Five Changes to Fix Weak Body Parts

by Steve Colescott, The Guerrilla Journalist

Winning on stage has to do with more than just size, shape, conditioning and posing skills. Proportion is also a requirement, and that balance is a trait that many physiques need to fix in order to place higher.

Most of us are born with weak body parts and strong body parts Heavyweight arms do not blend well with middleweight pecs. Tom Platz obviously had huge legs but an upper body that lagged far behind. Gary Strydom had amazing delts, pecs and legs, but his back was not at the level of the rest of his body. These examples are a bit old. Why? Because in recent years, we don’t see bodybuilders that do not have decent proportional balance winning pro cards.

I have spoken to hundreds of NPC/IFBB athletes that realize that they need to bring up some weak areas. Their usual strategy is to “try harder.” Working harder sounds good, but working smarter is even more important. How can you improve your proportions? Here are five powerful adjustments that you can make to your program to bring up those weak points:

1) Adjust Volume Balance

The number one change required to improve weak points is to adjust the balance of your training to improve that body part Most lifters claim they are going to mentally focus on that weak point and crush it! That sounds good, but let’s approach this more like a scientifically-accurate strength coach. Throw some math in there and do what is truly needed to make noticeable improvement.

For eight to ten weeks, switch your focus from the good body parts to the weak ones. This means that you should reduce your training volume for the other overall body parts by about 20%. You are going to increase the volume of your weak body part by 50% (but split it over two different training sessions). See part 3: “Variety”.

Do you normally do 16-20 sets for quads and back; 14-15 for delts, hamstrings and pecs; 12 for biceps, triceps, calves? Drop those number for your normal body parts to 13-16, 11-12, and 10 sets.

Most lifters think just placing a hard work goal on a particular body part is all that is required. This is foolishness and it is one of the most common gym errors. You are not going to lose muscle size or shape on your strong body parts by a moderate reduction in volume or intensity. This step backward will force you to place that drive on your weak muscles…and you will be amazed at how much they improve!

2) Increase Frequency

You are working hard to improve a body part You are cranking some angry music on your headphones, show up well-fed, and ready to get it. What else can we do to cause more growth?

People vary in how much training volume they feel works best for them, but say you plan to put in 20 hard sets to bring up that weak body part. You go in once a week and bomb those arms, delts, lats or whatever area you feel is holding you back…

What if you changed that game plan and scheduled twice a week to hit that area? Instead of twenty sets for that body part, what if you did 8-10 sets in one and 10-12 sets in a second training session just a few days later? Would that cause more growth? By splitting the training of your weak point into two sessions, you are causing more frequent periods of adaptation.

Over-training rarely happens from training a body part too often. It happens from too much time spent in the gym, too much volume and/or intensity in your training, too much stress in your life, not enough sleep, food and time for recovery. Body parts recuperate fairly quickly. The nervous system is more likely to be overworked…particularly if you are not getting in the food and sleep required.

We have seen Eastern Bloc coaches training athletes that squat heavy multiple sessions a week. The workouts are brief and intense, and the recovery and nutrition is a serious focus. Training weak points twice as often can make a difference.

You should readjust your calendar. Let’s say you train five days a week and your lower back and hamstrings are a weak area. A great routine adjustment would be something like this:

 

SUN

MON

TUE

WED

THU

FRI

SAT

off

Push (pecs, front and side delts, triceps)

Pull (back, traps, rear delts)

Quads

Arms

off

Lower back and hamstrings

(intense strength session)

Low back & hamstrings

(light pump session)

 

So what does this provide:

• You show up rested and recuperated to train your weak body part (intense strength session)

• You have a rest day before and after crushing that weak part so that it can recover and grow

• The Monday and Tuesday sessions are shorter than usual. You may find that you miss spending time in the gym which will cause you to storm in excited to aggressively go after improvement

The pumping session for your weak body part can be mixed into the week, since it has to do with getting a big pump, but the heavier session requires proper placement. This is just an example for those that follow a 7-day calendar. If you feel that you need more or less training-to-rest ratios, you have the options of an six, eight or nine-day rotation. For example, here is a listing in which you might average 4 ½ training sessions a week:

