I've read that squats and deadlifts promote overall muscle growth in the body. Does this mean that if I want to increase growth faster in, say, my arms, I should exercise my arms on the same day as I do one of these heavy compound lifts?

7 Answers 7


Some thought/comments/recommendations:

  1. doing squats and dead lifts on back to back days will not get you the muscle growth you seek. In essence you are working many of the same muscles two days in a row. My suggestion is swap day 1 and day 2 and make day 4 an off day which I assume it is already.

  2. squat and dead lift do promote overall muscle growth, but not in the way i think you understand it. squats and DL's strengthen your core and the overall foundation of your muscle skeletal system which is required as you build secondary muscles. whether you do arms on the same day as your legs is really not the point. however, one could argue in favor of doing arms on leg day, but because your arms will not be pre-fatigued from doing other primary muscle exercises. then someone else will argue pre-fatiguing yields better results.

  3. abs 1x per 3 days is not enough...every workout!

  4. change splits every 4-6 weeks....inevitably you will need to do arms with other upper body parts, but as long as you keep rotating and mixing it up the growth and results will continue.

An Example: 1. Chest - Shoulders

  1. Back - Bi's (No Deadlifts)

  2. Legs - Tri's (Squats)

Great bi busters - 21's - get a medium/light weight barbell and do standing curls - 7 reps that go from bottom to halfway point then without rest or putting dumbbell down do 7 reps from top to the halfway down point then without rest or putting dumbbell down do 7 full range reps! I usually do 3-5 sets of these and call it a day!

Another fav is get three sets of dumbbells 10-15-20 and do super sets - 1x10 w/10lb then without rest 1x10 w/15lb - then without rest 1x10 w/20lb - I usually do 3-5 sets of these and call it a day!

On last recommendation for overall arm size...DIPS, DIPS and more DIPS!

  • 2
    Some great recommendations, but I can't comment on it all due to the limit of the comment box. Regarding the question in my post: My understanding is that since squats and deadlifts activate such large parts of the body at once, they trigger a release of hormones in the body (unlike most other exercises, which I hardly break a sweat from doing); and it makes sense to me that one should exercise body parts one wants to grow at this time, rather than a day or two later. This is the question to which I'd like a clear "yes", "it doesn't matter" or "no one knows".
    – user677
    Jun 8, 2011 at 6:49
  • The only reference I found to measured release of hormone from lifting is for experienced olympic weightlifters (> 2 years) Acute Hormonal Responses in Elite Junior Weightlifters 1992. That doesn't mean it isn't happening, but it hasn't been documented.
    – michael
    Jul 5, 2011 at 19:42
  • @Samuel It wouldn't hurt to edit that hormone mechanism into your question, since otherwise there's no reason to think training your legs would help your arms.
    – Noumenon
    Jul 22, 2014 at 16:26

I like the tree analogy. Spot on. There is no right or wrong answer. Everyone has their own way. Some work better then others. I train arms with legs. Sort of an upper lower. I also do a push pull routine. Change my routine every two months. I go heavy on compound movements then meduim to light on isolation movements such as arm work etc. just work hard not too long and use good form and things will be fine. Some parts can be stubborn for growth. Experiment with reason


Squats and deadlifts definitely promote growth. But that is not the whole story.

I use the tree analogy. You don't see a tree with a tiny trunk and big thick branches. If you want the thick branches you have to have a thicker trunk.

So yes doing squats and deadlifts will promote complete body strength but that isn't the whole story.

Thing #1 - So you are starting out and want to get big quick. Yes go heavy on squats and deadlifts. But you have to do some arms. First you need a little triceps to help bench. Second the arm workouts help forearm and hand strength which help deadlifting and other lifts. Then the biggest thing is so where are you at after 6-12 months of deadlifting and squatting when you have got a little bigger and you haven't touched your arms? Well you are starting your arm workout and your arms will basically be shocked for a while. Why not work them out (even marginally) so that your body can adjust easier to new routines?

Thing #2 - You might be at a point where you are not going to have huge gains in deadlifts and squats. Of course working out your arms hard will make them stronger and bigger. I don't think we need to debate that working out a body part makes it stronger/bigger.

Thing #3 - If you want size you need intensity for the reps or weight. You can't do everything with intensity. You get about 30 mins if you are lucky with high intensity. So you if you want great arms you need to do them on their own.


