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Lower vs. Upper Body Fatigue

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Is it normal to feel like lower body workouts really kick my ass as opposed to upper body? I am an inexperienced lifter and the only rationale I can come up with is that I'm working much larger muscles in my lower body. I find myself sweating bullets and breathing heavily during my lower body stuff but barely breaking a sweat on upper body days.

To be fair, I do feel like I push myself a little bit more on lower body days.


Any explanation?

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What exercises are you doing? Since lower body exercises generally utilize more more muscles (not just bigger ones), it could be that your body is simply working harder to supply more muscles with oxygen. If you're doing front squats, you're compressing your ribcage, which isn't bad unless you forget to breathe. You may also be doing more volume or taking less rest between sets.

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From a newbie perspective, I'd say that I've felt leg days a lot more because I don't use the muscles as often as I do the upper. I've lifted heavy things every day for five years - kids, grocery bags, laundry! - so lifting weights just feels like using the same ol' muscles more often and harder, but once I started squats I could hardly walk for a week. It's just not a set of muscles I use in that way on a regular basis, so working them out seemed to hit harder.

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For me I'm usually sore following lower body days compared to upper body. Also my upper body days go by considerably faster than lower.

I attribute it to the amount of weight I'm using. My lower body days are around 270lbs+ my upper body days are 120 (press) and 190 (bench). More weight = more exhaustion and DOMS.

Also squats are completely full body: quads, hammies, lower and upper back, core, hips, shoulders.

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Lower body movements, especially squats, are done with more weight and a greater range of motion than the typical upper body exercises. This means every rep takes much more energy to complete (energy to complete= weight x distance moved). Since you're using more energy, it requires more oxygen, which can leave you gasping.

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I feel post-workout fatigue more in the lower body because my lower body and core generally support me and move me around, whereas I don't walk on my hands or otherwise use them as often and feel the fatigue.


However, my complaint is that I'm disappointed with how fast my upper body strength has bottomed out compared to my lower.  My squats and deadlifts get more weight every week, but even just a few sessions in, my bench press is already missing reps.  Ironically it should be my upper body that feels it because it's really at its limits, but I just don't use it as often in normal life.

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