 

SUN

MON

TUE

WED

THU

FRI

SAT

Week

ONE

Push

Pull

off

Quads

LB&Hams

(light)

Arms

off

LB&Hams

(intense)

Week

TWO

off

Push

Pull

off

Quads

LB&Hams

(light)

Arms

off

 

3) Variety

One of the well-known techniques from strength coaches is to alternate between heavy and light sessions. For example, high school football off-season programs have often had a simple Monday, Wednesday and Friday full body program of eight to twelve basic movements. As coaches started to advance in their training (and actual believe in the benefits of strength training), it became common for them to squat heavy just once a week and higher reps (or other exercises) at the other sessions. The second workout of the week might be the day in which they bench pressed heavy (and the third workout might be the heavy deadlift day).

For this program, you have two different training programs for your weak body part in each rotation. For the best response, one of them will be an intense strength training session. This will be low- to medium-rep ranges. After warming up, the first exercise should be lower reps testing your strength (maybe seeing what you can get for a triple). The other exercises should be medium rep-ranges (6-12 upper body; 8-15 lower body).

The training session latter in the rotation (two to three days after) involves more sets, higher reps, shorter rest periods and can be referred to as a Pump Session. In addition to focusing on different aspects of the muscle, this makes for variety and fun in the gym.

 

INTENSE STRENGTH SESSION PUMP SESSION
1) Incline DB Press 5 x 12/9/6/4-6/1-4

2) Flat DB Flyes 4 x 6-10

3) Pec Dips 4 x max

1) Hammer Strength Incline Press 5 x 8-12

2A) Kneeling Cable Crossovers 4 x 10-15

2B) Smith Machine Bench 4 x 10-15 (no lock out)

3) Parallel-squeezed DB Presses 4 x 10-15

4) Push-ups 100 reps (in as few sets as possible)

 

4) Advanced Techniques

If you are a fan of bands and chains, work them into your intense strength strength-based weak point sessions. Chains on some heavy movements will improve your strength if worked in every third session. Bands can be included in strength movements and during the pump sessions if they help improve accommodating resistance. What this means is…if the plate-loaded leg curl machine in your gym tends to get a bit too light at the top third of the movement, you may find that a properly placed (and chosen) band might make the exercise work the hell out of your hamstrings throughout the entire range-of-motion.

Include things that extend your sets or cut rest periods (such as drop-sets, forced reps, negatives or super-sets) into your weak point training. Do not incorporate these intensification methods into the rest of the body. You are focusing on bringing up a weak point so that is where you place the serious stuff.

5) Carb Intake Matches the Weak Point Training

Do you rotate your carb intake? For those that rotate carb intake (low-carb, medium-carb, and high-carb days rotated into your week), it only makes sense to place your medium and high-carb reloading days on the same days that you train your weak body part Place the low-carb days on the days furthest from your weak point training.

 

SUN

MON

TUE

WED

THU

FRI

SAT

TRAINING

off

Weak point

(strength)

off

Weak point

(pump)

off

Normal body part

Normal body part

CARBS

low

high

medium

medium

low

medium

low

 

If you have reduced carbs in general (or you eat an authentically healthy bodybuilding diet), make your intense strength training weak point day the time you bump up your carb intake. It both will help drive growth and mentally make you feel rewarded.

Putting It All Together

• Work only one weak point at a time

• Focus on your primary weak body part for 8-10 weeks max

• If needed, switch to a second weak body part once you have finished (8-10 weeks). Do not try to run the same body part through twice in a row

• If you have done two weak point specializations in a row, give yourself a phase in which you do not focus on a weak point (at least eight weeks)

• Almost ALL of your intensification techniques (such as drop sets, negatives or forced reps), should be directed towards your weak point training

• You should have your diet and sleep/rest in line at all times. Bump it up a bit on days that you train your weak points with things like higher carbs/calories and mid-day naps