How to Grow Stubborn Body Parts

Find the exercises that give you the best connection and burn. Squeeze the muscle on every rep like you’re trying to squeeze juice out of a lemon.

By Milos Sarcev

Q: What do you suggest for bringing up a stubborn body part that has not changed in years? Do you train it more often, with more volume, special techniques?

A:

There are varying opinions on this. Some trainers believes you should not train a lagging muscle group more often because you will “overtrain” it. I disagree. To me, every training session is a stimulus and an anabolic opportunity. If training stimulates protein synthesis and creates hypertrophy, how can you say more is not better? That is assuming you have proper recovery, nutrition and rest. I’ve said it a million times, there is no overtraining; only undereating and inadequate sleeping.

Most of us will have at least one body part that due to genetics is very stubborn and resistant to growth. I’ve had guys with weak quads come to train with me because they can’t feel their quads when they train. I might put them on a leg extension and hold the lockout/squeeze for 15 seconds on every rep, or I might put them on a squat machine where they perform the reps very slowly and pause below parallel for five seconds, then another pause just above parallel for another five seconds, on each rep. Within minutes their legs are shaking, and they definitely feel their quads! Those people have trouble establishing the mind-muscle connection with that muscle. I like to establish the “burn zone” on every exercise with them.

Arnold Schwarzenegger used to say, “If it’s not burning, it’s not working.” I like to say, “Learn to burn.” Techniques that often help intensify the burn include slowing down the rep speed and squeezing the contractions like crazy. I see people doing curls with good form and a full range of motion, but they are not squeezing the life out of their biceps. The next thing I look for is the strength curve. At what point in the range of motion are you the weakest? Then we work on that and increase the load there over time.

Most people go to the gym and pick the easiest exercises and put out minimal effort. You need to do the toughest exercises and really try to load up and get stronger. It’s OK to deviate from perfect form at times and cheat or use inertia, especially if it allows you to put a much heavier load on the target muscle. Really, you have to incorporate both perfect and looser form to maximize your results.

To sum up, establish the mind-muscle connection, find the burn zone and learn to burn. Find the exercises that give you the best connection and burn. Squeeze the muscle on every rep like you’re trying to squeeze juice out of a lemon. Then, try to increase the resistance/load over time. As for whether to train a weak body part more or less frequently, I believe more is better. Once a week will not be sufficient. Try two or even three times a week. What have you got to lose if the muscle hasn’t been growing anyway?

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