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How to Target and Improve Under Developed, Lagging Muscle Groups On Your Body

  May 3rd, 2012

How to Target Under Developed Muscles and Make Them Grow

We are all genetically predisposed to having certain muscle groups that quickly grow with a relatively small amount of stimulation, while also having those stubborn muscles that won’t seem to grow larger no matter how often or how hard we train them.


I’m not particularly blessed when it comes to muscle building genetics and have had to work extremely hard to pack on every pound of additional muscle mass I’ve built over the years. My body type is slender, long and lanky, which doesn’t lend itself to rapid natural muscle growth.


That being said, I haven’t let my genetics or body type be an excuse to keep me from building the kind of body I desire – and neither should you!


As I was transforming and developing my physique it quickly became apparent that my quadriceps, hamstrings and biceps are the fast developing muscles on my body. You wouldn’t know it from looking at me in a pair of jeans, but my quads are very defined and thick in relation to the rest of my legs.


This is a big reason why I was running 400 meters in just over 49 seconds during my senior year in high school, which was the only year I ran track, by the way. Even with minimal training and conditioning, because my quads and hamstrings respond quickly to training, I was able to quickly mature as a sprinter in a matter of weeks to become one of the fastest runners in my district.


On the other hand, my chest, forearms and calves would look like they belong on a twelve year old girl if I wasn’t intentional about training them. Alright, I’m exaggerating a bit, but I think you get my point.


Never Accept Defeat

Knowing that these muscle groups are the slow-responders on my body forced me to think outside the box to find ways to bring them up to the same level of development as my better-developed muscles. Most people would just lie down and accept the fact that certain muscle groups on their body didn’t look as impressive, but this is a defeatist attitude that needs to be purged.


Backing down from challenges and making excuses is a cowardly habit that will hold you back in every area of life. Instead, learn to see deficiencies as opportunities for improvement and tackle them head on.


I’m going to share with you 4 methods of training your lagging muscle groups that will force them to grow and develop to the same degree as the rest of your muscles, and keep them from holding back your overall strength gains and physical development.


Method #1: Train Lagging Muscles Immediately After Squats

Squats are the absolute best lift for gaining size. Period.


They aren’t just useful for building the quads, hamstrings and glutes. Squats produce a hormonal response unrivaled by any other lift.


After squatting the body’s production of growth hormone and testosterone is elevated. As this study performed in 2011 indicates, this spike in muscle building hormones provides the perfect opportunity to escalate muscle growth in the muscles that are trained immediately after squats.


The study found that subjects who trained one of their biceps immediately after squatting increased the size of that biceps peak to a greater degree than their other biceps that was trained without being immediately preceded by squats.


Based on the results of this study, training a lagging muscle group immediately after squats (while growth hormone production is spiked) makes perfect sense and is worth implementing as strategy to bring up a sub-par area of your physique.


Method #2: Train Lagging Muscles with Greater Frequency

In most cases targeting a specific muscle group once per week induces a sufficient level of stimulation to encourage growth. However, for those stubborn, unresponsive muscle groups that don’t seem to respond to a single session of direct stimulation, training them an extra day or two each week is a good place to start in order to jump-start their growth.


Bear in mind that this strategy should never be implemented on muscle groups that are already responding positively to your training as targeting them too frequently can lead to over-training and stagnate your results.


What I like to do is tack on an auxiliary training day to my schedule each week in which I do nothing but train my weak points. This has been an effective strategy for bringing my lagging muscles up to snuff, but I usually have to tweak my set volumes slightly…


Method #3: Stimulate Your Under-Developed Muscles with Higher Volume

If after three or four weeks of targeting my lackluster muscle groups with an extra session I’m not seeing a noticeable difference in their development, I will continue training them the same number of days each week, but will add another 2 sets to each lift that targets those specific muscles.


So, if I’m training my chest with the flat bench press and incline bench press on Tuesdays and Fridays with 5 sets of each lift, and still not seeing results, I will up the set volume to 7 for each of these lifts. This additional volume provides a new level of intensity and overload that will force your muscles to start growing.


And, since those muscles weren’t responding under a load of 5 sets of each lift, you won’t have to worry about another 2 sets leading to over-training.


However, you should only increase your training volume in short increments of 1 or 2 sets at a time. Never train with the assumption that more is always better, because there is a very fine line between overload and over-training that you don’t want to cross.


Using slow and slight adjustments to your training plan, while monitoring your results, will enable you to build up your under-developed muscles and also keep you from entering an over-trained state.


Method #4: Use Varying Resistances

Periodically switching up the resistances you’re using while training is a practice that anyone with the desire to build muscle as fast as possible should be doing because of the muscle hypertrophy benefits associated with training with both light and heavy weights.


Another benefit of varying your resistances is the fact that certain muscles tend to respond better when trained with differing levels of resistance and rep ranges. For example, the calve muscles and biceps typically experience faster growth and development when trained with lighter weights for a higher number of reps.


On the other hand, the muscles in the chest, quads and hamstrings will usually respond better when trained with heavier weights for fewer reps.


As such, in order to give your lagging muscles the best opportunity for growth, you should use one training session each week to attack them with heavy weights, and the other to blast them with some light weight (higher rep) training.


Don’t Be a Victim to Your Genetics

Regardless of your genetics, we all have specific muscles that could use a little extra work. Heck, even someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger, with super-human muscle building genetics, struggled to build and develop his calve muscles.


But do you think Arnold sat around whining about his calves not looking as good as his other muscles? No! He started doing things differently to force them to start growing and developing.


If you’ve identified areas on your body that could use some additional development, try integrating the tips I’ve shared in this article. They’ve worked very well for helping me to break through the weak points in my muscle building genetics by guaranteeing that no muscle group gets left behind.




2 Responses
  1. Eduardo Garcia says:

    Great info, even though I already read tons of articles saying almost the same or pretty much the same in order to bring up lagging muscles I came to this statement on this article which kept my attention:

    “And, since those muscles weren’t responding under a load of 5 sets of each lift, you won’t have to worry about another 2 sets leading to over-training.”

    That’s clever and in fact true. I actually heard Arnold saying once “I stop training certain muscle group whenever I feel I’ll lose the pump, I’ll first train a muscle like crazy for a lot of sets and when I feel I’m losing the pump I’ll know that next time I’ll dow maybe 2 sets less”

    I also read that on a bodybuilding book. And well, if you do let’s say 15 sets of bench press per workout and you feel the blood is leaving the muscle at 16th or 17th set I believe it might be counter productive adding 2 more sets to each lift, in my case I do 4 exercises for chest, that’ll be 8 more set in overall, where I’ll definitely have the feeling of losing the pump.

    This is just my view point, but as I said, that statement I just copy/paste kept my attention because it kinda make some serious sees to me. If it didn’t work by doing 15 sets in total for months and you still progressing in strength and muscle tone, why would you worry on adding a few more sets? That won’t lead you to an overtraining state, according to what is evident.

  2. Craig Leonard says:

    Thanks Eduardo!

    Whenever possible, I try to keep things simple and explain concepts in ways that can be easily applied by my followers. Using a bunch of scientific terms and talking theory won’t be of much benefit to the average person visiting my site for help on improving their physique.

    Arnold’s using the pump (and other physical indicators) to know when to switch up his training is a great example of why he was the greatest of all time, in my opinion. He was in touch with his physique on a level that most could never comprehend.

    It was this physical intuition, along with his drive to succeed, that defined his career and made him the greatest ever.

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