Fitness Advice for the "Average Joe"

By Paul Kim (Silicon Valley Entrepreneur & Certified Personal Trainer)

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3 Practical Steps to Make Your Stubborn Muscles Grow


Every single person on earth has lagging or stubborn muscles that he or she wishes would look better. Even for the few who look like Hercules, when you look at them carefully, you can almost always see flaws in their physique. Sometimes, the under-development is a result of the person just being lazy or under-prioritizing that particular body part. For example, you see a lot of guys in the gym who look like they should be walking on their hands because they have big arms but no legs. But in many cases, under-developed muscles can result because certain body parts just don’t respond to a person’s training regimen as well as others. And thus, you get people complaining that their chest never grows, or their calves are stubborn, or they just can’t get a six-pack.

Well, the good news is that 99% of you will be able to fix this by following the 3 steps that I outline below for at least 2 months. These steps are designed to prioritize your lagging muscle(s) and bombard them beyond your normal activity levels to force growth & development.

  1. Train your Lagging Muscle FIRST during each appropriate workout session. This is at the core of prioritizing your lagging muscle(s). You have the most energy and are usually most focused at the beginning of your workouts. As such, you need to devote this time to developing your lagging muscle(s). It’s so easy to get caught up in a routine where you work each muscle in the same sequence every single time… but often times, your lagging muscles are worked at the end of your workouts, when you’re tired and itching to get out of the gym. Simply changing the order of your exercises and putting your maximum effort on your lagging muscles can literally do miracles for these muscles. For example, if you are having problems getting your calves to a respectable level, then always hit this muscle FIRST in your workout sequence, as opposed to LAST like most people do. Also, usually I try not to do super-sets when I’m prioritizing a lagging muscle because I want to give it my undivided attention.
  2. Do 1~3 more sets than “normal” for your Lagging Muscle(s).  Just to be clear,  I’m not usually a proponent of increasing workout intensity by simply adding more sets and thus making a workout longer. However, when I’m trying to “catch up” a lagging body part I make an exception because it works by making you physically do more work and overload the muscle, and often times this is just what the doctor ordered to attain growth! So for example, if you’re used to doing 6 total sets on your biceps, do 8-9 sets during the 2 month period. Remember that the key here is not just to increase the number of sets, per se, but to overload your muscles to stimulate growth – as such, keep your rest relatively short and make each set super intense (go to failure or beyond using a spotter on each set). To be clear, you only need to increase sets on your problem muscles, not on any other body part.
  3. Rest fewer days and hit the body part again more frequently. For example, if your shoulders are lagging, and you usually hit your shoulders once every 5 days, try and see if you can hit it every 4 days. Now, use caution and common sense when you do this… it’s okay to be a little bit sore when you hit the muscle again, meaning that your muscles have mostly recovered, but you shouldn’t be so sore that you have not recovered enough yet (then you would end up doing more damage than good to your muscles). Assuming that you hit multiple body parts in one workout session, this would mean that your muscle-couplings (muscles that you usually work out together) would be thrown off, which is totally fine (e.g. if you usually work your shoulders and biceps on the same day, chances are that on your next workout, you would work your shoulders with other body parts).

And as always, work out INTENSELY… perform each set to failure (or beyond with a spotter), except your warm-up set(s), and keep pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone in terms of higher weights and squeezing out extra reps, because the work you do past the point of failure is where you will see the best results.

Here’s an example from my personal experience. Biceps have historically been a body part that I have neglected for various reasons. So last year, when I was doing my body transformation, I worked hard to get them to catch up. Usually, I work biceps every 4 days or so… but I made a concerted effort to catch them up to the rest of my body. As such, over several months, I disciplined myself to hit them 3 times per week (e.g. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays). But to ensure that I would recover sufficiently between workouts, I hit biceps HEAVY on Mondays and Fridays (heavy weights where I could only do 3~5 reps before I failed), and on Wednesdays, I would go slightly lighter and go to failure at around 7~9 reps (I also did more “shaping” exercises like Preacher Curls and Cable Curls, as opposed to more “bulking” exercises like heavy Standing Barbell Curls). Within 2-3 weeks, I saw a real difference by using this approach… my biceps were getting fuller, larger, stronger, and more vascular because they were getting the attention that they deserved.

Try this approach to your lagging or stubborn muscles and let me know how it goes! It works for me, and I’m pretty sure it will work for you. Good luck!