If you have been a member of a gym for any length of time you will know the few individuals that are improving every workout bit by bit, but they are the minority. You will also notice the guys that have been doing the same old thing and look exactly the same… duh, most of the gym (hopefully not you). Humans are creatures of habit, and this is most apparent on the gym floor. Without a scheduled review of your progress and deadlines set, you will feel yourself sliding into this groove.
Most, if not all of us are training to progress at some level. Basic way to progress: to breakdown muscle it needs to be exposed to NEW stimulus. Now this seems obvious when said out loud. However, most people still believe the only way to get more stimulus is progressive overload (slapping more weight on the bar). However, in most cases this means LESS stimulus for that muscle, as the more weight you whack on, your body just disperses this load across more muscles, meaning less ability to keep tension on what you’re actually trying to train. The problem is this may still work in the initial stages of lifting, as for the new lifter this is definitely new stimulus, as you will get stronger and you will put on some size. So, people get emotionally attached to this way of lifting because it’s the only way they have seen progress in the past, even if it means muscles are way out of balance.
But if you haven’t done any training, simply doing a set of pushups before bed will help you. As any significant amount of new stimulus will incur growth if you have not trained before. What you will start noticing once you get the resemblance of a muscle, is you will be growing much more rapidly in some muscle groups that others. These muscle groups will not be the same for everyone, as everyone has different strengths and structure, hence the need for variance in training programs, but this can usually be seen in overdeveloped front delts, biceps or traps…
I find it fascinating but equally irritating that people build up such a self-proclaimed expert understanding of how to train because they put on some muscle in their first year of lifting but fail to recognize that they are setting themselves up to look worse than when they started, by creating these massive imbalances in muscle groups.
With this approach of just lifting more weight, the ability to isolate a muscle will diminish and you will slowly start seeing these imbalances kick in.
Learning to build muscle for a year or so is relatively easy. I don’t want to say that to disregard this accomplishment if this is you, but I see far too many individuals build up an ego that stops them from listening or seeking advice to further their training. It gets harder to build muscle consistently over a longer period of time, say the next 5-10 years… The training approach that got you to 90kgs won’t get you to 110kg, you need to adopt new training stimulus and progression in order to keep the ball rolling. But do you know what is the hardest, most sought after part of muscle building?
Building muscle on a consistent basis while maintaining balance, proportion and symmetry.
Everyone has that muscle group they struggle with, an angle that they just can’t get a muscle to fire. That’s why a movement phase, or a phase solely focused on priming the muscle and relearning movements as I layout in my Spotter Hypertrophy Protocol should be a structural part of your training structure.
I see so many transformations where people get bigger and leaner, but they still have the same imbalances or weakness, just a better body composition. I’m not demeaning their hard work they put in to get in great shape but no one is addressing the smaller details that will truly make them standout. Unless there is a direct focus on improving these weaknesses, with specific frequency and execution focus to bring it up, this won’t improve. A couple more sets here and there will not fix it! It’s great to see progress but if your shoulders are completely overpowering your pancake chest and you keep training the same way, you just make this imbalance bigger, in my mind you are nearly going backwards.
I know I’m not only one pursuing, not only bigger body, but a more balanced and good-looking physique. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother looking to help you with this article. So ultimately, I want you to be confident knowing how to your body can grow not only bigger but also grow the way you want it to look.
This comes from intense focus on the detail of building this balance, and the only way to build balance is learning how to contract muscles, and relearning movement patterns for the muscle groups you don’t naturally feel. You’re only as good as your weakest link, build your weaknesses and I guarantee you will feel better about how you look. Rather than simply getting bigger and getting further away from that ideal look.
So, I am going to help you out because finding this information to fix this stuff is not understood or even thought about with the some of the top “fitness” trainers out there.
There are 5 other variable of training that can cause this new stimulus to hypertrophy muscle.
The amount of time you put a muscle under tension.
The overall volume of the tension you put on a muscle
The accumulation of lactic acid that you build within a muscle
How much work can do in a set amount of time
How many times you train a muscle over a given time frame
All of these can be progressed, manipulated, and focused on to create a new level of stimulus to grow. Without even focusing on weight you can add pounds of muscle to your frame. After reading hundreds of articles, journals, podcasts, seminars and talking to best coaches in the world over nearly 10 years. I have put together a protocol that involves the best of the best to see consistent growth.
I am continually testing these theories relentlessly with myself and my clients and seeing massive improvements in their physiques, but with the added benefit of not smashing up my joints or causing further imbalances.
Don’t get me wrong, I love lifting heavy stuff but if this is all you ever do, and you aren’t already a genetic freak, this will get you nowhere other than stuff your joints. Change it up! Add in some giant sets, train legs more than once a week. Fuck it, train them every day and see how much those bad boys respond!
