Training Lagging Body Parts: The Ultimate Guide!


lagging body part

Almost every bodybuilder has body parts that grow faster than the rest of their body. Here are some famous bodybuilders and their most developed body parts:

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger and his mind-blowing chest and biceps
  • Dorian Yates and his unbelievable upper back development
  • Top Platz and his Earth-shattering quadriceps and hamstrings

The opposite is also true: most bodybuilders have muscle groups that lag behind the rest of their body. Even if you train your lagging body parts harder than the rest of your body they always seem to lag behind the rest of your physique.

Lagging muscle groups are so hard to deal with because they don’t respond to normal training methods. Fortunately there are ways to make even the most stubborn body parts blow up in size. In this comprehensive guide I will teach you the best training strategies for attacking and building up your lagging muscle groups.

Here is how the rest of this guide will be organized:

Lagging Muscle Group Strategies

  • Part 1: Exercise Selection
  • Part 2: Exercise Order
  • Part 3: Training Frequency
  • Part 4: Advanced Training Methods

In part 1 of this article I will teach you the single most important concept for bringing up lagging muscle groups: “successful mechanical positions of exercises.” This is a concept I borrowed from Dante Trudel and his DC Training program.

If there is one thing you should take away from this article it is that you must use the best exercises for your individual physique. If you have a lagging muscle group then the best exercises for that muscle might be radically different from what you are used to using.

In part 2 of this article I will teach you some of the best ways to sequence your exercises so you can train your lagging body parts as hard as possible. Many of the ideas for proper exercise sequencing are borrowed from John Meadows and his Mountain Dog training program.

In part 3 of this guide I will teach you some of the best strategies for manipulating your training frequency to bring up lagging muscles.

Finally in part 4 I will teach you some of the best high-intensity training strategies for building up lagging muscle groups. The best high-intensity techniques for weak body parts include giant sets, isometric training, eccentric training and extreme stretching.

Many of the world’s best bodybuilding coaches like Milos Sarcev use these strategies with their elite level bodybuilding clients to bring up weaker muscles. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this cutting edge information!

Note: if you have any trouble reading the routines presented here then check out this article on how to read a training program. Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Exercise Selection

The most important factor in bringing up your weak muscle groups is using the best exercises for your body. The bodybuilding coach Dante Trudel calls this “successful mechanical position of exercises.” If you have a lagging body part then your current exercises aren’t working then you are just wasting your time!

Let’s say that your biceps are lagging behind the rest of your upper body. You do all of the “mass-building” exercises like barbell curls, dumbbell curls and ez-bar curls. However, you have a hard time feeling your biceps contract and you never get a good pump in your biceps.

It doesn’t matter if these exercises worked for Arnold Schwarzenegger: if you keep using exercises that don’t work for you then your biceps are never going to grow!

Dante Trudel believes that the key to bringing up lagging muscle groups is “getting really weird with it.” In other words you have to start using unique exercises that put you into novel mechanical positions that you haven’t been in before.

Dante Trudel believes that many of the best bodybuilding exercises have three things in common:

  • They put the muscle in a deep stretched position
  • They put you in a power groove where you can grind out reps over time
  • You can be progressive with the exercise over time

Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors for the perfect bodybuilding exercise.

Tip #1: The Deep Stretch

Every bodybuilder worth his salt knows that one of the best ways to build muscle is to use an exercise that really stretches out the target muscle group.

The bodybuilding coach John Meadows believes in loaded stretches so much that he has a “stretch phase” as a core part of his Mountain Dog Training program. On the other hand Dante Trudel uses loaded stretches as a separate exercise in his DC Training program!

Here’s where things get really cool: almost any exercise can be modified so that you really emphasize the stretched position. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Let’s say that you have a lagging chest. No matter what you do your chest does not respond! The first thing you should do if your chest is lagging is to make sure that you are using the correct mechanical position for your chest exercises.

You want your sternum pushed up and out and your shoulder blades pulled back and down. This forces your chest into a stretched position which dramatically increases the effectiveness of your chest exercises.

Just take a look at Stan Efferding performing the incline bench press:

Just look at Stan’s form: he is pushing his chest up towards the bar and pulling his shoulder blades back / down throughout the entire movement! Now THAT is a successful mechanical position for a chest exercise!

