Two guys gain the same amount of muscle over a 6 month period of time. Both guys are exactly 6’3″, 190 pounds and both are at the exact same body fat level.
They both put on 6 pounds of muscle in 6 months, yet one guy looks outstanding and the other looks almost visibly the same as he did 6 months earlier. How can this be?
How can two guys be at the same low body fat level and put on the same amount of muscle and look drastically different?
[Here is an outstanding example of muscle density. Notice how this athlete has compact, dense and an angular look to his muscles? This is much different that the typical rounded puffy bodybuilding look. This angular compact look is much more impressive than big and bulky.]
Gaining Muscle “Where You Want it” Matters Most
If someone came up to me and offered me $1 million dollars to put on 20 pounds of muscle in 12 months, here is what I would do. I would concentrate on the “big” lifts like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.
I have no doubt that I could put on 20 pounds of pure muscle in 12 months. The problem would be that at least 15 of those 20 pounds of muscle would be added to my legs, butt, and hips. The rest of that weight would be spread evenly over the rest of my body.
Here is the weird thing…visually, I wouldn’t look drastically different.
Gains Spread Over Your Entire Body Make a Small Impact
The irony about gaining muscle evenly over your entire body is that it creates a slightly bigger version of what you already look like now.
Each muscle will look a little better individually, but as a whole package you won’t look much different. In fact if you gain muscle in your dominant muscle groups at a quicker rate than your weak muscle groups, you will take a step backward visually.
I Think the Idea of Just Sticking to the Basics is a Mistake
The common advice of just sticking to the big lifts like deadlifts, squats, and bench presses is great if you just want to add mass and don’t care what you wind up looking like. In fact, this is your quickest route to putting on a lot of weight.
The problem lies in the fact that you are hoping that everything will look right after all the weight is added. I have seen beginners use this approach time and time again and wind up having the “professional wrestler” look…big butt, upper legs, hips, big around the mid section, massive traps…you get the idea.
“Want a Bigger Chest, Then Get Bigger Legs!”…I Disagree!
I have read this statement dozens of times when it comes to increasing the size of a muscle. Many experts claim that the fastest way to put muscle on your chest and arms is to put a bunch of mass on your legs, hips, and butt.
The problem is that your legs hips and butt will typically grow at a much faster rate than your chest and arms. So compared to the rest of you body, your chest and arms are proportionally smaller.
Muscle Specialization: A Smart Way to Create a Desired Look
As discussed before, adding 6 pounds to your shoulders, arms and chest can transform the way you look. Spreading that same amount of muscle over your entire body, not as visually impressive.
The only way to insure that this is accomplished is through muscle specialization…focusing the majority of your efforts on 1-2 muscle groups, while just maintaining everything else.
Higher Volume on Muscles That You Want to Grow
I like the approach of increasing the volume of muscles that you need to grow and backing WAY down on everything else.
If you want a bigger chest with a special focus on increasing your upper chest, then dramatically increase the volume on various incline presses, incline flyes, hammer strength machines, etc. To compensate for that increase in volume, back off a bit when it comes to some of your other body parts.
How Much Volume for Targeted Muscle Groups?
You can go as high as 15-20 sets per workout for muscle groups you are trying to add size to. You can even setup your workouts so that the targeted muscle group gets worked more often than the other muscle groups.
I also suggest using a combination of free weights, cables, and machines when aiming for muscle growth.
How Much Volume for Everything Else?
This is tougher to answer, because it depends upon your genetics. I have some friends that never have to work their calves because they are naturally huge.
I never do sets for traps or lower chest. For the most part you want to work each muscle group at least a little each week. My suggestion would be to pick 1-2 exercises for 3-5 sets of 5 reps…and do maybe 12-20 total sets per body part each week to maintain. You could probably get away with less than this.
I Recommend Doing This in 2-3 Month Bursts
What I think works best is to specialize for 2-3 months on a body part, then have a more balanced routine for a 1-2 months (as a precaution to insure that you don’t neglect the other muscles).
What you will find is that you can systematically build an ideal physique by giving selective attention to body parts that need extra work.