Ask Jujimufu #9 - Training LB/UB differently for Acrobolix

ask jujimufu building muscle periodization strength training

Question from Valvolt about best strength/hypertrophy training approach for Acrobolix


Juji,

I'm in the Strength/Hypertrophy phase of Acrobolix periodization.

According to you, does the statement "I'd like to train my lower body mainly for strength and upper body mainly for hypertrophy" make any sense? Something like squats and deadlifts with lower reps and many intensity techniques for upper body...

Also, what's the best approach for the two goals (str and hyp) according to you? Could it be something like:

- Str: shooting at improving you max lifts
- Hyp: thinking soreness, frequency...

If my goal is hypertrophy, does changing my workout when the last one doesn't make me sore anymore make sense? Something that's senseless for strength work... am I right?

Please, help me again if you can... keeping in mind that my goals are strength for lower body and hypertrophy for upper body (if these goals make sense, that is... ofc i expect my legs to grow a bit even if I just do "strength work").

Thanks a lot, man.

Valvolt Nova

My Answer


We're gonna go all over the place on this one dude haha, but to start: yes, your legs will still grow (up to a point) if you just use a low rep, high weight simplistic "strength" training approach if you're eating enough and taking care of yourself. The whole notion that this approach is only good for strength is bullshit. Actually, even tricking can give you a fair pair of legs if you're eating enough and experienced enough. The average trickster has twiggy legs because they have the appetite and nutritional sense of a small child. Cannabis is popular among many in the tricking culture. You'd think that would make them eat more, you know, get the "munchies," but somehow they can't seem to even get that right. From my observation, most tricksters are on a chronic intermittent-fasting-like-diet with fast food type meals. They just sort of mindlessly eat whatever tastes good once or twice a day in average amounts when they're not tricking or playing with fucking Kendamas. Eating is an afterthought for them. They also revel in abominations like leggings and skinny jeans and "pockets out". Modern trickster culture is a culture that encourages indifference to paraplegic sized legs in the quest for one more swing through in a combo. So building bigger legs isn't a priority for modern tricksters; but really, what the fuck is that going to do for them? That size will just get in the way. Bigger legs become unnecessary ballasts to swing around in the air while tricking. You can strike faster and more within a given period of time using a Wiffel ball bat than you could using a Louisville slugger.

Wiffle bat vs. Louisville slugger

Tricking is about maximizing the numbers of kicks and spins in a single pass. So you can definitely do this better with smaller legs than you can with bigger legs. But you know, you can trick better with a smaller upper body too! We're talking about Acrobolix tricking here, not modern tricking. For Acrobolix tricking, we need size. But where? Everywhere! But maybe not in the same proportions or to the same extent as successful bodybuilders. From my own experience and observation, tricksters have a harder time tricking with bigger legs than they do tricking with bigger upper bodies. So we have to ask ourselves: do we need enormous, legendary legs as Acrobolix tricksters? If you don't give a flying fuck about competing in bodybuilding, if you just want to look buff while you trick, then why would you ever need really big legs? When you trick you're probably going to wear fancy, colorful, decorative and stylish pants or big baggy shorts like most tricksters do anyway. Tricks look better with these flowy type garments. These hide your legs. Nobody will ever have to see that your legs aren't as developed as your shoulders, back, chest, arms, etc. If you want to trick in a banana hammock, well, that's interesting. Then I guess you need some legs.

jujimufu_banana_hammock_torch_speedo_orange_speedo

Honestly you probably don't need to train your legs for the same size as your upper body to create the impression you're a buff trickster. So you're onto something for training the legs differently. Hell if you were really extreme, just trick and resistance train your upper body only: don't do any resistance training with your lower body, except only in the lowest amounts possible for therapeutic or tricking performance purposes. (However, the amount of strength development that will actually benefit your tricking is actually incredibly low. So you may choose to skip it altogether.) Someone's gonna get their butt hurt now for me even hinting at skipping the almighty "Leg Day" ... But... Hey. Do rock climbers, or gymnasts who practice exclusively on rings, p-bars, and pommel horse get flak for their small legs? No, their activities have almost nothing to do with the legs at all, it makes perfect sense why their legs are nearly vestigial. Nobody makes fun of rock climbers or these gymnasts for skipping leg day! If someone were to say anything to a rock climber about their slender legs, the rock climber would use their super human clawing grip strength to crush that person's face in!