What you read is actually a bit misleading. Doing compound movements, and especially dead lifts and squats, will not make your entire body grow...only the muscles that you target depending on the variation of the exercise that you're doing. What they do specifically in terms of promoting overall muscle growth is just in terms of hormones. You will release more IGF-1, growth hormone, and increase testosterone levels as opposed to not doing them at all. Now, why am I saying this ? How is this relevant ? Well, your hormones aren't like caffeine pills or pre-workout supplements, you don't just increase them and see an immediate effect (like in the same workout), instead, you promote an anabolic ENVIRONMENT, you prime your body for muscle growth purposes, not for one single workout, but in general. So you could do legs on Day 1, and arms on Day 2 or 3 or 6, and still benefit.

I'm absolutely shocked no one has mentioned this on this site but I could strongly argue that it is actually worse to train them on the same day than separate. Reason ? Well, it's very simple. I think everyone here knows that the squat and dead lift (excluding olympic lifts) are two of the most taxing exercises on your body. Now, let's say you did 5 sets of 5-10 reps of squats and the same for deadlifts. Let's further assume that your arms are a weak point and that you are trying to bring them up desperately. Now, you just did two of the most difficult exercises that are available to you, with relatively heavy weights (you need to go heavy in order to get this muscle growth promotion effect in the first place), that means you spent most of your "anabolic environment" nutrients/hormones, or...in simple terms, your energy (via muscle glycogen) already. Now, you're going to work out this weak part of your physique that you really want to improve without half or more than half of the building blocks that you had available to you! Furthermore, if you didn't eat sufficiently that day, or if you took too long to finish the first 2 exercises, your cortisol levels are now going up, and you are now way more likely to actually break down muscle for energy. All this...when you could have just trained arms on a separate day, without two of the most energy consuming exercises known, and trained them at 100%, you see what I'm saying?

Some people have suggested some fancy arm workouts and such, and I'm assuming you're a beginner, please don't do these. Stick to the basics, you don't need anything other than intensity and the basics to grow.


Leg training has been shown to increase arm gains when arms were done straight after. Separate days are hard to say. You do actually get average arms with big legs and vice versa though rare because committed lifters tend to have more sense. I disagree there're no / little gains left for arms after legs. Arms are small and weak compared with legs and don't require you to be fresh energy wise. The issue with also training arms is time. If you're efficient with training and not spending well over an hour on legs there should be plenty energy left for arms, but you may want to do biceps only or triceps only depending on your work for each. Personally I wouldn't do triceps as they tend to be best worked with compound pressing whereas biceps are more isolated.

The legs for upper body not trained same session applies to bench as leg drive contributes as does a back which is tight.

Training choice is about efficiency and recovery. I'd expect arms to do better with a day to themselves but at what cost to your other lifts? It depends on your training goals. Bodybuilders want all body growth, powerlifters see arms as an assistance to bench. You could in theory train Legs, Chest, Back and have two days for Arms but I think training should mirror body function.

  • 1
    Leg training has been shown to increase arm gains when arms were done straight after - Is this your opinion, or, is there a study to back this up?
    – rrirower
    Nov 8, 2020 at 16:05
  • I would also like to read this study.
    – C. Lange
    Nov 9, 2020 at 0:51

There is no reason not to do them on the same day. The key is to not overdo the load. In short no more than 5 sets of 5 reps on squats and 1 set of 5 reps on the deadlift. BTW, deadlift is probably the best exercise to improve your grip.

My background is strength training, so my answer may not exactly be what you are looking for. Essentially for strength gains squats and deadlifts are excellent exercises. My program alternates two full body workouts with a day of rest in between. Squats are done every session. The upper body swaps between bench press and overhead press. The other exercise swaps between barbell rows and deadlifts (both get the back muscles).

Incorporating squats and deadlifts into a split routine is very tricky precisely because they hit so many areas on your body.

  • Squats and deadlifts get your glutes, hamstrings, and core
  • Squats also get your adductors and quads
  • Deadlifts also get your forearms, grip, lats (great back exercise), and to a lesser degree your quads.

You have to factor in recovery time, which really depends on how much volume you are doing, and your ability to recover. A beginner recovers pretty quickly, but that is because they can't get the same volume as a very strong intermediate lifter (someone who can squat 1.5x body weight to full parallel).

Lastly, you have to make sure you do these lifts correctly or you will get injured. If you do half squats or anything less than the full range of motion (ROM) you are setting yourself up for injury at a later point. If you don't perform the steps of the deadlift correctly you can injure your back. Yet, they are very powerful lifts. Even if it's not your goal, you won't be able to help getting stronger doing these lifts.

Your program can work as long as you have a full day of rest between each workout. Other than your forearms, neither lift works the arms appreciably.

NOTE: regarding the question of them stimulating arm growth, I don't think that they do. Your muscles respond to stress that you put on them, and neither lift stresses the arms that much.


Squats should be first, do three sets of 8, then do deadlifts at three sets of 6-8. Do them at least twice a week with 3 days in between.

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