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Gym’ll fix it! Routines for correcting the 10 most common bodypart deficiencies

Gym’ll fix it! Routines for correcting the 10 most common bodypart deficiencies

We have good news and bad news.

BAD NEWS The odds are you have a problem or even several. In all probability, your muscles are not growing at the same rate. Maybe your back is expanding faster than your thighs, or perhaps your lower chest is outshining your upper chest. Even if the weakness is not yet acute, the longer you train in the same fashion, the more pronounced the imbalance will become.

GOOD NEWS We have the cure for what ails you. In order to prescribe the remedy, you need to diagnose your malady. Assess your own weakness(es), keeping in mind the bodybuilding ideal (which is frequently forgotten today) of wide shoulders, a narrow waist and equally developed bodyparts. Visualize the physique you want, and determine what must change for you to reach that goal. You may need to do triage: If you have several flaws, assess which are most pronounced and cure them first. What follows are the 10 most common bodybuilding maladies and their remedies. Act on the prescribed advice and your prognosis will be good for a complete symmetrical recovery and a balanced bigger body.

DIAGNOSIS The ideal bodybuilding torso is shaped like a V, angling outward from the waist to the shoulders. A lack of such a taper is caused by one or more of the following: short clavicles, wide hips and waist, lagging side deltoids, underdeveloped latissimus dorsi. There is nothing you can do to alter your clavicles or hip bones, so you need to focus on widening your delts and upper lats.

REMEDIES

* Prioritize side deltoids in your shoulder routine, training them first with greater volume.

* Upright rows with a shoulder-width or wider grip shift much of the stress from your trapezius to your side delts.

* In your back routine, place more emphasis on pulldowns and chins than rows in order to widen your upper outer lats. Pullovers are another lift that hits this area.

* To reduce your hip and waist width, see “Problem 6: Congenital Wide Waist.”

DIAGNOSIS This condition is the result of overdeveloping the lower chest and underdeveloping the upper chest. A slight imbalance is normal, but a more pronounced disparity draws attention from the shoulders and harms torso balance. This is a common malady among those who emphasize flat bench presses, flat flyes and dips–all lower-pec growers.

REMEDIES

* Prioritize the upper-pec region by training it first in your chest workout with more volume.

* Avoid direct lower-pec lifts such as bench presses, decline presses, decline flyes and dips.

* Every third workout, do incline flyes before incline presses.

* Use a spotter for incline presses to push your sets to failure or beyond.

* For the drop set, go to failure at approximately 10 reps, and then immediately reduce the weight and go to failure again. Proceed in this manner for two to four such drops.

DIAGNOSIS This condition is so named because those with high lats are shaped like a palm tree–a thin trunk with all the mass at the top. The upside to high lats is that they highlight the waist-to-shoulders differential. The downside is that they can make it difficult to gain size in the back and can leave the torso looking too waspish. The condition is caused by high latissimus attachments and/or a failure to properly stress lower lats. High attachments are inherited, and there is nothing you can do to change the morphology, although you can maximize the lowest boundaries of your lats.

REMEDIES

* Train your back alone to focus all of your attention on it.

* Learn how to feel each lift in the targeted area. Minimize biceps action. Focus on stretching and contracting the lowest portion of your lats.

* Emphasize long close-grip rowing movements with a maximum stretch.

* Stretch thoroughly between sets.

DIAGNOSIS This condition means a back lacks thickness and detail. You may have wide lats but still have a scarcity of back depth from your neck to your glutes.

REMEDIES

* Train back alone to focus all of your attention on it.

* Emphasize rows and deadlifts for overall back thickness.

* Because the back is a large and complex bodypart, change your routine regularly, and take advantage of all the back machines in your gym to work your lats and smaller back muscles from a variety of angles.

* Learn how to feel each lift in the targeted area. Minimize biceps action. For rows, pull your elbows back as far as possible to hit your inner back, and hold each contraction for one second.

* Emphasize rear laterals and shrugs (in your shoulder routine or as part of your back routine), as these movements also carve in back details.

DIAGNOSIS Because everyone wants big guns, spaghetti arms are the most dreaded malady in all of bodybuilding. Often your triceps will grow faster than your biceps or vice versa. but if both your bis and tris lag, then you have a problem that you no doubt have spent much time and effort trying to cure. Give the following remedies a try.

REMEDIES

* There is no universally correct answer as to whether it is better to train biceps and triceps together or alone, but we recommend training them together in their own workout to prioritize this area.

* The routine chart prescribes alternating a triceps exercise with a biceps exercise. Every third arm session, superset the triceps exercises with the biceps exercises and the two forearm exercises in the order prescribed here.

* Do not neglect forearms, as their size and shape are crucial components of arm impressiveness.

DIAGNOSIS Wide waists come in two textures: hard and soft. A soft wide waist is fat, and it should be treated with diet and cardio. A hard wide waist is primarily a congenital problem. Such a midsection is broad even when lean, and it is primarily the result of a naturally wide hip and waist structure.

