How to make lagging muscle groups grow bigger

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If you are like me, or like most people as a matter of fact, you probably have at least one body part that is a bit weaker or that you simply are not happy with. It makes you look slightly dis-proportioned and it may even get in your way of training other parts optimally, even if you don’t know it.

Anyways, having an all around well developed and proportional body is what aesthetics and bodybuilding is all about and a muscle group that is lagging can ruin the overall look of your body, even though everything else is nicely developed.

Now, on a personal note, even though I am not very muscular all around, I can tell that my shoulders have been lagging behind quite a lot. I made adjustments and tweaks to my training in order to fix this, I am not there yet, but there is definitely some improvement.

How to tell if a muscle group is lagging

First and foremost, let me tell you that if you have been lifting weights for just one year or even more than a year, it’s probably too early to worry about weak body part and fine tuning your body.

When you are just starting out, every body part is your weak body part and as a beginner it is too early to bother yourself with such a thing. Natural muscle building takes a lot of time and within the first couple of years you shouldn’t have noticeable imbalance issues.

That being said, there are two main things that tell you a body part is weak:

  • It looks slightly smaller when compared to the rest of your body
  • It’s not as strong as it should be, considering your general strength level

With the shoulders being my weak part – not only that my delts are small and there is not that much separation going on, but my strength on most shoulders lifts such as overhead shoulder press or dumbbell flies are not that impressive.

So, basically this is how you tell a body part is weaker that it should be – it’s smaller and it’s not that strong. Simple, isn’t it? Now let’s see how we’re fixing it.

What are the reasons for lagging muscle groups?

Not liking it

For me and for everyone that I know, the inevitable top cause or reason for lagging muscle groups is not liking to train a specific muscle group.

For example, when I was in high school I hated leg days and I skipped them a lot. And on the few occasions in which I was putting myself through the hustle of training legs, the workouts were pretty crap – I was not training as hard as I should, maybe I was skipping a set or even an exercises if I didn’t feel like doing it. I was finding all kinds of excuses not to train legs.

The easy fix to this ‘problem’ is to try to get better at it. At first you will have to force yourself do it but once you get better and better at it, not only that you’ll bring it out more, but you will start to like training it.

You don’t like doing things that you are not good at. Try to improve your squat, try to improve your leg press or whatever exercise you don’t like doing and it will grow on you. That’s what I did and now I love leg day.

Low intensity

Another common mistake that may be hindering progress is not lifting heavy enough. This is especially applicable to larger muscle groups which need heavier loads and lower rep ranges in order to grow.

Your triceps or calves may do just fine with 20 reps per set and grow nicely but your chest for example, needs much heavier weights and lower rep ranges such as 8 to 10 or even as low as 3-5 reps if you want to get stronger.

Low volume

An optimal workout has the right combination of intensity and volume. So, getting in the right intensity and setting the weight correctly is not enough. You also need to make sure you get in the right amount of reps and sets.

As per the studies we have available at the moment, it looks like doing somewhere in the range of 60-90 heavy reps per muscle group per week is enough. This does not include your warm-up.

Make sure your volume is in check.

Bad exercise selection

I wrote an extensive article on exercise selection in which I discussed whether you should focus your training or compound or isolation exercises – you can check it out over here.

Long story short, if you are doing too many isolation movements for a specific group that may be to reason it lacks behind. Up to 70% or more of your training should consist of heavy compound movements, as much as possible.

Even though for some muscle groups such as the biceps, triceps or shoulders the available might seem limited to isolation movements, don’t forget about the chin ups (for the biceps), dips (for the triceps) and overhead press (for the shoulders).

Progressive overload

As I said many times, muscle grows happens as a result of getting stronger. If you are not getting stronger you are not getting bigger.

That’s why if you are not putting all your effort on getting stronger on each muscle group/exercise relatively equally, you might reach a point when you will notice imbalances in your muscles.

Pick at least one exercise per muscle group and track your strength progress on it. Particularly, if you feel like a certain body part is lagging behind, pick a couple of exercises that workout that specific muscle and try to get stronger at those movements in order to bring up that body part.

Increase the number of reps and/or the weight progressively and the muscle will grow. It just takes time and effort.

That’s my take on fixing lagging muscle groups. Let me know what body part you are trying to bring up and how you are doing it.