. This has a large influence on how big you grow, obviously.

 

For us, growing at the hips/glutes is preferable to growing at the legs. Except pommel... you want small legs and small butt on pommel, but doing anything meaningful on pommel takes several years and is a competitive gymnastic thing, not part of the GB fitness program so I don't think that matters for most of us.

Could you elaborate on what style of squats/deadlifts are thigh or glute intensive? I'm a fast and hard kicker and I would like to maximize my kicking ability even though I'm doing high rep squats for flexibility training. I don't any more butt/leg size than I have to have.

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Joshua Naterman

If you push straight down into the ground with your foot, you tend to be more quad dominant. If you are pushing out to the side (NOT turning out, that's not the same thing) you will activate the entire hip girdle to a much greater degree. This is excellent for football players, perhaps not as advantageous for you but I can't say that for sure. I suppose it depends on what kind of kicks you prefer. It would definitely help spinning back kicks.

 

I wouldn't worry about the size, it won't slow you down at the hips anywhere near as much as large quads will, relatively speaking. Then again, as long as it's rectus femoris that's getting large you'll just get faster.

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Quick Start Test Smith
If you push straight down into the ground with your foot, you tend to be more quad dominant. If you are pushing out to the side (NOT turning out, that's not the same thing) you will activate the entire hip girdle to a much greater degree. This is excellent for football players, perhaps not as advantageous for you but I can't say that for sure. I suppose it depends on what kind of kicks you prefer. It would definitely help spinning back kicks.

 

I wouldn't worry about the size, it won't slow you down at the hips anywhere near as much as large quads will, relatively speaking. Then again, as long as it's rectus femoris that's getting large you'll just get faster.

 

Yeah, I'm not too worried about the size. Actually I've been doing 3x20 deep squats with my feet about 4.5-5.5 steps wide and have found that my ability to control my kicks (whether spinning or otherwise) has increased even more than when I was training it specifically. It's also strengthening my knees to the point where I can do 1min+ long isometric side split stretches without my knees hurting like they used to. 

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Philip Chubb
I wouldn't worry about the size, it won't slow you down at the hips anywhere near as much as large quads will, relatively speaking.

Joshua, for this reason, would you recommend back squats over front squats? To avoid the hypertrophy happening in the lower leg instead of the hips?

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Joshua Naterman

Alex:

 

If that were a specific concern for someone, it might be a good idea from an aesthetic perspective or a very unique situation. Someone like Patrick needs highly developed rectus femoris more than highly developed VMO and vastus lateralis, because he needs to accelerate the whole leg and not JUST the lower leg. Obviously he needs both, but there's a lot more diminishing return to size in terms of accelerating a 10 lb lower leg versus accelerating a 30-40 lb upper + lower leg. The mass built near the knee, after a certain point, won't speed things up but will still force the RF to do more work, and that's just poor planning in my opinion. That's typically why make ballet dancers have giant upper thighs compared to the lower thigh. They'd be easy to turn into excellent TKD players.

 

For typical athletic performance, no. I would do the 50/50 split, perhaps as much as 70% of time being spent on front squats. The only people I would focus more on back squat, in terms of athletes, would be football linemen and I'd still have them do a lot of FS too. It would probably be good for coming out of the blocks in a sprint as well.

 

You do need large quads to perform well, and minimize injuries, but balance is probably the best recipe for success.

 

Is there any specific concern you have, or is this just part of the conversation?

 

Patrick: Sounds like you've got a good thing going!

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Philip Chubb

Thank you, Joshua. I was just wondering if to avoid the hypertrophy in the quads, you would focus more on back squats which would hit the glutes more and keep most of the limited hypertrophy in the hips. But that doesn't seem to be your concern. I am just trying to keep the mass as easily distributed as possible. Though I haven't gained much since following that plan you listed earlier in this thread.

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Joshua Naterman

Nice! Yea, if your body wants to grow it is very hard to stop it.

 

I am staying at 224 and I'm not doing much of anything. Some of us, like you, have bodies that seem to want to be big, and it's hard to control that :)

 

I have only done one workout this way, but I am finding that West-side style box squats appear to nearly exclusively challenge the glutes. Let me show you my set up. In the actual gallery description you can see how I made it. It cost me 29 bucks and took less than 30 minutes.

 

 
 
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Philip Chubb
I am staying at 224 and I'm not doing much of anything. Some of us, like you, have bodies that seem to want to be big, and it's hard to control that :)

 

I have only done one workout this way, but I am finding that West-side style box squats appear to nearly exclusively challenge the glutes. Let me show you my set up. In the actual gallery description you can see how I made it. It cost me 29 bucks and took less than 30 minutes.

 
 
This is a problem made only more of an issue by the fact that I pretty much have the exact training lifestyle. Don't get me wrong though! I would much prefer front squats. But I would prefer the hypertrophy that does happen to be in a place that won't make my upper body life horrible.
 