Ben Moon Jerry Moffat

Ron Fawcett rock athlete

And those modern tricksters I mentioned earlier? See how their "skinny legs" feel against your face. They don't give a shit about their leg size for good reason. Anyway, I'm straying heavily here. I'm just making a case to have some respect for athletes whose priorities aren't giant, dickskin, Frank McGrath legs.

Frank McGrath veins

So what kind of legs you want and what you want to do with them comes down to preference dude. That preference determines what strategy you use to build them and how much work you put into them. Personally, I could never live with myself if my legs were terribly out of proportion with my upper body. Having a decent pair of legs feels good. While I'm walking around during a bulk, on a front squat oriented training program, my legs feel like giant pistons. Every step is like a meaty thrust into the ground. It makes me feel braced for whatever comes my way. It makes me feel like I am ready to take on the world. That's a good feeling man. So I've always trained my legs, I train them enough, and I find enough for me is very much in alignment with your initial statement here:
According to you, does the statement "I'd like to train my lower body mainly for strength and upper body mainly for hypertrophy" make any sense? Something like squats and deadlifts with lower reps and many intensity techniques for upper body...

Yes it makes sense. For me, the low rep, high weight simplistic "strength" training approach is suitable for making my legs "big enough" and "strong enough" for my needs as an Acrobolix trickster. This approach has never worked well for my upper body. How many guys in the gym do you know do low reps and high weights on dips, pullups, or rows and look even like they lift weights at all? The only guys I know at my gyms, and online, who have any upper body development that actually seems to matter, borrow ideas from bodybuilding style training and culture. They shamelessly chase the pump and do lots of "hard stuff" like super sets, drop sets, rest pause, pre-exhaust, and training to failure, and they love trying new exercises. Now, as far as the legs are concerned, if I wanted to grow mine bigger and make them stronger like, very soon, then I'd definitely be using these tactics for my lower body too. But for now, they are big and strong enough for my goals doing minimalistic squat and deadlift style training with low reps and high weights and a moderate number of sets. They aren't small, but they aren't huge. They're acceptable for me at 27 inches on the quad and a paltry 16 inches on the calves, with a front squat in the 400s and deadlift in the 600s, permanent front and side splits, and a very, very high vertical jump from what I can tell based on my tricks. Oh, and my woman loves my muscular butt.

Jujimufu legs

So anyway, about the "best approach" thing for strength vs. hypertrophy: I'd like to challenge the whole "strength" vs. "hypertrophy" approach training methods resulting in vastly different endings. Here's a routine that may be found in a "strength block" in a periodization program.

  • Back squats 6 sets of 2 reps at 90% max weight.

  • Stationary, reverse lunges with rear leg elevated 4 inches: 3 sets of 5 reps per leg.

  • Isometric, block elevated, trap-bar deadlift for 4 sets of 6 second effort.

  • Glute ham raises with a small plate, 4 sets of 10-12 reps.

  • Hack squat, 3 sets of 3 reps near max weight.


Is there something magical about this program that builds strength but absolutely no muscle? Hmmm... Here's a routine that may be found in a "hypertrophy block" in a periodization program.

  • Back squats 5 sets of 10-14 reps to failure using a rack to fail in.

  • Hamstring curls super-setted with banded Front squats 5 sets of 10-12 each.

  • Leg extensions 4 sets of rest-pause to 20 reps then a triple drop set for the 5th set.


Is there something magical about this program that builds muscle but absolutely no strength? Of course there is nothing magical, there is crossover with both of them. Sure the former looks more like a strength routine and the latter looks more like a hypertrophy routine. But, honestly, for almost everyone except those already in the elite class, both, as they are written, are going to build strength and size similarly if caloric intake is high. The difference usually come from other things you do, like ROM (range of motion) on exercises (ex: fascia stretching for hypertrophy), tempo, time under tension, the intention to apply speed to a repetition, the amount of visualization and technical practice on primary lifts (spending time approaching the technique of your lifts like you would tricks). The difference comes from lifestyle and intention primarily, not just the program details or number of reps. Carryover for sport is another thing entirely, but in short: most people shouldn't be choosing strength training as their first choice to improve their tricking, they should be tricking. Almost no elite tricksters lift weights. Anyway, what I really want you to notice however, is that both of these approach above are much more complex than your run-of-the-mill low rep, high weight simplistic "strength" training approach which typically features primarily squats and deadlifts. Actually, be honest, how many people in your gym train legs using anything like either of these two approaches? I've never seen anyone train back squats to failure using a pin rack for spotting set after set or superset frontsquats as the second exercise with anything! I've never seen someone max out on the hack squat for 3 sets of 3 or do any rest pause for lower body work. Yet for the upper body, we're much more likely to do shit that would be equivalent to these in difficulty/discomfort. Why don't we do the same for leg training? Tons of reasons... And it's mostly us men that do this...