You can click here to see John Meadows perform a set of stretch push ups. Once again you will see that John maintains that “open chest” position throughout the entire exercise. That is what we are talking about!

OK, let’s use everyone’s favorite muscle group: the biceps. Most people have a very hard time getting their biceps to grow. They do endless sets of curls in the gym but their biceps stay the same size. The biggest reason most people do not have massive biceps is they do not use the right exercises!

Here are the two most effective bicep exercises according to EMG or electromyography research:

That’s right – preacher curls and incline curls are the 2 most effective bicep exercises that you can do. These exercises recruit more motor units in the biceps than any other exercise.

These exercises are so effective because they place the biceps in a deep loaded stretch position in the bottom position. This is especially true for the preacher curl. Here is a video of a properly performed preacher curl:

As you can see the athlete fully extends his elbows in the bottom position. He literally fires his triceps to make sure that his biceps are fully stretched. Now THAT is a successful mechanical position of exercise!

Many old-school bodybuilders like the first ever Mr. Olympia winner Larry Scott relied on the preacher curl to build up their arms. Here is the exact bicep routine that Larry Scott used in the 1960s to build up his 20-inch arms. Check it out:

Larry Scott’s Favorite Arm Routine

  • A1: Dumbbell Preacher Curls, 3 x 6**, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Barbell Preacher Curls, 3 x 6**, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Reverse Ez-Curl Bar, 3 x 6**, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest

**Perform 6 full range of motion reps then 4 partial “burns” out of the bottom position.

Larry believed so strongly in the stretched position of preacher curls that he actually performed partial reps in the stretched position after reaching failure! This is an advanced bodybuilding technique and it works extremely well for bringing up lagging biceps.

Tip #2: The Power Groove

Dante Trudel believes that the best bodybuilding exercises put you in a “power groove.” In other words they put you in a position where you feel locked in and you can just focus on grinding out reps.

Machines are a perfect example of the power groove concept. When you are performing a leg press you can just focus on banging out 10-20 perfect reps at a time without you losing your balance or your lower back giving out.

However, there are also ways to turn free weight exercises into power groove exercises where you really feel the target muscle working. A perfect example is “dead skulls” or dead stop skull crushers for the triceps. Check it out:

The thing that makes dead skulls so unique is you have to stop the weight on the ground after each rep. This forces you to reset your body and use nothing but your triceps to lift the weight off the ground.

If you have never performed this exercise then you are in for a treat. The next day it will feel like an army of angry ninjas decided to beat the long head of your triceps with bamboo sticks for an hour!

Let’s look at another great “power groove” exercise. One of the best exercises you can perform for improving your back width is rack chins. Rack chins are basically a modified version of wide overhand grip pull ups. Here is a video demonstrating this exercise:

For this exercise you grip the bar with a wide / overhand grip and support your feet in front of you on an adjustable bench. Why on Earth would someone perform pull ups like this? Resting your feet on a bench does three things.

First of all it makes the exercise easier to perform. Larger bodybuilders who have a hard time performing regular pull ups can perform rack chins without any problems. The second benefit of this exercise is it forces you to slightly round your upper back. This puts your lats into a pronounced stretch during the entire set – even when you are in the top position and your lats are contracted!

Finally the foot placement locks your body into a power groove on the exercise. You don’t have to worry about your body wobbling all over the place like you do on regular pull ups. All you have to worry about is using your lats to pull your chin over the bar.

Talk about a successful mechanical position of exercises!

Tip #3: Progression Over Time

If you want to bring up your lagging muscle groups then one of the best strategies is to use exercises where you can train progressively over long periods of time. That means using exercises where you can consistently add weight to the bar over many months or even years.

Of course progressive overload is not the end-all, be-all of building muscle. However, if you find the key exercises that really work for you and then train them progressively for long periods of time then you will be such the better bodybuilder.

Let’s say that rack chins are your key exercise for lat width. You may start out just using your body weight on this exercise for 12 reps. However, if you can grind that out to your body weight plus 100 pounds for 8 reps over the course of 1-2 years then your back is going to look night-and-day different!