REMEDIES

* Waist width corresponds closely to hip width. There is nothing you can do to reduce the breadth of your hip bones, but you can avoid exercises that work your hip flexors, such as free-weight squats, leg abduction rotations, situps and deadlifts.

* To avoid expanding your midsection width, do no direct oblique exercises. The worst offenders are weighted side bends.

* Continue to train abdominals and spinal erectors, as muscle at the front and back of your midsection will distract from your waist width.

* Never become so overweight that substantial fat pockets (“love handles”) develop on your sides.

* There is no routine that will reduce a hard waist and hip width. Instead, focus on growing your side deltoids and upper lats (use the same shoulder routine as for Problem 1) and your outer thighs. To accomplish the latter, keep your heels close together and angle your toes slightly outward for lifts such as hack squats and leg presses. Just as the middle of an hourglass appears thinner than a test tube with the same center circumference, widening your top (shoulders and upper lats) and bottom (outer thighs) will create the illusion of a slimmer center.

* Refrain from working your obliques during other movements. Jean-Pierre Fux wears a training belt for virtually all exercises to avoid working his obliques and to keep his waist from stretching when he’s breathing heavy.

DIAGNOSIS It seems like a magic act, but unfortunately it’s another common bodybuilding malady. It’s thighs that appear great from the front but virtually disappear when viewed from behind. Lacking hamstring size, shape and detail, these legs look good only one way.

REMEDIES

* Train your quads and hamstrings on different days, and work your hamstrings either alone or before any other bodypart so you can give them maximum attention.

* Do not reduce your quad workload unless your quad/hamstring imbalance is extreme.

* Hamstrings are a relatively large bodypart (much bigger than biceps, for example). It’s more likely that you’re undertraining them rather than overtraining them. Make certain you apply enough volume and intensity to your hams.

* Hamstring and glute weaknesses often correspond. If your glutes are also underdeveloped, include lunges in your quad routine.

* Do no cardio training on hamstring day, as this can deplete your strength and energy reserves.

* Switch your type of leg curl (lying, seated or standing) and rep pattern frequently. Every third workout, end with a drop set of lying leg curls (10 reps per drop for two to four drops).

DIAGNOSIS Some people gain quad mass easily only in their upper thighs, creating an imbalance between the upper and lower regions. This malady is known popularly as turnip thighs, named for the vegetable’s top-heavy shape. Turnip thighs generally correspond with overdeveloped glutes and a scarcity of quad detail, and this flaw is caused by a reliance on power squats and leg presses and a lack of exercise variety. Although it’s not nearly as problematic as flat-tire disease (see Problem 9), turnip thighs must be addressed or the condition will worsen.

REMEDIES

* To stress lower quads, do leg presses and hack squats with your feet set low on the footrest and your heels nine inches apart.

* Avoid power squats: heavy low-rep sets with a wide stance and the bar held low on your shoulders. Unless you require them for injury prevention, do not use knee wraps or any other power accessories.

* Focus on full controlled reps when doing leg extensions. Flex at the contraction of each rep.

* Forget about the poundage and instead concentrate on directing the stress to the lower half of your quadriceps.

DIAGNOSIS Quad underdevelopment is one of the most pernicious of all bodybuilding maladies, for there is no more noticeable physique defect than lagging legs whether you’re onstage or at the beach. The difference between upper-body and lower-body mass will grow exponentially over time, so don’t travel any further on “flat tires.” Fix them immediately.

REMEDIES

* Work thighs alone in their own workout to give them maximum attention. You may also wish to train quadriceps and hamstrings on different days to focus completely on just the front or back of your thighs in separate workouts.

* Emphasize heavy compound lifts, specifically squats and leg presses.

* Try to avoid lower-body cardio training while prioritizing your quads, as this can deplete your leg strength and energy reserves. If you must do cardio, do it as far from leg day as possible.

* If your upper body greatly overshadows your lower body, decrease the volume and intensity of your upper-body workouts to maintain the size of those muscles, while increasing the volume and intensity of lower-body workouts to grow those areas. Proceed in this manner until your lower body matches your upper.

* For the drop set, go to failure at approximately 10 reps, and then immediately reduce the weight and go to failure again. Proceed in this manner for two to four such drops.

DIAGNOSIS Dreaded peg legs (i.e., weak calves or Captain Ahab’s Syndrome) are a common bodybuilding scourge. Unfortunately, it is frequently the result of a genetic predisposition. If you have calves that attach high, near the back of your knees, it will be difficult to develop full flaring gastrocnemius museles. This simply means you must put even more effort into maximizing calf circumference.

REMEDIES

* Train your calves three times per week on nonconsecutive days.

* Hit all areas of your lower legs: gastrocnemius, soleus and tibialis.

* Focus on a maximum stretch and contraction for all reps. Stretch thoroughly between sets.