Reasons why most men train legs differently than their upper body


Reason 1. Most of us men don't wear shorts in the gym that would reveal a leg pump. Why do a high rep, super-setted, train-to-failure type leg workout to get a leg pump if you're not even going to see it?

Reason 2. Most men who train, often do upper body poses when in the presence of mirrors; we're always looking for visual feedback in this way. But we rarely drop our pants and do leg poses. We usually don't seek visual feedback from our leg training efforts, so we often don't care if our leg training isn't making our legs look jacked, vascular, or freaky.

Reason 3. Most men's legs look pale, hairy and soft. It's going to take some killer leg development to overcome this, which most men don't have. Your only choice is to tan and shave, and a lot of homophobic, non-bodybuilder men could never bring themselves to do something like this.

Reason 4. Most women don't see the size/freakiness of men's legs as sex assets. Men intuitively know this, and this intuition is correct. So why bother building bigger/freakier legs if women don't care and if we aren't competing in body building?

Reason 1+2+3+4 = This is why there are so many women with legs that rival men's: women often wear skimpy or skin tight clothing in the gym, they look at their legs in the mirror all the time and see them respond to exercise, they see them get pumped up, they get encouraged and enthusiastic about leg training, they shave their legs and see the definition, they snap selfies of their butt (belfies) and they know all of this becomes a huge sexual asset: men like women with nice ass'n'legs.

Moorea Wolfe

Reason 5. Difficult leg training protocols demand more recovery. Eating good and sleeping good is not enough. You need to eat great and sleep great to give your body any chance of adapting to a difficult leg training protocol. In fact, this is probably the biggest reason and argument against complicating leg training beyond simple compound lifts, or using intensity-increasing training tactics for the legs: most people probably can't withstand this type of punishment for the lower body like they could for the upper body if taken slightly toward the extreme.

Reason 6. The fear and pain that must be overcome when training legs with intensity-tactics and a ton of exercise variation takes a special kind insanity. Nobody wants to train legs this way. Maybe Moorea Wolfe does?



All of this comes together and explains to us why guys like to read and hear about low rep, high weight simplistic "strength" approaches for leg training. It's because it's EASIER. Just go in, squat 5 sets of 5, maybe do a support exercise, and go home. Voila! This is also easier to market. People want to do the easiest, simplest thing to get results, and they want to believe that "less is more" regarding leg training. The good news however, is that these easier, more marketable training approaches still actually work! And they actually work very well. So that's Reason 7. Why do more, and complicate things when you can reach your goal doing less with something simple? The answer is: you shouldn't. You should never do more than you should to reach your goal, do the lowest amount of work possible for the result you're trying to achieve. These approaches work because some muscles groups are more responsive to certain stimuli. Most people with average backs and upper legs can grow bigger backs and bigger upper legs, and decent ones at that, doing heavy strength shit with a conservative volume, with just a couple key exercises, only once or twice a week if they eat enough, do it long enough (years), don't hurt themselves, and, ultimately care about progress. Yes, these low rep, high weight simplistic "strength" training approaches can grow and carve out these particular muscles pretty well. These approaches are the only ones I would every suggest for beginners, and really they already work well enough for the typical person's leg development goals that there is not much need to ever go much beyond them: so I understand the value of these low rep, high weight simplistic "strength" training approaches, I lived them for most of my life so far, they're easy and the results are often good enough! In fact, one of my all time favorite training cycles I completed was 6 weeks of 2-3 workouts per week consisting only of squatting and deadlifting back and forth with sub-maximal weights when I was newbie, 170 lb 18 year old kid. It made me a lot stronger on these lifts.

