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Earlier this week, I realized that I was only going to get this one workout this week. I usually do 3-4 per week.

I decided to do a full body program with some extra focus on legs, and got a squat rack.

I had a squat rack, in which I could do a lot of different stuff, like squats, overhead press, pullups, barbell rows. But I also wanted to do a lot of leg exercises afterwards. So I had a dilemma:

  • I wanted to keep the squat rack, since there is no guarantee that if I leave it, I'd get it back right away when I want it again

  • I wanted to do other leg exercises (extensions, curls, calf raise), but I'd have to leave the rack

Question

Is there any measurable drawback to doing one big leg exercise, then doing upper body work for a while, and then doing legs again?

My first instinct is that I'd have to warm up again, which is easily done by doing some light sets, and increasing gradually. But besides that?

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It mostly depends on your style of training (high volume vs intensity).

Certain things might be more difficult due to already accumulated fatigue in muscle groups you've already hit. For instance, if you were to start with squats and then did an upper-body movement, followed by deadlifts, you might find that breaking the bar off the ground might be more challenging, as that's the most quad-intensive part of a deadlift.

As long as the main muscle group is different, or you're using a lighter (if you already went heavy, or heavier if you previously used a variation that required a lower intensity) intensity, you should be fine.

Anecdotally, I frequently start my session with cleans or snatches which then progress to front and high-bar back squats. Depending on the day, I'll follow those with deadlifts (sumo). The only time I avoid performing squats and deadlifts in the same session is when I do low-bar squats, as I can squat substantially more that way than high-bar and therefore it negatively affects my deadlifting performance.

As long as you are aware of what is getting fatigued and in the manner in which it's getting fatigued, you should be able to manage it to allow multiple compound movements back-to-back. For example, if you perform military presses in the beginning of your workout, you will be able to bench press afterwards, but perhaps not at an intensity that you would have been able to use had you benched before doing military presses.

When going for a higher volume approach, I find that it's often easier to string multiple movements that hit the same area, but in slightly different ways without having to have a separate exercise in between (pull ups and rows for example). In this case, rest between sets becomes more of a factor.

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  • Let's say for example I'm doing squats then deadlift. Would you say there's a difference in fatigue in quads/lower back going into the deadlift if I did it directly after squats compared to if I did one or two upper body exercises in between?
    – Alec
    Feb 2 '16 at 18:34
  • From my experience, unless I attempted a true 1 - 3 RM, it doesn't matter too much how many exercises are in between (but I have also built up a decent work capacity for my lower body). For some, having a few in between might be necessary. It might also depend on the squat variation. I've actually supersetted front squats and deadlifts before without issue (accept sucking air lol).
    – Alex L
    Feb 2 '16 at 23:22

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