Nice rack! Pretty cool set up you have there! And you must be a tall guy. My wife and I never put the pins that high. Haha. I actually had the idea of making a rack like that, but the back two post would have holes horizontally which would be able to fit stall bar rods in them! Squat rack plus stall bars plus ring holder. Just about everything a gymnastic bodies member could need!

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Philip Chubb

Another thought I had which may help the OP is I tend to do more sets of things like Olympic lifts which have shorter time under tension and a plan similar to what Joshua said for the more basic lifts which have longer times under tension.

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Craig Mallett

why do people assume the legs can only move in a very few select ranges of motion?  In my opinion, real leg strength (and useful leg strength!) has the same requirements as real upper body strength...you are strong in multiple planes, and most important, flexible, supple and mobile.  There arent too many people around that develop proper leg strength or flexibility, the chinese martial artists tend to be the best example imo:

 

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Joshua Slocum

I agree. Even if you're not interested in developing maximal leg strength, mastering leg mobility is an excellent goal.

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AlexX
why do people assume the legs can only move in a very few select ranges of motion?  In my opinion, real leg strength (and useful leg strength!) has the same requirements as real upper body strength...you are strong in multiple planes, and most important, flexible, supple and mobile.  There arent too many people around that develop proper leg strength or flexibility, the chinese martial artists tend to be the best example imo:

 

For one you are confusing hip mobility with leg strength. A kick is not a result of how strong your leg is, kicks are a hip movement and they are a lot more technique than strength. And two, there is a reason why squats have been considered a KING of lower body exercises. That's because they tend to show the best results for lower body dominant athletes. I am not just talking about the bilateral version, I am talking about all squat variations. They have all consistently shown to produce the best results in the shortest amount of time. 

 

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Joshua Slocum
For one you are confusing hip mobility with leg strength. A kick is not a result of how strong your leg is, kicks are a hip movement and they are a lot more technique than strength. And two, there is a reason why squats have been considered a KING of lower body exercises. That's because they tend to show the best results for lower body dominant athletes. I am not just talking about the bilateral version, I am talking about all squat variations. They have all consistently shown to produce the best results in the shortest amount of time. 

 

Mobility and strength are not so easily separable. High kicks require a lot of hip-flexor strength because lifting the legs out in front of you puts a lot of weight in a very disadvantaged position. 

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Philip Chubb

While I am not sure kicks are the best example since most of them are based on momentum and mechanics, and the video shown seemed to be much more mobility, there is definitely more to leg strength than squatting and deadlifting ect. For most athletes, that is where they get the most bang for their buck, but for any type of movement artist, acrobat, or gymnast, imaging doing something like a split between two chairs. It definitely requires a strength that most coaches don't think about since most of their athletes don't need it. Or the strength ballet dancers have to lift their legs into the air and hold them there. That does require flexibility as well, but to lift the leg by its own muscular force itself still requires some strength.

 

Once again though, who needs that besides movers, gymnast, and acrobats?

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AlexX
Mobility and strength are not so easily separable. High kicks require a lot of hip-flexor strength because lifting the legs out in front of you puts a lot of weight in a very disadvantaged position. 

And locking the leg straight during that motion also requires the Quadriceps to contract. However when comparing that contraction to the contraction required during a maximal effort squatting movement, the high kick is no where near the squat. Certainly being strong through a full range of motion is important and it does require strength to lift your leg up in a kick but saying it's just as effective as maximal contraction training (strength training weather weight or bodyweight) is simply not true.

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Joshua Slocum
And locking the leg straight during that motion also requires the Quadriceps to contract. However when comparing that contraction to the contraction required during a maximal effort squatting movement, the high kick is no where near the squat. Certainly being strong through a full range of motion is important and it does require strength to lift your leg up in a kick but saying it's just as effective as maximal contraction training (strength training weather weight or bodyweight) is simply not true.

No one is saying that kicks are an effective method of training maximal leg strength. You said kicks are not the result of leg strength. But the fact is, for most people, getting a high kick (or as Alex Chub mentioned, a ballet style leg lift, which is even harder) would require working both strength and flexibility. 

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AlexX
No one is saying that kicks are an effective method of training maximal leg strength. You said kicks are not the result of leg strength. But the fact is, for most people, getting a high kick (or as Alex Chub mentioned, a ballet style leg lift, which is even harder) would require working both strength and flexibility. 

In that case we simply miscommunicated. My point was that kicks don't require much leg strength, they are a lot more technique than anything else. A leg-lift certainly requires strength and is a much better example of what you are saying. But as Alex said it not a very usable form of strength for someone strength training for vertical and sprinting (usually the concern with leg strength). Anyways, I believe Alex Chubb's answer is well put and I see no further need to keep this going. 

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