Jujimufu squat and deadlift routine

However, as I said, some muscles groups are more responsive to certain stimuli. For example, most people cannot grow calves with these same, simplistic, heavy and short approaches, most people with average calves need to train them very often, with a higher volume, with direct isolation work, with lots of fire and brimstone lactic-acid inferno to get them to respond. Also, most people who spend all of their time using these simplistic, heavy and short approaches for the upper body tend to discover that they fall mysteriously short here too. This is why I wrote something about how the basic compound lifts alone are not enough to grow the arms and chest to their full potential (a page on the small arm disease). Shit, go on Instagram and find a bunch of guys with decent upper body development, and ask them what they do. I promise you not a single one is going to tell you they've built their upper body exclusively using a low rep, high weight simplistic "strength" training approach with dips, chins, presses, rows, etc. They all borrow ideas from bodybuilding methodology.

Quangbangs

But what may be "good enough" development of the legs for some, may not be "good enough" for everyone. Some guys really want to maximize their leg development, and they get stuck thinking the low rep, high weight simplistic "strength" training approach is the end-all-be-all of leg training. They eschew everything but a few key lifts thinking everything else is worthless. Basically they've been brainwashed, which sucks. I'm of the opinion that if you're not a leg training beginner, and have already cultivated a passion for the compound lifts, you need to do new things if you truly want to level up your legs again, you need to implement more powerlifting and bodybuilding methodologies into your training. You need to complicate your training again, learn new exercises, and you need more intensity-increasing training tactics. Speaking of powerlifting... This low rep, high weight simplistic "strength" training approach isn't a powerlifting training approach. My squat'n'deadlift routine I just mentioned, Mehdi's strong lifts, whatever the fuck 5x5 is supposed to mean anymore, and Starting Strength are not powerlifting training approaches. Powerlifters spend an insane amount of time on their lifts, because they know direct repetition = solid technique = higher weights. They're obsessed and they think of their lifts like a trickster thinks of their tricks. They don't just go to the gym and squat, deadlift, and bench, they do it all day long, in their heads! They day dream powerlifting like tricksters day dream tricking. The difference is a trickster dreams of hundreds upon hundreds of tricks, and a powerlifter dreams of three lifts. (Imagine the difference in results from the resolution of purpose here in visualization!) But aside from that, they do some really complicated, convoluted, mathematical shit in their training. They do a plethora of auxiliary exercises that support their primary lifts. I'm talking about tons of extra exercises with sometimes up to 20 reps. Most would think this is the "hypertrophy" or "bodybuilding" type approach due to the volume, high number of reps and high number of sets. They do it though. Why? Many reasons, one of which is bloodflow. Which is healing. Try to get a bloodflow response when you're always keeping your resistance level near sub maximal and your repetitions under 6. Another reason: You can get strong as fuck working in higher rep ranges. This whole dichotomy that lower reps are magically better for strength and higher reps are magically better for size is insane. Powerlifters aren't all about that there "low rep, high weight" stuff, and that's why they often become giants that seem to resemble bodybuilders when they eat and supplement to grow like bodybuilders: because their training shares more similarities with bodybuilders than it has differences, despite what cocky college kids reading t-nation.com seem to believe, they think the number of reps is a magical programming variable that determines whether they'll be lifting 3x their body weight by the end of the year or looking 3x as big. Good god you stupid kids! Come on!

doug_young

So here's where we're at: ultimately, if you want more leg training results, you need to do somethings that scares you, that makes you uncomfortable, and that requires more effort inside and outside of the gym. It's going to cost you more. This is why most of us tricksters who train our legs, unconsciously train our legs like big fucking pussies, for good reason! We know how robbing a hard leg workout can be to our tricking. We know how much soreness and fatigue in the legs can fuck with our tricking. So we seem to gravitate towards these low rep, high weight, simplistic "strength" training approaches for our lower body. This is good intuition. It's a smart hunch you have about training the lower body differently than the upper body. Upper body training doesn't cost as much (deadlift aside). But you know, really, what I think you're saying when you say this:
Does "I'd like to train my lower body mainly for strength and upper body mainly for hypertrophy" make any sense? Something like squats and deadlifts with lower reps and many intensity techniques for upper body...

What you're really unconsciously saying is you want to train the lower body easier and the upper body harder. If I'm wrong, why don't you do a variation of something like this three days a week:

  • Back squats 6 sets of 2 reps at 90% max weight.

  • Stationary, reverse lunges with rear leg elevated 4 inches: 3 sets of 5 reps per leg.

  • Isometric, block elevated, trap-bar deadlift for 4 sets of 6 second effort.

  • Glute ham raises with a small plate, 4 sets of 10-12 reps.

  • Hack squat, 3 sets of 3 reps with maximum weight.