* Alternate the order of exercises regularly.

* Shin lifts for the tibialis add to depth and separation when the calves are viewed from the front. Perform them by sitting on a lying leg curl machine, facing the rear and hooking your toes under the pad. Very little resistance is required for your shin muscles.

* Every third workout, perform this routine in three giant sets, doing the four exercises one after another and resting only between giant sets.

FINAL PROGNOSIS

A More Balanced Physique

No miracle panacea will quickly cure all your physique maladies. Hard work is mandatory. Diagnose your faults, apply the remedies prescribed here and focus more on your weakest areas and less on your strongest, and you will attain a more balanced physique. Follow this corrective course and get swell soon!

SHOULDER WIDENING ROUTINE

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Dumbbell side laterals 4 10

Wide-grip upright rows or machine side laterals 3 10-12

Military presses 4 8-10

Rear laterals 4 10

BACK WIDENING ROUTINE

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Chins 4 10

Seated cable rows 4 8-10

Rear pulldowns 4 8-10

Machine or dumbbell pullovers 3 10-12

Pro Rx To compensate for somewhat narrow clavicles, Lee Priest has

consciously underdeveloped his upper trapezius muscles, thus making the

distance between his neck and deltoids appear greater.

UPPER-CHEST PRIORITIZATION ROUTINE

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Barbell incline presses 4 6-10

Incline flyes 4 10

Pec-deck flyes 4 10-12

Incline machine presses 1 drop set

Pro Rx Mat DuVall does incline flyes first in his chest workouts to

isolate and pre-exhaust his upper pecs.

LOWER-LAT PRIORITIZATION ROUTINE

EXERCISE SETS REPS

T-bar rows 4 8-10

Close-grip cable rows 4 8-10

Front pulldowns 4 8-10

One-arm dumbbell rows 3 8-10

Deadlifts 4 8-10

Pro Rx By keeping his back flexed throughout the movement and pulling

the bar with strict form to a spot several inches in front of his face,

Dennis James focuses front pulldowns on his lower lats.

BACK THICKNESS ROUTINE

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Deadlifts 4 6-10

Barbell rows 4 8-10

Wide-grip cable rows 4 8-10

Rear pulldowns 3 10-12

Machine rows 3 10-12

Hyperextensions 3 12-15

Pro Rx During his reign as Mr. Olympia, Dorian Yates’ back routine

consisted of three rowing exercises and one pulldown or pullover

exercise to boost thickness. Yates also trained rear deltoids with back.

ARM PRIORITIZATION ROUTINE

BODYPART EXERCISE SETS REPS

Triceps Pushdowns 4 10-12

Biceps Preacher curls 4 8-10

Triceps Lying triceps extensions 4 8-10

Biceps Seated dumbbell curls 4 8-10

Triceps One-arm dumbbell extensions 3 10-12

Biceps Dumbbell concentration curls 3 10-12

Forearms Reverse wrist curls 4 12-15

Forearms Wrist curls 4 12-15

Pro Rx Kevin Levrone prefers dumbbells for most arm exercises in order

to easily alter the range of motion and to stress his bis and tris from

different angles.

SHOULDER WIDENING ROUTINE

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Dumbbell side laterals 4 10

Wide-grip upright rows or machine side laterals 3 10-12

Military presses 4 8-10

Rear laterals 4 10

Pro Rx Avoid working your obliques during other exercises by wearing a

training belt, as Jean-Pierre Fux does.

HAMSTRING PRIORITIZATION ROUTINE

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Lying leg curls 5 8-10

Seated or standing leg curls 4 10-12

Stiff-leg deadlifts 4 12-15

Pro Rx Jay Cutler does all the above exercises in a slow and controlled

manner in order to focus on his hamstrings and glutes.

LOWER-QUAD PRIORITIZATION ROUTINE

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Leg extensions 4 12-15

Hack squats (feet low) 4 10-12

Leg presses (feet low) 4 10-12

Smith machine front squats 3 10-12

One-leg extensions (toes angled outward) 2 12-15

Pro Rx Chris Cormier often does hack squats facing the machine with his

feet on the floor, creating an angle that stresses his lower inner

thighs.

QUAD PRIORITIZATION ROUTINE

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Leg extensions (warm-ups) 3 15

Squats 4 6-10

Leg presses 4 6-10

Hack squats 4 6-10

One-leg presses 2 15

Leg extensions 1 drop set

Pro Rx Even at his advanced level, Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman relies on

heavy pyramids of leg presses to boost quad mass.

CALF PRIORITIZATION ROUTINE

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Calf presses 3 12-15

Seated calf raises 3 12-15

Standing or donkey calf raises 3 12-15

Shin lifts 3 12-15

Pro Rx Arnold Schwarzenegger had weak calves early in his career, so he

trained in shorts to constantly motivate himself to bring up his lower

legs.

BY TEAM FLEX

COPYRIGHT 2004 Weider Publications

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