In bodybuilding forums, you’ll constantly see bodybuilders tell each other to work on their legs, mainly with squats and deadlift excercises. Most beginner bodybuilders hate working legs and look for an excuse to not work them. They are told it helps release testosterone, growth hormone, and will increase overall body muscle mass. Is there studies that support all these claims?
Testosterone and GH levels after squats & deadlifts:
Resistance training in general, increases testosterone and growth hormone, during and immediately after post excercise. It has been shown in many studies, including a published study Int J Sports Med. 1991 Apr;12(2):228-35 done on both men and women during resistance excercise. Squats and deadlifts increase GH and Testosterone, more than other compound excercises during excercise.
There is however, no significant studies that show that resistance excercise, directly leads to higher hormone levels long term. In fact, for a day or 2 post-excercise, many studies show LH and testosterone decline, while cortisol increases. In other words, building yourself up to a 200 lb ripped bodybuilder doesn’t directly increase your testosterone levels, from when you were smaller. But you might though have higher testosterone levels, due to better eating, supplementation, and working out, as a result of the bodybuilding lifestyle. The increased cortisol levels and lower testosterone, is also why overtraining is such an easy state to enter. We have to allow our body to recuperate itself, before doing more weight lifting.
Long term effects from squatting and deadlifting:
The benefit for doing leg excercises, appears from research not to be from increasing long term natural levels of testosterone and GH. I believe however the large burst of testosterone and other hormones during leg excercises, are the major reasons why squats and deadlifts are very important for overall muscle building. It’s the same reason why a bench press is more effective mass builder than a chest flye workout. Why? because the compound bench press is going to release more testosterone and GH in a workout than a chest flye.
The large burst of anabolic hormones resulting from squats and deadlifts, allows most of your muscles to benefit from this release simultaneously. Squats and deadlifts work many muscles simultaneously in the body and will allow most of your body to get some stimulation from the release of the hormones during the workout. The testosterone and GH released, is very crucial for being a catalyst for your muscle growth. It won’t be released as much in the smaller compound excercises, such as bench press. Therefore doing smaller compound excercises, would not be able to makeup for the benefit of having leg workouts in your routine.
Most experienced bodybuilders know all too well, how important leg excercises are for overall mass. You’ve probably seen the guys walking in the gym who look like lightbulbs (big upper body, but chicken legs). That has made many bodybuilders question the idea that leg excercises always equals bigger upper body. One must keep in mind we don’t know if they are using steroids, which would make it a little easier to gain upper body mass without leg excercises. On the flipside, it would also be harder post cycle for a steroid user just to keep his gains. These people probably also have excellent upper body genetics and years of training experience. If they worked harder on leg excercises, they would be even bigger.