Without a doubt, most of us have been indoctrinated with a few tried and true basics when it comes to weight training. Eat big. Get lots of sleep. Take your supplements. And train with very heavy weights using compound movements. Squats, bench press, deadlifting, barbell presses, and a few other movements have proven to be invaluable over time for helping young lifters build pure, unadulterated muscle bulk and mass.
And then we grow up.
As time passes, our base foundation of muscle becomes more and more established. We are big and strong. At that point, we may decide to enter a bodybuilding or physique contest. Suddenly, being "big" doesn’t matter anymore. Now it’s time to become "complete". The first time any athlete diets down, he or she quickly becomes aware of any underlying flaws or areas of incomplete growth which were present. Once you don the posing dais, there is no way to hide the weaknesses. Suddenly, the need to use isolation training to pick off these areas of incomplete development becomes highly important. Let’s check out a few muscle-building isolation exercises you may have been missing!
Standing Lateral Dumbbell Raise
In a world full of people trying to get big shoulders, "pressing" is usually the name of the game when shoulder day rolls around. However, many lifters don’t realize that the side deltoids are the part of the 3-headed muscle group which delivers the most width in all standing front poses – and the heads of the shoulders which are often neglected. Toss some very strict standing lateral DB raises into the mix when shoulder day comes around. Keep the weight light to moderate to avoid any RC or AC joint injuries. Raise your arms up, directly to your sides, using minimal "Body English" to swing the weight. Lead with the elbows and work hard to feel the flexion with each individual repetition.
For most trainers, leg day is about a few huge "beast" movements... leg press, lunges, stiff-legged deadlifts, and of course, the squat! Whether it’s barbell or Smith, hack or angled, the squat reigns supreme. What is often neglected on quad training day is the leg extension, a movement which is often primarily utilized by new trainers, senior citizens, and those enduring injury rehab. However, it may be time to change your way of thinking. Leg extensions work great for pre-exhaustion work, as well as to maintain a constant pump and burn on the quads when overall leg balance begins to wane in the final movements of a tough leg day training session. Remember that changing toe position can be a great way to isolate certain parts of the quadriceps as well. Pointing toes out will work the inner part of the teardrop, and pointing toes in will target the outer teardrop.
Reverse Pec Deck Fly
Many lifters look at the Pec Deck machine and see what it is... a chest movement. What they don’t realize is that by turning your body around to face the machine, you suddenly have a new movement which can succinctly target your rear deltoids in a very deliberate and controlled way, with little required in the way of balance. Use this movements with moderate to moderately heavy weight toward the end of your shoulder training day. There is minimal chance of injury, and you can even use training methodologies such as "down the rack" to reduce the weight during some long super sets. Your shoulders will feel the burn from this one, and you’ll be able to target your rear deltoids in a way that many dumbbell movements neglect.
Cable Press Downs
If you want big arms, you need to focus upon triceps. Sure, everyone asks to flex the biceps... but we all know that the triceps make up 3/5 of the upper arm, and give the arm the subliminal thickness appeal that is usually credited to the biceps muscles. Most thick lifters use the thick movements of skull crushers, close grip bench press, bench dips, and lots of EZ bar presses. However, the cable press down for triceps is one movement you may have been neglecting, that you should consider putting to work! Maintain a methodical approach, keeping reps high and controlled, weight moderate, and with continual tension on the triceps by avoiding any elbow flare. Push toward lockout with slow focus, keeping the triceps tense and flexed.
Let’s face it, we all know the showcase muscle groups are the biceps and chest. Triceps, back and calves usually have their day in the sun, too. Hamstrings are usually about 11th on the list of muscle groups we like to target, maybe because they’re boring and nobody ever asks to see them... that is, until contest day rolls around and we have to hit a back double biceps pose. Then we realize the need for hamstring isolation work such as hamstring curls while lying on the stomach, becomes very obvious. Most gyms have newer, more creative versions such as seated hamstring curls. None will target you from lumbar to knee, more than the lying variety. Spend some time with this movement, and use photographs to document the progress you’ll make in a months’ time using this isolation movement!
Many lifters don’t put a lot of effort into their ab training, waiting until they’re a few weeks out from the show to jump on the floor and start some crunches. Wise lifters know that incredible ab development isn’t just a vanity thing – it’s a safety issue. Enjoying complete core development requires regular training of the back and abs to make sure there are no weak points along the chain. Cable crunches give you the ability to accurately target the abdominal muscles while requiring very little from the surrounding areas like hip or back, which can come into play when knocking out repeated sets of standard crunches. Isolate and conquer!