5 Top Training Tips For Building Stubborn Muscle

By on July 14, 2017
Stubborn Muscle

Points You’ll Takeaway –

  • You should be tracking your reps x sets x load, and looking to progressively increase it each week, to cause a new stimulus.
  • An easy way to bring up a stubborn body parts is to train them more frequently.
  • Incorporating isolating movements into a periodised programme can serve an important function.
  • Using different rep ranges will help to develop your muscle in different ways targeting all the mechanisms of hypertrophy.
  • Of all the ways to bring up a lagging body part, supersets are many peoples favourites. Simply do two or more exercises back to back, with essentially no rest in between.

Progressive Overload

If your goal is to maximise muscle hypertrophy, you need to ensure you are progressively overloading your muscles. Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training. Your body will not change unless it is forced to adapt to a tension above what it is currently used to. This can be accomplished by many methods such as increasing your workout volume (reps x sets x load,) increasing workout frequency, exercises, or altering rest periods.

The fundamental and ‘optimal’ way is to increase volume, so you need to be tracking your reps x sets x load, and looking to progressively increase it each week, to cause a new stimuli. (1) This is why I strongly recommend you keep a training log to track volume on a weekly basis. Research showed that multiple sets resulted in 46% greater increases in strength and 40% greater increases in muscle growth when compared to a single-set protocols. (2-6) So a high volume programme is better, however, the optimal number of sets and reps needed to elicit growth will vary from person to person and depend genetics, diet and training experience. Best results will come from following a properly periodised training programme that looks to optimises recovery and minimise over training, while evoking a performance effect to improve your in-season capability.

So make sure your volume is increasing over time (this is not just for stubborn muscles) as it is great for building muscle, however, it has also been shown to have a link with over-training. (7) So make sure you do not just start training with a ridiculous amount of volume. So make sure you are getting stronger over time by making appropriate changes and ensure you are continually progressing. You could have the best diet in the world and taking ever supplement on the market, but if you are squatting 100kg for 5×5, every week, you muscle growth will be inferior. Remember, the body will not change unless you give it a reason to.

Train Your Stubborn Muscle Groups More Often

An easy way to bring up a stubborn body parts is to train them more frequently. Two to three times per week works well time and time again. For example, having a hard time getting your legs to grow? Try hitting them on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

However, you need to remember if you are increasing the frequency of training your workout volume (reps x sets x load) needs to be tracked and monitored. You’ll probably need to dial back on the number of sets each time you train that muscle. So, if you’re hitting a body part three times per week, do not look to carry out 5 exercise of 5 sets each workout on that muscle. The same goes for load as you’ll need to dial it back a notch. You should not be looking to train to failure 3 times per week every week so refrain from doing that when you’re training a body part more often. You also need to concentrate on recovery and rest, this will help your recovery and benefit your nervous system in the long run.

Remember though just because you are concentrating on your lagging body parts, do not forget your other dominate muscles.

Try Isolation Exercises

Body part isolations sometimes gets overlooked as compound movements are best for building a muscle and strength, but incorporating isolating movements into a periodised programme can serve an important function.

Let’s say your primary exercise for quads is squats, yet your quads are lagging behind. Try doing incorporating leg extensions which will ensure your quads are receiving a more direct and targeted stimulus.

It is important when working isolating movements that you work that particle muscle with good form, ensuring you feel that muscle working. Can’t feel the target muscle? Then maybe your form is incorrect, just the slightest change in form like foot position, can make all the difference. Or may benefit from a different type of isolation for example switching dumbbell flies for cable crossovers.

If you do decide to use more isolation exercises I wouldn’t advise dropping all the compound movements, as these are the key to building a solid foundation of muscle and strength.  

 

Use a Variety of Rep Schemes

It’s very easy to keep training in the same rep ranges for every body part, and although this may work for newbies, however doing the same thing too often isn’t going to provide a variety of stimuli along with targeting all your muscle fibres.

Although research shows that a rep range of 6-12 reps per set is generally best for maximising muscle hypertrophy.(8) Using different rep ranges will help to develop your muscle in different ways targeting all the mechanisms of hypertrophy; muscle damage, tension and metabolic stress.(9) Training in the lower rep ranges, 1-6, with increased load will help to cause muscle damage, leading to your muscle growing larger, along with increasing strength, the fundamentals of building bigger muscles. Lifting heavier loads will then allow you to lift more weight in the moderate hypertrophy rep ranges, with lighter load, which will cause increased tension on the muscle along with metabolite build up. There is also a case to lifter in the rep ranges higher thank 12 to increase your lactic acids threshold allowing you to increase your work capacity for a higher workout volume.

 

Try Superset

Of all the ways to bring up a lagging body part, supersets are many peoples favourites. Simply do two or more exercises back to back, with essentially no rest in between.

This can be of a pre-exhaust superset nature where you do an isolation exercise followed by a compound exercise, a post-exhaust where you do a compound followed by an isolation exercise, or it could even be two compound or two isolation exercises. An example of a pre-exhaust superset would be doing leg extensions before squats. Where as an example of a post-exhaust superset would be barbell squats followed by leg extensions.

Regardless of the type of superset, the goal is to increase the muscles time under tension and metabolic stress, the build up of metabolites. As with most strategies, neither is superior, they’re just different. Variety of exercises is paramount when it comes to bringing up a stubborn muscle.

For any more tips or advice, head over to GoNutrition where you can ask the experts.

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References –
  1. Kraemer WJAdams KCafarelli EDudley GADooly CFeigenbaum MSFleck SJFranklin BFry ACHoffman JRNewton RUPotteiger JStone MHRatamess NATriplett-McBride TAmerican College of Sports Medicine. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Feb;34(2):364-80.
  2. Krieger JW. Single vs. multiple sets of resistance exercise for muscle hypertrophy: A meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Apr;24(4):1150-9.
  3. Wolfe BL, LeMura LM, Cole PJ (2004). Quantitative analysis of single- vs. multiple-set programs in resistance training. J Strength Cond Res.18(1):35-47.
  4. Radaelli, Regis; Fleck, Steven J.; Leite, Thalita; Leite, Richard Diego; Pinto, Ronei S.; Fernandes, Liliam; Simão, Roberto. Dose Response of 1, 3 and 5 Sets of Resistance Exercise on Strength, Local Muscular Endurance and Hypertrophy. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: Post Acceptance: December 24, 2014
  5. Borst SE, De Hoyos DV, Garzarella L, Vincent K, Pollock BH, Lowenthal DT, Pollock ML (2001). Effects of resistance training on insulin-like growth factor-I and IGF binding proteins. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 33(4):648-53.
  6. Schlumberger A, Stec J, Schmidtbleicher D (2001). Single- vs. multiple-set strength training in women. J Strength Cond Res.15(3):284-9.
  7. Kreider RB, Fry AC, O’Toole ML, editors. Overtraining in sport.
  8. Wernbom M, Augustsson J, Thomee R. The influence of frequency, intensity, volume and mode of strength training on whole muscle cross-sectional area in humans. Sports Med. 2007;37(3):225-64.
  9. Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):2857-72.
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