“You got any tips for growing…”
– Every gym bro. Like, ever.
No matter who you are, we’ve all got areas of our body that we’re not as happy with as others.
Areas that are maybe slightly under developed, not as aesthetically pleasing as others or whatever it might be that’s bothering us.
And we’ve come to refer to these areas as ‘weak body parts’. Now that’s all well and good, but the issue with this arises when we mentally attach the word ‘weak’ to a certain area of our body.
When we think about a certain area as being ‘weak’, we automatically hate training it. No one wants to be the weak guy in the gym, right?
No one wants to be that dude lifting pink dumbbells in the corner with his tiny biceps while everyone else is throwing up 50kg dumbbells on the chest press. Of course not, so we stick to our strengths.
I did this for years, early in my training life with my shoulders, and then with my lats some years later.
See, when I first started training at the tender age of 16, I discovered that the areas of my body that responded the best (despite my horrendous form and terrible habit of ego lifting all the time), were my pecs and my arms. So guess what I did every time I went to the gym?
My shoulders never seemed to respond no matter what I did back then, and with a long history of shoulder injuries (playing sport pretty much every year of my younger life as a skinny kid, getting knocked about a lot) it’s a wonder I made any progress at all to begin with.
So, you can say I had a pretty valid excuse for viewing my shoulders as being ‘weak’. Because factually speaking, they were.
So I avoided training shoulders and instead opted to train chest and arms a LOT. My thinking being – I’ll avoid training my shoulders because I don’t want to ‘aggravate’ them.
Now that’s fine, and pretty logical for a 16 year old bonehead as I was, but here’s the issue:
Injuries never just ‘go away’ if you leave them alone. They might stop hurting, but there’s always an underlying issue that needs to be addressed to restore proper movement and strength to the area.
Training nothing but chest and biceps all the time massively tightened this area for me, causing internal rotation of the shoulders and if anything made my injuries worse, not better.
Weak muscles don’t get stronger by being ignored.
So fastforward a few years, my injuries have been sorted my one of the country’s best chiropractors and I had no issues with movement or weakness in either shoulder (pretty much).
But my shoulders were still small, and I couldn’t get my head around WHY.
So in 2015 I gave myself a year to put some serious size on my delts for the first time in my life, and the methods I used (outlined below) are DIRECTLY applicable to ANY ‘weak’ body part you have (with a few exceptions that I’ll explain as we go along…)
So here we go. Andy Clements’ 7 Key Tips to Bringing Up Lagging Body Parts
Execution of exercise and movement is by FAR the most important component of any training session. Let me make myself absolutely clear so there can be zero confusion here: If you do not execute movements properly, you can disregard the next 6 tips and go the f*ck home because you’re wasting your time.
I seriously can’t make it any clearer than that. When you’re training you need to be PRECISE with excellent exercise execution. I’m not talking about what gym bros’ perceive as good form here, I’m talking about getting your head in the game and contracting your muscle tissue to the absolute max of its capacity.
Think of it this way: A set of 10 bicep curls should consist of you putting tension on your biceps, squeezing them until they almost cramp up, and not letting that tension go until you’ve finished your 10th rep. That shit should hurt from start to finish no matter what the weight is.
Consider The Muscle’s Function
We’ve all heard of ‘functional training’, right? Well, I’m not a fan of doing 3000 clean and presses while balancing on one leg on a skateboard and hashtagging #Functional on Instagram, but I am a fan of working a muscle through it’s intended function in order for it to grow.
Think it through. The reason we have a bicep is to allow for flexion at the elbow joint, so in order to grow and contract our biceps the only movement we need to be concerned with is elbow flexion. The function of the pec muscles is to bring our arm across our body towards the midline, so when we’re doing the old dumbbell presses we need to be concerned with bringing the elbows across, not pushing upward.
Isolate The Ends Of The Strength Curve
Every muscle has something called a ‘strength curve’, which basically dictates where along the contractile range of the muscle that it’s strong and weak. Basically, without going into TOO much detail, a muscle is weak at either end of the strength curve – where it is fully contracted and fully stretched. It’s stronger in the mid range between these two points.