Often times the most effective exercises are the ones where you can train progressively. In other words if you are getting consistently stronger on that exercise then clearly it is creating an adaptive response within that muscle.

On the other hand if you never get stronger on a particular exercise no matter how hard you try then it probably isn’t stimulating a response in that muscle and it should probably be dropped in favor of something else.

Part 2: Exercise Order

The single most important thing for bringing up lagging body parts is using the right exercises for your body. In other words you have to “get weird with it” and try out new exercises or tweak old exercises until you find the ones that work for your body.

However, sometimes that isn’t enough. Sometimes you have to get weird with your exercise order as well!

The bodybuilding coach John Meadows is master at using novel exercise orders to help bodybuilders bring up their lagging muscle groups. John believes that it can be counterproductive to perform the big “mass-building” exercises first in your routine.

Instead he likes to perform other exercises first that help him to establish a good mind-muscle connection.

Let’s take a look at some of the best exercise order strategies from John Meadows and other top bodybuilding coaches for every body part. Check it out:

Exercise Order: Chest

Arnold Schwarenegger was able to build a massive chest with basic exercises like the bench press and the incline bench press.

If your chest grows like a weed from the basic exercises then you don’t need to do anything fancy to build a massive chest. However, if your chest lags behind the rest of your body then you may want to play around with the order of your chest exercises.

John Meadows is famous for structuring his chest workouts so that he does the big barbell exercises a little bit later in his workouts.

Here is a template for how John structures his chest workouts:

Pre-Pump / Activation Phase: Any Joint-Friendly Compound Exercise

  • Flat / incline dumbbell presses, flat / incline machine presses (hammer strength, cybex, freemotion etc.)

Explosive Phase:  Any Compound Chest Exercise Where You Can Be Explosive

  • Incline / flat bench press, Incline / flat smith machine, possibly dumbbell presses or other machine presses

Supra-Maximal Pump Phase: Any Chest Exercise Where You Get A Great Pump

  • Dumbbell presses, machine presses, dips, cable exercises, possibly barbell or smith machine presses

Stretch Phase: Any Exercise Where You Get A Great Stretch On Your Chest

  • Machine flyes, cable flys, dumbbell flys, stretch push ups, dips, any exercise where you get a huge stretch

John usually uses about 3-4 exercises to train his chest. The first movement is some type of machine exercise or dumbbell movement. These really aren’t isolation exercises. John wants a compound exercise that lets him establish a great mind-muscle connection and one that is easy on his joints.

Then once his chest is already fatigued and pumped full of blood he moves onto exercises like incline bench presses and flat bench presses. This way John still gets the benefit of these big barbell chest exercises. However, he performs them in a way that allows him to target his chest more than if he performed them first in his routine.

This is a great strategy that you can use on almost any bodybuilding training program.

Here is a typical John Meadows style chest workout using his unique exercise sequencing that you may want to try. Check it out:

Mountain Dog High-Volume Chest Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline dumbbell press, 3-4 x 8, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline barbell press, 3-4 x 6, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Hammer strength flat press, 3-4 x 6-10**, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Machine pullover (narrow grip)****, 3-4 x 15-20, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Perform 3-4 progressively heavier sets of 6-10 reps. On your last set perform a double drop set. Hold the weight in the stretched position while your training partner is dropping the weight in between each attempt. Your chest will be on fire during these static stretches!

****Push your hands in together throughout the entire range of motion to increase the tension on your pecs. It should “feel” like you are pushing your hands together as you would on a pec-dec isolation exercise.

You can click right here to watch John Meadows perform this exact chest workout.

If you have a hard time activating your chest during the big barbell movements then I think you will be surprised at how well this workout works for you. Of course John has some other training strategies for helping someone bring up a lagging chest.

John has been working with IFBB professional bodybuilder Ken Jackson for many years. Ken has an incredibly strong upper body: he regularly presses the 170-180 pound dumbbells in training! Unfortunately Ken is very shoulder and tricep dominant. He has some of the smallest pecs you will ever see on a professional bodybuilder!

John will sometimes use the pre-exhaust method with someone like Ken. The basic idea is to use isolation movements before moving onto more compound exercises.

