By Nicole

Unless you’re extremely lucky to be blessed with great genetics, you probably have a stubborn body part (or two) that doesn’t respond as well you’d like it to. You’re not alone! But rather than resign yourself to having under-developed glutes, calves, abs, or anything else, try these 4 easy strategies for bringing up those pesky problem areas.

This applies if you train multiple body parts in the same workout. For example, it’s leg day and you’re doing quads, hamstrings, and calves in the same workout. Standard practice is to train quads first with squats, leg extensions, leg presses, etc. But let’s say hamstring development is lagging behind quads. So start the workout with hamstrings to take full advantage of higher energy levels. And do more hamstring exercises before you even get to quads, essentially reversing the order of exercises.

Here’s an sample hamstring dominant leg workout.

Lying Leg Curl
Stiff Legged Deadlift
Seated Leg Curl
Walking Lunge
Leg Press
Leg Extension

Staying with hamstrings, another thing you can do is modify an exercise to make it stress the muscle to a greater extent. A great example of this is the leg press. In a normal leg press, you place your feet low on the platform to get a good range of motion and work your quads. However, place your feet higher on the platform, and you’ll notice that although your range of motion will be reduced, you get a better stretch and more involvement of your hamstrings (and glutes).

This also holds true for squats. Now you can’t do it with free weight squats, but you can with the Smith Machine, plate-loaded squats, and hack squats.

You can’t totally isolate your hamstrings with any of these exercises as quads will still be involved, but you can increase the amount of stress on your hamstrings with simple adjustments.

Recently, we did an nPower Fitness Roundtable and one of the questions was how to bring up a lagging body part. Naomi Rabon, Maureen Ashely, and myself, without coordinating, said that training that body part twice-per-week was our go-to strategy (great minds!).

It’s a simple way to give a body part more attention (stimulus) to make it respond. For example, if shoulders were a problem area, I’d train it on Monday by itself, and then hit it again a few days later, maybe with another body part.

The key to training a muscle group twice in one week is to do different workouts. You don’t want to do the exact same workout you did a couple of days earlier. So for shoulders, I might do barbell presses, lateral raises and bent over lateral raises with dumbbells, barbell upright rows, etc. on day one. Then a few days later, I might superset Smith Machine presses and cable lateral raises. Or I might train heavy, doing 6-8 reps one workout, and go lighter but do higher reps the second workout. You should do different exercises and vary your rep ranges to hit the muscles with a lot of variety.

There are many ways to make a workout harder. You can do more volume (sets and reps), but eventually you’ll reach a threshold where you start to lose energy and the ability to maintain your muscle pump simply because you’re running out of fuel, not to mention all the time spent at the gym. Although I am a high volume trainer and love working out, even I don’t like being at the gym for 2 hours.

A more efficient and effective method is to use intensity techniques. There are several, and I cover them in my video series, Intensity Techniques 101. Here are a few:

Performing two exercises back-to-back with no rest between sets.

Drop sets
After you reach muscular failure, you reduce the amount of weight so that you can do more reps to prolong the set

Negative reps
Lowering the weight slowly to take advantage of the eccentric portion of a repetition, which leads to more muscular damage (hypertrophy).

Remember, you’re only as good as your weak link. You’ll need to be more creative with your training so use these 4 strategies to address areas you want to improve. If arms respond easily but shoulders are a little more stubborn, then back off on arm workouts and focus more on shoulders and include a variety of intensity techniques as well as different types of workouts to keep your muscles guessing and improving.


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One of the biggest names in the fitness industry, Nicole Wilkins is a world-record holding four-time Figure Olympia Champion and 2012 IFPA Personal Trainer of the Year. Nicole earned her BA in Wellness, Health Promotion and Injury Prevention at Oakland University. The owner and founder of nPower Nutrition, Nicole has helped thousands of people start living a healthier lifestyle and reach their fitness goals.

See Nicole’s Bio!