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A new study suggests that virtually every weight trainer who has consistently gone above and beyond “perceived” muscle failure has experienced the mysterious effect intense leg training can have on developing the muscles of the upper body.
Indeed, it’s a peculiar phenomenon where, seemingly, the more intensely a person trains his legs, the more muscle he’s able to pack onto his chest, back, bis, and tris.
For a long time, researchers didn’t know the exact physiological basis behind this phenomenon but postulated that it might stem from an effect whereby an intense workout “encourages” the body to release powerful anabolic hormones, which in turn improve whole-body protein metabolism (muscle growth).
In the study, which was published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, Dr. Truls Raastad and colleagues had nine male weight trainers perform one moderate and one high-intensity strength exercise workout.
In the high-intensity workout, the load was 100% of each subject’s three-repetition maximum for squats and front squats, and 100% of each subject’s six-repetition maximum for leg extensions.
In the moderate-intensity workout, the load was 70% of the high-intensity protocol. Rest periods between sets were four to six minutes for both workouts. Blood samples were taken before, 30 minutes into, and every 15 minutes for the first hour after exercise.
Results showed that the acute response of the body’s primary muscle-building hormone testosterone was significantly greater during the high-intensity protocol as compared to the moderate-intensity protocol.
In addition, high-intensity exercise also stimulated a substantial release of growth hormone, although the release of this anabolic hormone didn’t seem to be as directly related to exercise intensity as was testosterone.
Pretty cool, isn’t it?
Make no mistake, training legs with 100% intensity is not a lazy person’s game—it requires discipline, drive, and determination.
But the rewards, according to this research, are well worth it.
It seems not only will intense leg training help you build strong, muscular legs, it will also help stimulate anabolic hormones that will make your upper-body workouts even more effective.