There are all these rules of how much you can train a muscle, how often you can train otherwise it’s too much. 9.9 times out 10, the reason you are not recovering is due to lack of sleep, nutrition or environmental stressors. It is hardly ever that you are training “too hard”, make that mind shift and your focus on recovery will change!
Now to get the point…
As I said at the start of this post, people fall into a groove of the same movements and machines that they are most comfortable doing. What you are doing is complementing your strong points and neglecting the angles that are hard, because those muscles are weak.
What I believe is key part of people not varying their programs and getting stuck in the same routine, is that many get emotionally attached to “their” way of training. Even if it makes no biomechanical sense, if it “works for them” then this is thrown out the window.
Where this becomes an even bigger problem, for the few that make it without killing all their joints. They begin to teach these techniques and “bro-tips” to newbies. Now I am all for education and passing it on, but these tips are what worked for this particular individual. Where the main issue comes in is that everything from different lever lengths, sternum angles, hip structure etc. that will dictate how effective these fancy new angles are on your body.
Now this is where the emotional attachment comes in. Because you idolized this guy, or paid money to listen to him. You lock onto every bit info that worked for him as if it is YOUR blueprint. This can all be great stuff, but if it isn’t designed for your body type, you will be hitting angles that don’t suit your body at all!
If you are actually making that effort to further your knowledge you are already miles ahead of the rest. All I want you to make sure you do, is take note how his body structure and frame differs from yours, so you can adjust them to suit you. This will cause much more satisfaction and improve your physique!
It’s great to have an image in mind of what you want to look like but take note of their individual body structure. You can build muscle to shape your body, but if you have a narrow shoulder width and wide hips, aiming for the Frank Zane look will always be a dead end. Find a collection of physiques you admire and use it more as motivation.
As Milos Sarcev said, “Take it slowly. Be patient and most importantly, let your genetic structure guide you in building your physique. Pay no attention to others bodies. They might be wider, taller or shaped differently, but you are unique and that’s your advantage. The same goes for your training. Don’t blindly use another’s routine: Find what works best for your physique, then don’t train hard – train smart.”
If a particular trainer/athlete is showing you how to bench press, but naturally has a barrel chest and short arms, he will come right down to his chest and never have issues with his shoulders. Whereas some big lanky basket ballers that wants to grow a chest and follows this method with the same high angled bench. If he tries to touch his chest each rep, there is a lot more range to cover, and I guarantee at least that whole last quarter is going to be predominately front delt or a funny rotation from his scapular to reach this range.
This is why, an internal focus is so important and why you should get away from focusing on the weight in your hands. Look at your shoulder stability, look at your upper arm angle and then ability to contract in this range. These are all much more important cues in finding the right “range” for YOU.
Feel what works for your body, look to see where your limbs/levers/joints differ from the people showing you, so that you’re not trying to put yourself in a range you don’t have.
Analyze your pysique, look to where you are different from the person trying to teach you. Because 9/10 the person teaching you won’t have a clue about this. So hopefully you can take some thoughts from this and don’t get emotionally attached to something if it doesn’t work.
We will never know the one perfect way to train, there is certainly a lot of individuality to what best responds to one individual to the next in regard to training methods. But we do now have a good understanding on execution. How a body functions, how we should move to create tension and work through an entire range for that particular muscle.
If you got this far in the article you ARE someone who is really working hard to soak up all the information to learn how to most effectively progress. I respect the shit out of you guys. If you’re ready to step up and take control of your training, lets book in a coaching call so we can talk 1on1 about what your struggling with and find the ultimate game plan for your physique.
5 thoughts on “”
Was totally me before. I had a set routine I didn’t deviate from and would plateau, try slapping more weight on and form would go out the window. I would see little progress and give up.
Lucky we are changing the game now Chris! Good on you for taking the time to read it.
Nice. I didn’t read a single thing that I thought was b.s. I’ve been helping someone train and I teach them the safest way I know how and then let them experiment from there. She is a woman so there are a lot of differences. For example: she doesn’t have an enharent mind muscle connection to her chest. Even eith good form she feel bench press in her shoulders. So we experiment. Find ways to make her feel some activation THEN go for the important exercises that she had trouble with. Of course its a slow steady process. And eventually she’ll know enough to navigate this process on her own. Another thing is i didn’t anticipate learning so much just from teaching someone else. My own workouts have improved so much just by saying the principles i being to the gym out loud to someone. Among many others. Amway, you seem like a passionate, legit source for people to get training advice. Keep up the good work! We need more people learning how to train properly.
Really interesting read and 100% on board 🙂 excited to train with more knowledge and purpose 🙂