When you go to the gym, you need to understand why you’re training—because your ultimate goal will determine how you challenge your body. If you train for power and strength, you’re going to focus on the amount of weight you can lift in each exercise. If you’re training to be a bodybuilder, your goal will be to add as much lean muscle to your frame as possible while keeping your physique proportional. Step one is knowing what the objective is before you start slinging weights around.
As bodybuilders, we want to shape our physiques so they flow aesthetically, with muscles that “pop” like they might on a cartoon character. Having deep striations and separations makes this illusion even more effective. But what do you do if one body part is dominating another?
Why Is a Body Part Lagging in the First Place?
First, you need to understand why one particular part of your body is not developing as much. Maybe it’s because you don’t know what exercises target that muscle. Maybe you’re not contracting the muscle through its full range of motion because your form is off or your body isn’t physically able to contract that specific muscle. Or maybe it’s just because you skip training those muscles and focus on your stronger ones instead.
Once you understand why a body part is lagging, you address that barrier head on, whether that means finding the right motivation or the right exercises. Don’t worry if you don’t know which exercises target the specific muscles you need to bring up; there are many ways to learn what exercises target what muscles. A search of Animal training videos will offer insight into what bodybuilders do for training. Once you have a list of 4-5 exercises that target your lagging body part, you can start putting together a workout to bring them up.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Not all exercises fit every bodybuilder. There is no “one size fits all” to training. Yes, the majority of lifters should be able to perform most exercises. However, if you’re noticing pain in your joints when performing a certain exercise, chances are you are either not performing the exercise with proper form or the exercise isn’t the best fit for you. I’ve personally found that skullcrushers for triceps and barbell bench presses for chest don’t work well for me.
Just because the exercise is great for some people doesn’t mean you must incorporate it into your training. The goal is to challenge a muscle or muscles, not perform an exercise or complete x number of reps. The exercise is a means to an end. Find the 4-5 exercises that work best for you and perfect those exercises.
Challenge the Muscle
When you train, contract and control the weight through the muscle’s full range of motion. The faster you learn how to control the contractions of your muscle without breaking form and the stronger your mind-muscle connection, the faster your lagging body parts will grow and strengthen.
The stronger your mind-muscle connection for these exercises, the better your target muscles will be able to move the weight. Don’t be the person who throws weight around to show off. Be in control of your mind, your muscle, and every inch of every rep.
Now that you know you’re performing the right exercises using proper form, decide how often to do them. If you’re skipping these exercises because you don’t like doing them, that’s a problem. You have to give your lagging body parts as much—if not more—attention than any other body part.
At first, train your lagging body parts more frequently than you do the rest of your body—but with less volume per training session. Instead of training them once a week, train them 2-3 times a week. No, this is not overtraining. If your muscles are weak and not conditioned to training with volume, they won’t need much effort to get pumped and fatigued.
You may notice that after two exercises your lagging body part is completely exhausted. Instead of continuing to do more sets and exercises with bad form, switch over to exercises that work your stronger body parts, then train the weak parts again in a couple of days. As you are able to add more volume in training, reduce the frequency of training and increase the volume.
An example training split for someone who has lagging biceps and triceps could be:
- Monday: back, triceps, and biceps
- Tuesday: quads, hamstrings, and calves
- Wednesday: chest, shoulders, biceps, and triceps
- Thursday: hamstrings, quads, and calves
- Friday: back, chest, biceps, and triceps
The main focus in this training split is on the first muscle group. Your biceps and triceps may only need 8-10 sets for each training session.
When to Increase Volume
After you’ve consistently followed this split for 4-5 weeks, you should notice a difference in your work output. That means you can start training biceps and triceps with more volume, thereby reducing the frequency. Adjust the days you train each body part to what fits you best. You can reduce the number of muscle groups you train, but don’t reduce the overall work load. Every week, increase the volume by adding more weight and/or more sets and reps.
Your success will come down to hard work and discipline. I have always believed you are what you do—not what you say you’ll do. When you consistently live the life of a bodybuilder, you become that bodybuilder. When you envision what you want to look like, you can make it happen by acting every single day to achieve that look.
You can avoid or overcome lagging body parts by paying close attention to whatever mental or physical barrier has kept you from building those muscles. Once you know what’s keeping you from achieving a balanced physique, you can address the root of the problem and move forward to overcome any weaknesses.