Here is a brutal pre-exhaust chest tri-set that John coached Ken Jackson through. Check it out:

Ken Jackson Chest Pre-Exhaust Tri-Set

  • A1: Machine pec dec, 1 x 10-15**, 1/0/1/1, no rest
  • A2: Standing cable fly / press hybrid, 1 x 10-15, 1/0/1/1, no rest
  • A3: Decline hammer strength press against bands, 1 x 10-15, 1/0/X/1, rest as needed

**Perform 5 forced reps with a 3-5 second isometric hold in the contracted position after reaching failure

You can click right here to see a video of Ken Jackson performing this brutal chest tri-set. If you are an advanced bodybuilder and your chest is lagging behind the rest of your body then you may have to try some pre-exhaust strategies like this one. Just make sure you have a high pain threshold before you give it a shot!

Exercise Order: Shoulders

Building big, round shoulders can be a challenge for a lot of bodybuilders. Many top bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman used a very simple but effective shoulder training strategy: perform some type of overhead pressing movement followed by several shoulder isolation exercises.

For example here was Dorian Yates’ shoulder routine:

The Dorian Yates Shoulder Workout

  • A1: Seated smith machine overhead press, 1 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Seated DB lateral raise, 1 x 6-8**, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Standing unilateral cable lateral raise, 1 x 6-8**, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed

**Perform 2-3 forced reps after reaching muscular failure.

You can click right here to watch Dorian perform this exact shoulder workout.

Dorian performs an overhead pressing exercise followed by 2 isolation exercises for his side delts. Dorian also performs 2 rear delt isolation exercises on his back training day.

This type of shoulder workout works well for some trainees. However, if you have lagging shoulders then this might not work for you at all. In that case you may need to play around with the order of your exercises.

Once again John Meadows likes to use an unconventional order of exercises for his shoulder workouts. He actually likes to use isolation exercises for his rear delts and side delts before he performs any overhead pressing exercises. For example:

Sample Mountain Dog Shoulder Workout Template

  • Exercise #1: Rear-delt isolation exercise
  • Exercise #2: Side-delt isolation exercise
  • Exercise #3: Overhead pressing exercise

John believes that training your side and rear delts before you perform your overhead presses is a great way to make your shoulders work harder than normal.

Some creative body composition specialists like Nick Mitchell of Ultimate Performance have taken this idea of pre-exhausting the shoulders and applied it to giant sets. Here is a shoulder giant sets workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

Nick Mitchell Pre-Exhaust Shoulder Workout:

  • A1: Seated cable rope face pulls, 4 x 8, 3/0/1/0, no rest
  • A2: Seated DB lateral raise, 4 x 8, 3/0/1/0, no rest
  • A3: Seated DB scott press, 4 x 8, 2/0/1/0, no rest
  • A4: Bent over DB lateral raise, 4 x 8, 2/0/1/0, no rest
  • A5: Seated BB behind the neck press**, 4 x 15, 2/0/1/0, 4 minutes rest

**only do the bottom half of the movement and keep elbows driven back for constant tension on deltoids.

Here are the exercise videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise A5.

As you can see Nick uses four types of shoulder isolation exercises early in the giant set before moving onto a compound pressing exercise for the shoulders. Even on the compound pressing exercise Nick has you perform the bottom half of the range of motion only to keep all of the tension on the shoulders.

If your shoulders are lagging behind the rest of your body then you may want to experiment with these types of pre-exhaust strategies to bring them up to speed.

There is no substitute for getting strong on overhead pressing movements for building big shoulders. However, these pre-exhaust strategies are also a great strategy for many bodybuilders.

Exercise Order: Triceps

The triceps are one of the most complex muscle groups to train. First of all the triceps have three different muscle heads that you have to worry about. Secondly the triceps respond well to a mix of compound and isolation exercises.

Training the triceps for maximum hypertrophy can be a very complex topic!

Some people have a very hard time feeling their triceps work during compound exercises like dips and close grip bench presses. There are a variety of reasons why this might be the case.

You may have very long limbs relative to your torso which naturally makes you more of a chest / shoulder dominant lifter. You may also have poor neural recruitment patterns for the triceps. Finally you may just have poor muscle insertion points for the triceps which makes them more difficult to activate during compound pressing exercises.

If you have lagging triceps and you have a hard time feeling your triceps during pressing exercises then you MUST use at least some isolation exercises in your triceps workouts!

One of the best strategies is to start your triceps workout with isolation exercises and place your compound exercises more towards the middle or the end of your triceps workout.

John Meadows starts almost all of his Mountain Dog tricep workouts with some type of cable pushdown. He feels this exercise is great for warming up your elbows and establishing a great “mind-muscle” connection with the triceps.

Here is a typical Mountain Dog style triceps workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

Mountain Dog Triceps Workout

  • A1: Standing cable pressdown (spongey grips), 4 x 12, 1/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: Lying football bar extensions, 4 x 6, 1/0/1/0, no rest
  • B2: Lying football bar bench press, 4 x 6, 1/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • C1: Football bar overhead extensions, 4 x 10**, 1/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest

**Immediately after your set of 10 reps perform a static stretch in the bottom position of the exercise for 10 seconds.

You can click right here for a video of this triceps workout. As you can see John uses a variety of techniques to pre-fatigue his triceps before performing any compound pressing exercises.

John starts off his workout with tricep pushdowns. Then he performs a superset of lying triceps extensions and close grip bench presses. This is a great way to pre-fatigue your triceps before performing a compound pressing exercise. If you have a hard time feeling your triceps during pressing exercises then this is a great strategy to use.

When it comes to training the triceps the post-exhaustion method is also very effective. The basic idea is to superset a compound triceps exercise with a triceps isolation exercise.

Here is an advanced triceps workout that Charles Poliquin invented using both the pre-exhaust method and post-exhaustion supersets. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin Triceps Superset Routine

  • A1: Lying ez-bar extensions (to forehead), 5 x 6, 3/1/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Bench press against chains (shoulder-width grip), 4 x 6-9, 4/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Standing overhead rope cable extensions, 4 x 6-9, 2/0/2/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3.

As you can see Charles Poliquin is a mad genius. He uses both the pre-exhaust method and the post-exhaust method to blow up your triceps.

First he starts the workout with a triceps isolation exercise to make sure your triceps are thoroughly activated. Then he moves onto a post-exhaustion superset using two very effective triceps exercises to wreck all of the muscle fibers in your triceps.

Post-exhaustion supersets are so effective because they force your muscles to work twice as long as normal. The rep ranges may look a little low for a hypertrophy workout but the triceps are a fast-twitch muscle fiber and often respond well to more moderate rep ranges.

If your triceps are lagging behind the rest of your body then you must give this workout a shot! It really shows how you can sequence your triceps exercises to fatigue as many muscle fibers in your triceps as possible.

Exercise Order: Back

There are many different ways to sequence your exercises for your upper back workouts. Some people like to start their back workouts with pull ups and pull downs while others like to start with different types of rows.

However, there is one key strategy that many of the world’s best bodybuilding programs use: you train deadlifts at the end of your workout!

Many bodybuilding programs from Mountain Dog Training to DC Training and even Dorian Yates’ “Blood And Guts” Training use this exact strategy. They all perform deadlifts at the end of their back workouts after other exercises like pulldowns and rows!

Performing deadlifts at the end of your back workouts instead of at the start does 2 things:

  • It makes your upper back muscles work much harder during deadlifts
  • It forces you to use less weight which makes deadlifts easier to recover from

I must warn you that this is more of an advanced bodybuilding technique. If you are a beginner then you should probably perform deadlifts towards the start of your workouts and just focus on getting stronger.

However, if you are already repping out 400+ pounds on the deadlift and your back still lags behind the rest of your body then using deadlifts at the end of your back workouts is an awesome strategy to use.

Here is a typical Mountain Dog style back workout where John Meadows performs deadlifts after his upper back is already pre-fatigued. Check it out:

Advanced Mountain Dog Training Back Workout

  • A1: Machine pulldown (wide / pronated grip), 3 x 15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated cable row (v-handle), 4 x 8, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Bilateral bent-over kettle bell row, 4 x 8, 1/0/1/1, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Rack deadlift (just below knees), 3 x 5, 1/1/X/1, 120 seconds rest
  • E1: Reverse hyperextension, 2 x 15, 1/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

You can click right here to see a video of John Meadows demonstrating this workout.

As you can see John Meadows performs several different types of pull downs and rows before moving onto rack deadlifts. This forces his upper back to work much harder on the three sets of deadlifts. It also forces him to use less weight which makes the rack deadlifts easier to recover from.

If your upper back is lagging behind the rest of your body then I strongly recommend you play around with deadlifts at the end of your upper back workouts.

You don’t necessarily have to performed deadlifts or rack deadlifts on all of your back workouts. However, this tip alone has helped many trainees beef up their backside in record time.

Exercise Order: Biceps

When it comes to bringing up lagging biceps the single most important thing is to use the best exercises and to perform them with perfect form.

It is very easy to use momentum on various biceps exercises and take the tension off of your biceps. In fact the order of your bicep exercises really isn’t that important. It is far more important that you focus on using the best bicep exercises than ordering them in some special way.

Here are the two best bicep exercises:

EMG research clearly shows these exercises recruit more motor units in the biceps than any other exercises. If you have lagging biceps then you must make these the focus of your bicep routines!

If you want to use the so-called mass-building exercises like seated dumbbell curls and standing barbell curls then you may be better off performing them later in your routine.

This is the exact strategy that Dorian Yates used in his bicep workout: he performed standing ez-bar curls only after he pre-fatigued his biceps with incline dumbbell curls. Here is Dorian’s exact routine:

The Dorian Yates Bicep Workout

  • E1: 60 degree incline DB curl (supinating grip), 1 x 6-8**, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • F1: Standing ez-bar curl, wide supinated grip, 1 x 6-8**, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • G1: Unilateral machine preacher curl (supinated grip), 1 x 6-8**, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed

**Perform 1-3 forced reps with the help of a spotter after reaching muscular failure.

You can click right here to see a video of Dorian performing this exact biceps workout.

The bottom line is the order of your exercises really isn’t that important when it comes to training your biceps. It is far more important to find the exercises that really work well for you and then hammer them home in whatever order you feel works best.

This is in contrast to most other lagging body parts where sequencing your exercises correctly can really make a huge difference.

Exercise Order: Quads

What do the professional bodybuilders Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dorian Yates and Stan Efferding all have in common? They all had lagging quadricep muscles and they all got their best results using leg extensions to pre-fatigue their quads before moving onto compound exercises like squats, leg presses and hack squats!

The Canadian strength coach Christian Thibadeau correctly points out that taller lifters with long legs and short torsos have a hard time activating their quads. They naturally rely on their hamstrings, glutes and lower back to perform exercises like squats and lunges.

If you are a taller lifter with lagging quads and nothing else has worked for you then try pre-fatiguing your quads with leg extensions before moving onto more compound quadricep exercises. This strategy will not work for most people but for some bodybuilders absolutely nothing works better.

Here is the exact quadriceps routine that Dorian Yates used during his bodybuilding career. Check it out:

Dorian Yates Quadriceps Routine

  • A1: Bilateral machine leg extension, 1 x 8-10**, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: 45 Degree Leg Press, 1 x 10-12, 2/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • C1: Machine hack squat (feet low and narrow on the platform), 1 x 6-8**, 2/0/X/1, rest as needed

**Perform 2 forced reps after reaching muscular failure.

Dorian tried using exercises like back squats and front squats to build his legs. However, the only thing he ever got out of these exercises was a knee injury! It was only after he started using leg extensions first in his routine followed by other machine exercises that his legs really started to take off.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is another bodybuilder who has had a lot of success using leg extensions to pre-fatigue his quads. One of his all-time favorite quadricep routines featured leg extension and back squat superset.

Arnold would train just shy of failure on leg extensions and then walk over to the squat rack and bust out as many reps as he could with a fairly heavy weight.

Here is the exact workout:

Arnold Schwarzenegger Quadriceps Workout

  • A1: Leg extensions, 5 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, no rest
  • A2: Back squats, 5 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 2-4 minutes rest
  • B1: Machine hack squats, 5 x 10-15, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

Arnold performed this superset workout twice per week when he really wanted to bring up his lagging quadriceps.