The absolute best and quickest way to grow a muscle (especially a ‘weak’ or ‘lagging’ muscle or muscle group), is to strengthen it where it is weak and work it through a fully contracted position right through to a fully lengthened position.
So let’s take the quads for example. If we look at the function of the quads, it’s primarily as a knee extensor, and secondarily as a hip flexor.
Therefore, to put the quads in a fully shortened position we need to flex the hip (sit upright), and fully extend the knee (straighten the leg).
The easiest way to get ourselves in a position of hip flexion and knee extension in the gym while loading the quads is to jump on the leg extension, sit upright and contract the quads all the way up.
Frequency is something that is massively under-utilised by lads trying to add size to weak body parts. I get guys asking me how they can grow X body part every week, and when I ask them how often they train it it’s never usually more than once a week.
Let me bring you back to my shoulder example from earlier – when I set about adding mass to my delts most weeks were a minimum of 3 shoulder sessions, sometimes rising to 4 depending on how well they were recovering.
Now shoulders are a smaller body part, which can be split up (front, side & rear delts) which makes it easier to do ‘tag on’ sessions and fit more volume in, but you get the idea.
If your goal is to have bigger quads or back, you probably won’t be able to hit more than 2 sessions per week unless your recovery is phenominal – but you should still be looking to get that frequency up where you can.
Try hitting a strength based workout earlier in the week, and a more hypertrophy brutal workout later in the week to cover it from all angles.
Volume is a fundamental corner stone of training. If you’re not familiar with volume, it’s nothing to do with how lushious your eyelashes are – it’s all about how many sets and reps are within a given workout.
To simplify things, I prefer to look at volume in terms of sets. So to begin with, you can start really small with volume. 8 sets for small body parts, or 12 for bigger body parts (2 or 3 exercises with 4 sets per exercise in other words).
As you get further into your programme, you can up the volume bit by bit to accomodate for further progress.
Another biggie here. I could sum this up in 5 words if I had to: “Don’t train like a fanny”. But I’ve mentioned it now so let’s delve a little deeper.
The next time you walk into the gym, stop and take a look around before you start your workout. I bet you can count on one hand how many people are actually WORKING in there.
When I say working – I mean actually breaking a sweat, putting their muscle tissue under constant tension until it swells and tears. If someone is doing that? You’ll see it all over their face – PAIN.
And that, my friend, is your goal. Get in that gym, put yourself in pain.
Once you’ve got comfortable with pain, try adding in a few workout ‘intensifiers’ to really ramp up the intesity like drop sets, NOS sets, intra-set stretching, super/tri/giant sets, mechanical dropsets… Man they warrant their own article on their own. But look some of them up if you’re confused, or hit me up and I’ll explain further.
The principle of progressive overload is one that is massively popular across the world in the field of muscle building.
And when used correctly, take it from me – it’s unreal for adding size and strength FAST.
The issue? most people don’t use it correctly because they don’t adhere to point 1a. Execution.
Before I delve into progressive overload I’m gonna say again – if you don’t execute movements with PRECISION, you may as well pack up your stuff and f*ck off home.
Now, as long as you’re executing optimally, progressive overload works best if you’re doing the same programme week after week (say, in a strength phase block of training for example).
You’ll need to keep a close track of what weight you’re lifting exercise by exercise and aim to progress it each week with perfect execution.
If you find you can lift a weight but your execution isn’t quite spot on, the goal is then to be able to be strong enough to lift the same weight, but improve your execution and control (and yes, this does represent an increase in strength).
Each one of those points above could warrant their own article, and I probably will write something on all of them at some point in time but for the purpose of this article they are my brief descriptions of the top 6 tips for growing weak body parts.
The final point I want to make here is that this list is not exhaustive. There are plenty of other variables you need to consider when bringing up weak body parts that I’ll cover in future articles – the importance of weight variation, the ability to NOT move when training (the ‘lock in and load’ principle), lactic acid accumulation.. just to name a few.
So take note of what I’ve brought up in this article but remember this is only the beginning and the field of muscle building is huge.
I hope this helped and don’t forget – you can grab a copy of my 6 week shoulder specialisation programme for FREE by clicking here: