Your Weak Muscle Group vs Their Strong Muscle Group

I didn’t really know what to title this post, because the topic I’m going to talk about is hard to nail down in a few words.

What is funny is that this is quite possibly the most common mistake I see in gyms I visit. It is the phenomenon of having a lagging muscle group and taking advice from a person who has amazing development in this area. You would think that this would be a good idea. I’ll explain the problems this creates, but first a video of my favorite trance song of all time.

[Chicane came out with “Offshore” about 10 years ago, but it is still an amazing song. I could do the whole “bicep” shot deal, or men and women “pumping iron” but that isn’t what I want to see. Plus the ocean shots in this video reminds me of my girlfriend.]

Taking Advice from Someone With Big Calves

When I was younger I really wanted to have huge calves. Not sure why, but it was my goal at the time. Around the same time, I met a guy at the gym named Tony.

Tony had amazing definition and great size in his calves. It was his best body part. I figured I would ask Tony what his routine was and copy it. The problem was that this was Tony’s best body part. Heck…walking to the gym was probably enough work to keep his calves in amazing shape.

You Can’t Expect to Be a “Jack-of-all-Trades” in the Gym

While Tony had ripped calves, the rest of his body was kind of average. In fact in comparison to his calves, the rest of his body was WAY behind.

I didn’t really realize this until later, since I wanted to know his “secret” to building big calves. If you look around the gym you will see examples of this.

The guys who bench tons typically can’t do a bunch of chinups. The women with great arms sometimes have a flabby butt, etc. Everyone has weak points.

Then I Met the “Natural Born Bench Presser”

Another thing I struggled with when I first started lifting was bench press strength. It seemed to be a big deal at the time…I remember the common question back in the late 80’s was, “how much do you bench?”.

After 2 years of working out I could only bench 205 pounds. I was quite strong in almost every other lift, but I couldn’t get 225 pounds up to save my life!

Here is where it became a bummer…one of my friend’s younger brothers wanted someone to show him a workout routine. He had never worked out a day in his life and I was going to be his summer workout partner.

By week two, he was easily benching 225 pounds 8-10 times.

Balanced Muscle Groups Are the Ideal Situation

The best looking physiques typically have muscles that blend together nicely. This is the aim, instead of getting every muscle as big as possible.

I always talk about how “mindlessly gaining muscle” isn’t the best route. Remember Tony, the guy with the big calves? He worked his calves like crazy since it was his strongest group.

If I was giving him advice today, I would have told him to avoid all direct work until the rest of his body “caught up”.

People Who Are Trying to Get Huge, Typically Have The Largest Imbalances

A lot of the guys and girls in the bodybuilding community are the ones with the biggest muscle imbalances. This is just another reason to avoid putting on all that excessive muscle in the first place.

Slim and functionally fit people don’t have as much of a problem with this. If you have ever seen an elite military unit, they typically have balanced physiques.

Obviously I’m a bit biased here, since I think slim and functionally fit is the way to go.

Taking Advice from People With a Strong Muscle Group

The Natural Born Bench Presser I previously mentioned was benching 405+ for reps after his second year of training.

I am not sure he would be the one to give the best advice on how to increase bench press strength. It came so natural to him that he just benched and got stronger quickly.

It would be like asking Kobe Bryant his vertical leap routine. There is a pretty good chance Kobe could “jump out of the gym” without any type of training.

Solid Principles Are Usually Better Than “Copying” a Routine

Educate yourself on what creates muscle definition, muscle strength, and muscle mass (if that is what you are into). It never pays to copy a routine.

Notice how I rarely list specific routines? I talk about principles, because it is the understanding of how the body works that will allow you to look your best.

Note: Your body over time will balance out. If you are new to working out, just have patience. It could take a few years, but I hope all of you are committing to keeping fit for a lifetime.

If you look at it like this, then a few years isn’t a big deal at all.

37 thoughts on “Your Weak Muscle Group vs Their Strong Muscle Group”

  1. Hassan,

    Here is a quick outline:

    Sun: Soccer
    Mon: Chest, Back, Abs
    Tues: Off
    Wednesday: Circuit Training
    Thursday: Soccer
    Friday: Shoulders, Triceps, Biceps
    Sat: Off

    This would work very well,

    Rusty

  2. umm the thing was rusty, i got really confused lol, and just need it retyped as some schedule that i can follow if thats ok to ask lol

  3. Tom,

    Nice to hear from you. Your site looks better every time I see it! I’m a bit jealous, since this site looks so basic in comparison. Great diabetes articles by the way!

    Hassan,

    I may have answered this for you in another section. Tell me if you can’t find it & I’ll track down the answer for you.

    Rusty

  4. hey this is off topic and about CT, what i am currently doing is i play soccer 2 times a week sundays and thursdays from 7pm to 9.30pm, so it involves everything, i take them as my cardio days, and i do CT 2 times a week as well, can you tell me how i can do a strength routine in between? or should i forget the CT and just do strength? and in what order should i do a strength routine, as in what days would i work what body part out, can you give me a routine to follow for a strength one please as well. just need advice on how to sort everything out and fit it in one week, so i can consistently do this. thank you.

  5. Fantastic post as always Rusty. I’ve noticed a lot of guys at my gym never train their legs with some even going as far as saying ‘Leg exercises are meant for girls’. I think the real reason is that your legs aren’t as visible as a developed upper body and so these guys ignore them and focus on the more appealing muscles.

    I must admit I’m slightly guilty of this too. There are certain exercises that I find it difficult to get the technique with such as bent over barbell rows. I found as a result, I was substituting this exercise for an easier alternative. However, I’m now making the effort to include all the exercises (no matter how difficult they are) which will give my muscles a balanced workout.

  6. BurritoKid,

    Whenever someone starts a new routine they will experience a certain degree of soreness the first few times. That can’t be avoided, but once you get past this “break in” period…I would do my best to avoid muscle soreness.

    Gaining Strength <--- click here for a detailed article on this. It is one of the better posts on this site. To quickly get stronger, you simply want to avoid breaking down the muscle. Breaking the muscle down is a very good mass building technique...but an inferior way to gain strength. You will make amazing progress if you ignore a lot of the bodybuilding info that is prevalent all over the internet. Rusty

  7. do you not get sore after workouts? im the kind of guy who loves that feeling but i am now switching to heavier weights and lower reps.

    gotta get used to that not being the sign of a good workout.

  8. Marie,

    I like to do some basic strength training with low reps and heavier weights. Do this under a slight calorie deficit and do cardio right after. You won’t build muscle with reps in the 3-5 range, since that rep range typically doesn’t break down the muscle fiber…therefore no “re-building” and no growth.

    Getting stronger while staying lean or losing weight is an excellent way to create great muscle definition (look at the definition of gymnasts for instance). Very few people have ever tried this. Most people eat like crazy when they strength train and end up strong but chubby…you never get to see the muscle definition under the blubber.

    Other people lose weight and diet hard, but do high rep training. They will end up looking defined…but not as defined as the same people who gained strength while losing weight.

    So…lift heavy for low reps, but stop a rep or two short of failure. You don’t want to go to failure or do forced reps…you don’t want to aim for “the pump”. All of that stuff builds ‘fluffy’ bodybuilder muscles…you don’t want that. Angular, slim, and lean is the way to go. Functional “athletic” muscles.

    You won’t want to do a high volume of lifting, either…because that is a muscle building technique as well. Pick two exercises per body part and lift 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps on each…get in and out of the weight room and then hit cardio hard.

    Hope that helps!

    BurritoKid,

    I love Mexican food as well. I guess my name would be TamaleKid…or GuacamoleKid…because I love that stuff!

    Sandy,

    Thanks for the shin-splint link! Good stuff.

    Rusty

  9. haha, i was looking for a name that would stick out. also a big fan of mexican food, although I find it stands in the way of my quest of 6 pack abs.

  10. Nelly,
    Im also not a dr. but ive had the same problem as you as far as shin problems. Some things that have worked for me:
    I do multiple stretches for my shins before I run. I also do these stretches at home to strengthen my legs. I also have weak ankles so those stretches help my ankles. There is a website that has ways to strengthen this part of your leg. I will have to look it up and post it. It has helped me tremendously. If my shins hurt during the middle of HIIT, i jump on the elliptical for about 5 mins and it helps me to stretch it out. Then i jump back on the treadmill. Hope those tips help. I just noticed that you were having the same problem as myself. I will post that site later. 🙂
    Take Care!

  11. Hi!
    I discovered your site about a week or so ago and I LOVE it! I used to eat generally one meal a day and do a bit of cardio and I was quite slim and happy with my figure. I decided to tone up a bit and when I looked online to see how to do it, the bodybuilding sites told me everything I was doing was wrong.

    So, I threw out the cardio and started eating six meals a day. I got fat! I am now 5’3″ and 130, 25 pounds above where I was comfortable.

    I’m so thankful for your site, and so happy to get back to my beloved cardio! I need to reverse the damage I did, but I must admit I’m still confused about the whole weight training thing. Am I looking for high reps with low weights? Or high weights low reps? I’m so sorry to ask such an obvious question but, despite reading all of your posts, I really don’t know what I’m doing. Do you think you could put it in basic terms for me?

    Thank you!

  12. Sam,

    2,200 calories is about right for fat loss. You could even go a bit lower for a while and do well. Stick with 5 sets or 5 reps per exercise and pick 2 exercises per body part. After your lifting, hit cardio (HIIT) hard. Gaining strength with lower reps under a calorie deficit is an amazing way to get seriously defined without losing muscle.

    Brandon,

    I agree with a lot of things Vince Gironda taught. He was one of the best trainers of all-time.

    Anton,

    You can go heavy, just stop a rep or two short of failure. On other days you go lighter but, lift “like the weights are heavy”…here is a post on this subject:

    Lift Light Weights for Low Reps to Gain Strength and Muscle Definition

    Scott,

    My theme here is “broken”. What I mean by that is my theme “semilogic” isn’t compatible with the newest version of WordPress I have installed. Because of this, I can’t have an “archive” section. I have to switch up my theme completely. I have been putting this off, because I like the color and theme of my site…it is easy to read.

    3ller,

    I’m recommending “Eat Stop Eat” right now, but when Mike from IF Life comes out with an e-book, I’m sure that will be the best. The Warrior Diet is good, but these guys give more options.

    Luke,

    I hope your injury heals soon. Yeah…I’m just a guy with a normal job who likes to drink beer, travel, and live life to fullest…just like you guys. I would hate to live in a gym!

    Tanya,

    Have you tried seated cable rows? This is the number one exercise I recommend for people who slouch forward. Use the close parallel grip.

    Nelly,

    It takes a while for your body to get used to accessing its own stored body fat for energy. Once this begins to happen you will feel great and have a ton of energy!

    BurritoKid,

    On vacation I eat whatever looks good and I don’t exercise…but these are for 1-2 week vacations. If I went longer than that I would continue exercising and watch what I eat.

    I try to workout and diet hard leading up to a vacation. That way my body “needs” a good rest. Go into the vacation a bit carb depleted and slightly over-trained and you will fantastic the whole time regardless of what you eat!

    hawk-eye,

    Tons of people are starting now their own blogs. It is exciting to see. Thanks for the compliment.

    Do strength training before cardio, but continue to do planks 2-3 times per week. Strong abs actually assist in making your entire body stronger.

    Rusty

  13. rusty!

    glad your back, man, and that you were able to do some well deserved traveling. i think i speak for all the bloggers when i say you’re hard work and dedication to this site is inspiring as it is generous. thank you.

    a quick question regarding ones strongest/best body part; what about abs, which happen to be my most advanced body part by far. this is an interesting concern as my abs aren’t out of proportion with the rest of my body, they’re just stronger, but at 6’2 and a tad under 160, i’ve been meaning to work at catching my strength up to other areas by getting the muscles stronger but not bigger. as cardio and abs (mainly planks, of course) usually comprise most of my training, i was thinking of really focusing on explosive strength excercises before or after cardio and cutting out the direct ab work; what do you think?

  14. when you go on vacation do you still watch your eating? thats prob. the hardest thing because of everything is around.

    im guessing your body wouldnt change much after just 7 days though.

  15. Thanks for your advice. I had looked at that website last week (I saw the link in one of your articles), and I’ll consider trying it. Coincidentally, I had a much better day yesterday – no headache or lightheadedness. Still very hungry, though. But the improvement is motivating! Thanks again!

  16. Hey I was wondering if you know any exercises that can improve posture? I was also wondering if weight has a lot to do with it? I really need to improve it and even if I try to sit up straight and not slouch, it doesn’t solve the problem.

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