Bringing up your lagging body parts is something everyone will work towards when in the gym. Whether you want to get your arms and shoulders bigger for summer, you need a wider, stronger back for your athletic pursuit, or you’re after rounder, fuller glutes and thighs, there needs to be a plan put in place to achieve these goals.
We can pin this down to a few main factors, that cause majority of these weaknesses to stay that way and unless these are addressed, you’ll be left spinning your wheels. So let’s dig a bit deeper into 5 pillars, crucial for progress;
1. Perfecting Technique – It’s been touted a thousand times, but if you can’t feel a muscle contract, you’re not going to be getting the most out of it in any given movement pattern. If necessary, cut the weights back to begin with, nail in your execution of lifts so you can really get everything out of the movement and muscle. From here, with each and every rep, apply both intent and focus, as you gradually get stronger. Challenging yourself every time you come back around to that muscle and movement pattern
2. Frequency – Stimulus is what we’re really looking at here. We want to stimulate a muscle, cause some micro tears in the tissue, signalling to the body to recover and repair, making it stronger for the next training bout. The more often we can do this the better, and given the protein synthetic rate of musculature, we’ve got a 48-72 hour recovery time before we can hit it again.
With this in mind we’ve got the opportunity and potential to train a muscle 2-3 x per week, that over the course of a year is 104 – 156 possible sessions to grow your glutes or chest.
Working this into your training week we can go with 2 lower body sessions per week, Monday and Thursday, then adding in an additional couple of sets for glutes on Saturday where we also hit say shoulders and back. This quite easily increases how often we’re signalling to the body “Hey, I’m using the muscle quite a lot, we need to make this bigger and stronger”
3. Volume – Think of volume as how many hard sets you’re doing per week. If you’re currently hitting a full “chest day” once per week, you do 5 exercises, 4 sets on each, that’s 20 work sets. In this session you’re annihilating the muscle, but only hitting it once then leaving it for 144 hours before the next chest day rolls around.Keeping those 20 work sets you’re doing, we can space it out, increasing the frequency and dropping the individual session volume;e.g. 8 sets on Monday & Thursday, then 4 on Saturday.
By dropping the amount of work you’re doing on one single day, you’re not completely demolishing the muscle but stimulating it enough to cause an adaptation. You’re also then in a better place to push your strength as you’re not accruing more and more fatigue which only leaves you “feeling” like you’ve done a lot of work.
This leads on well to the next point of….
4. Strength – Now it’s all well and good to feel the muscle, then hit it often, but if strength is not progressing, your muscle won’t adapt. We need to push hard, log booking your sessions, ensuring week in, week out we’re testing new grounds and moving forwards, challenging the muscle and forcing the adaptations we require. That can be via a bit more weight, an additional couple of reps or taking on one more set, but we need to challenge the body to cause the adaptation we’re after. Strength is a key driver of growth; a stronger muscle will be a bigger muscle. If we take your Barbell Hip Thrust from 90kg for 6 reps, up to 180kg for 6 reps, I guarantee you your glutes and hamstrings will be bigger as they’ve gotten significantly stronger. It’s a basic physiological adaptation, but this requires you to be diligent and work hard!
5. Calories – With the previously mentioned factors we’ll be in a place where we’re pushing hard and training frequently, we need the calories there to recover, signal surplus to the body to continue strength progressions and increase the potential for new tissue to be gradually be gained. If you really want to progress you can’t be scared of the calorie, if you are, then that’s something we’ll need to address if you really want to push ahead in your progress. See the performance progressions you are making and the potential for you to keep going, you need to fuel the body to get the most out of it. If you train like you mean it, don’t sit on your phone all sessions, challenge yourself and keep pushing progress, the calories are well deserved and aiding that recovery process (if you need to work out intake see my previous blog posts)
There are many moving parts when it comes to training and bringing up weaknesses, but it is really quite simple; Train well, train hard, push ourselves often and eat to support our goals. It takes time, commitment and continual effort. It always comes back to consistency and your ability to do the necessary today, to move ahead tomorrow to turn your weaknesses into strengths.