Because that's more along the lines of a legitimate strength protocol for the lower body that would be equivalent in effort to what you would be doing with your upper body hypertrophy protocol with intensity techniques. Right? The best strength improvements, especially for people who are no longer beginners, takes more thinking and effort than simply maxing out on squats and deadlifts a few days a week. It takes extra exercises, more intensity-increasing training tactics, and more programming reflexiveness (being able to identify things that warrant changing a training program, and responding to them intelligently and quickly)... If you're not a beginner anymore, and you want more, then start adding these things into your leg training slowly. Over time they'll make a difference.

Actually, you know what, fuck it, that's too complicated. Let's go back to 5x5 squats and just force that shit forever. 5x5 is a fucking wonder program isn't it? It never stops working, it's just progress forever and fuckin-ever. I hope 5x5 was invented by Russians, because any strength program invented by a Russian is always better no matter what.  (Damn it, I couldn't help myself.) Enough with all of this masturbatory program hypothesizing and unnecessary whining on my part, I want to give some UB and LB training recommendations for size and strength for the Acrobolix tricking breed:

My Acrobolix leg training recommendations


Acrobolix legs, tricking leg strength

My Acrobolix upper body training recommendations


Acrobolix upper body, tricking strength

So yes, I'm a fan of using different approaches for lower and upper body training here for Acrobolix style tricking. But more importantly, I'm a fan of using the right approach at the right time. The right approach, sometimes, and very often times, especially as a trickster, is the easier approach. There's nothing wrong with skipping leg day or training legs like a pussy if your legs are good enough already for you at the moment, or if you have other goals that need a lot of your resources. Oh, and as for soreness, since you asked about that too:
If my goal is hypertrophy, does changing my workout when the last one doesn't make me sore anymore make sense?

No it doesn't make sense. Soreness happens when you do too much of something new, or too much of something you haven't done in awhile. Soreness is not a useful indicator of what your next move should be. It doesn't mean you should change anything. Often it has little meaning at all. In my opinion, it's just an inconvenience that negatively affects training performance in the short run.

Periodization also means periodizing what you care about


Periodizing is hard, especially for an Acrobolix athlete, because we care about too many things. We care about strength, we care about size, we care about being jacked, we care about flexibility and tricks. This many mindedness is much more difficult than the single minded powerlifting approach (3 lifts) or the single minded bodybuilding approach (must get hyooooge!) or the single minded modern tricking approach (just one more swing through!) ... It's hard, but here's what you gotta do to get the best gains on an Acrobolix periodization program: you have to make sure you CARE about the right thing at the right time, and STOP CARING about the right thing at the right time. The best size and strength gains I've ever gotten came during the only winter that I didn't trick or worry about my tricking. At all. I fucking gave it up. I wasn't even a trickster anymore in my mind. I ignored all the gathering invites for the season, ignored my trickster friends, ignored everything online that had to do with tricking. I focused only on getting bigger and stronger. The results were like nothing I'd ever experienced. Ultimately, my tricking suffered needlessly, I should have done some tricking maintenance work, like mobility work and visualizing tricks at least. I didn't do shit, so getting back into tricking was a real bitch for the first 5 weeks that spring, but it worked itself out. It had to. I'm Jujimufu, afterall! So remember, periodizing isn't only about changing the things you actually do, it's about changing the things you care about too.

I hope all of this gave you some ideas. Good luck bro!

Older Post Newer Post


  • Nate on

    I cannot 2x bw squat yet. I’m about 165lbs at a height of 6’2” and recently got to squatting 5×5 at 165 lbs on the strong lifts 5×5 program. I definitely have a long way to go. I have a friend who is following the strong lifts 5×5 and I decided to join him on it. Do you recommend I stay on that or do another program this winter to maximize my time in the gym?

  • Marcus on

    It’s not too obvious. Antoine still throws great tricks despite very infrequent practice. I don’t think his size would prevent him from getting the same level of kicking/tricking proficiency you have if he would prioritize his tricking for a while.

  • Josiah on

    If bigger legs get in the way of tricking, how does Antoine trick? Hahaha (Nuclear summer).

  • Jon Call on

    Hi Nate, if you haven’t already been using a low rep, high weight simplistic strength training approach do that. It takes a little while to outgrow something like that for most people. You should be able to get to 2x bodyweight squat, dead on that. Can you do that?

  • Jon Call on

    They get in his way… It’s pretty obvious.



Leave a comment