In life, some things always seem to come easier than others. Many of us pick up a basketball for the first time and can dunk it without blinking. Others spend a decade just trying to make a free throw. Some of us see algebra and it looks like absolute gibberish, while others can quickly find X without a care in the world. We all have our gifts and we all have our individual deficits. The ability to detect and address our weaknesses is what separates those who settle for mediocrity and those who achieve greatness. If you’re ready to start seeing greatness when it comes to your gains in the gym, you’ll need to bring up those lagging body parts to maximize your overall balance and symmetry. Let’s check out some tips you can use to make that happen!
First off, you should work to unravel the mystery of why a particular muscle group is lagging in the first place. Have you been neglecting this muscle group? Is your training rushed? Have you been unable to assign adequate training attention to this muscle group? Is finding the contraction an issue? Or do you possess some overall genetic shortcoming in this particular area? Learning the cause of a weakness in a certain muscle group can help you ascertain the cause, and thus put you in a better position to plan the steps necessary to solving this muscle imbalance.
Take a close look at the movements you are currently using for the lagging muscle group, and decide if they are indeed causing the deficit you are experiencing. Suppose you have a weak chest. Perhaps the cable crossovers and machine presses you favor for chest day might not be the best way to go. Is it time to shift to heavy barbell and dumbbell presses to really increase your overall muscle mass? The converse is true as well. If you’re always just used squats for legs, and been able to attain some shapeless bulk, then it may be time to add in some finishing movements. Exercises such as adductor/abductor and leg extensions with higher repetitions will help etch some definition into those thighs. Your effort and focus may not be the reason your muscles are lagging. It could simply be time for you to use some different exercises!
It has long been believed in lifting circles that the mind-muscle connection is perhaps the hardest realization to achieve in the gym. Anyone can pick up X amount of pounds and move it for Y repetitions. However, it is ultimately the muscle contraction – the fiber making its key movement and firing – that leads to real muscle and strength gains. If you’re just plowing the weight up and down and your muscles aren’t feeling it, you aren’t going to grow bigger muscles. Slow down, focus upon the contraction of each repetition, and really target the specific muscle group of the day. If you can feel the muscle burn and flex, then you are doing something right!
Most of the time, simply training a muscle group twice a week instead of once is the most effective and direct way to move it from lagging to stellar. Many lifters spend hours analyzing muscle mechanics and running fiber twitch stimulations, and it often all just comes down to hitting a muscle groups twice as often in order to make it grow twice as fast. Often, using a heavy day and a light day is good method for integrating that second training day into your lifting week. Or, you can split up a lagging muscle group. Target the upper back with cable and chin work on Monday, then nail the lower back with deadlifts and good mornings during your Thursday training session. Mix it up and find ways to hit the muscle group 104 times each year instead of only 52 times!
You will want to devote some attention to the muscle group in question each week, tracking the progress you make (or don’t make!) Take pictures, record measurements, and track the amount of weight you are using for lifts corresponding with the weak muscle group. If that particular muscle group is growing bigger and stronger, then you are moving in the right direction. If you’re staying the same size and unable to move any more weight as the weeks go by, then it’s time to revisit the lifting schedule and change things up further. You’re wearing all the results you need to make a determination – listen to your own body!
Bringing up your lagging muscle groups is going to take some time, patience, and hard work. Over time, you will discover you are able to make notable improvements to your weak areas, and do so in a relatively short period of time, provided you attack each weak area in a consistent, intelligent and intense manner. Good luck!