Written By Nicole Wilkins, four-time Figure Olympia Champion
Whether your idea of physical perfection is extreme muscularity, or more on the athletic and lean side, one common element no matter your preference is proportion. Proportion is the hallmark of a truly impressive physique. All the body parts are developed equally, flowing from one to the next. But we all have muscles that don’t grow at the same pace as the rest of your body. Stubborn muscles need extra attention and specific training strategies. Here are 5 that I’ve used throughout my competitive career and with my clients to build a proportionate physique. 💪
1. MAKE THE MUSCLE WORK
I always preach the benefits of proper form, not only for injury prevention, but because it’s the best way to target the muscle. For a problem body part, it’s not uncommon to have difficulty feeling the muscle do the work. This is why it’s so important to learn proper form, and to concentrate during the entire set (and workout) to maintain it.
EXAMPLE You’re having trouble feeling your chest muscles during bench presses. Are you keeping your back arched, chest up, and shoulders back? Are you using a weight that’s too heavy? Try reducing the weight or, use the empty bar to perform reps with perfect form so you can feel your chest muscles.
2. TRAIN IT FIRST
You have more energy at the beginning of your workout than you do at the end. So take advantage of that by training your weaker body part first. ☝️ The technical name for this is the Priority Principle.
EXAMPLE Your hamstrings are lagging behind your quads. Start your workout with leg curls, stiff leg deadlifts, or other hamstring exercises before moving on to more quad-centric exercises like squats and leg presses.
3. TRAIN IT BY ITSELF
Reserving a workout (trip to the gym) for only one body part is a great way to put all your focus and energy just on that muscle group(s). You know there’s nothing else you have to “save” your energy for, so you can go all out with wild abandon.
EXAMPLE Let’s say you split up your training so that you hit your entire body over 4 days. Make one of those workouts just shoulders. No other body parts. If you trained shoulders with biceps and triceps, then pair it up this way:
Day 1 Shoulders
Day 2 Back, biceps
Day 3 Quads, hamstrings, calves
Day 4 Chest, triceps
4. SHOCK IT
Supersets, drop sets, rest-pause reps, and other intensity techniques can shock a muscle into growth. However, don’t do too many techniques all in one workout as that could impact your recovery.
EXAMPLE Here’s a superset (two exercises performed back-to-back with no rest in between) workout for biceps.
Incline Dumbbell Curl/Barbell Spider Curl
Concentration Curl/Standing Dumbbell Curl
5. INCREASE FREQUENCY
Training a muscle more often is one of the most common methods to bring up lagging body parts. You stimulate it more often and get nutrient rich blood into the muscle to help recuperation.
EXAMPLE You want to bring up your triceps. Train it early in the week with heavy, compound movements. Then train it again later in the same week (at least 48 hours between workouts) using isolation movements with higher reps. 👍
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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.