Arnold says that when he first started using this routine he could only use 315 pounds on the back squat. After a few months he built up his endurance and he was back to using 400-500 pounds on the back squat immediately after his sets of leg extensions!

There are many different ways you can sequence your quadricep workouts to bring up your lagging quads.

John Meadows has his own way of structuring his workouts where he focuses on exercises like squats and leg presses early in the routine and moves onto exercises like hack squats and leg extensions later in the routine. John feels this sequence helps you to target your quads while keeping your knees healthy.

However, if you are really struggling to bring up your quads then the pre-exhaust method with leg extensions is one of the best strategies you can use. It has worked for many top-level bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dorian Yates and Stan Efferding and it just might work for you too!

Exercise Order: Hamstrings

It’s incredibly important that you use the right exercise order for your hamstrings workouts. This is true regardless of whether your hamstrings are your worst or your best body part. Here are the 2 rules you must follow:

  • Start your hamstrings workouts with knee flexion exercises like leg curls
  • Finish your hamstrings workouts with hip extension exercises like stiff-legged deadlifts, good mornings, back extensions etc.

There are several reasons why you want to start your hamstrings workouts with leg curls. First of all leg curls are great for establishing a mind-muscle connection with the hamstrings. If you perform them at the start of a leg workout they make your hamstrings work harder at all of your following exercises.

Leg curls also pump your knees full of blood which makes your quadricep exercises like leg presses, squats etc. much safer.

Finally the hamstrings are a fast-twitch muscle. When you perform hamstrings isolation exercises you really want to focus on lower-rep sets to properly train these fast-twitch muscles. On the other hand the hamstrings behave more like slow-twitch muscles during compound exercises so you should use relatively higher-rep sets on exercises like stiff-legged deadlifts.

If you have lagging hamstrings then one of the best strategies to bring them up is to perform leg curls first in your leg workouts and finish with hip-extension exercises like stiff-legged deadlifts and back extensions. As always there are many different ways to do this.

Here is a leg workout that John Meadows took IFBB pro Evan Centopani through. Check it out:

John Meadows / Evan Centopani Leg Workout

  • A1: Lying leg curl, 3-5 x 10-12**, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B1: Bulgarian split squat, 3 x 10***, 1/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Spider bar squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3 x 8-10, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Reverse band hack squat, 3 x 10-12, 1/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • E1: Machine leg extension, 1 x 15-20****, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • F1: Glute ham raise, 3 x AMRAP*****, 1/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest

**On your last set only: perform a double drop set, followed by 20 partials in the bottom position, followed by an iso-hold in a power position. All of this is done back-to-back with no rest.

***On your last set only: perform a triple drop set with iso-holds after each attempt. Perform 10 reps, then a 10-second iso-hold, then drop the weight. Repeat this sequence 3 more times with no rest between attempts.

****Perform 1 set to failure.

*****Perform 3 working sets to failure.

You can click right here to see a video of John Meadows and Evan Centopani performing this workout.

As you can see John likes to perform all of his quadricep exercises in between his hamstrings exercises. He performs leg curls first, then performs several quad exercises and finally finishes off with more of a stretching hamstrings exercise. This is a great way to structure your leg workouts to bring up your lagging hamstrings.

If your hamstrings are really lagging behind your quads or the rest of your body then you may want to try this hamstrings giant set workout written by Nick Mitchell.

The routine starts with leg curls but includes a variety of compound and isolation exercises to fatigue as many motor units as possible. Check it out:

Nick Mitchell Hamstrings Giant Set Workout

  • A1: Bilateral lying leg curl (Poliquin method / feet neutral)**, 4 x 6, 4/0/1/0, 10 sec rest
  • A2: 90 degree back extension (holding DB), 4 x 6, 2/0/1/2, 10 sec rest
  • A3: 45 Degree back extension (Barbell held in front w/ snatch grip), 4 x 6, 3/0/1/2, 10 sec rest
  • A4: Bilateral lying leg curl (plantar flexed / feet neutral), 4 x 6, 4/0/1/0. 10 sec rest
  • A5: Stiff-legged deadlift, 4 x 6, 3/1/1/0, 240 sec rest

**Dorsiflex your feet (point your toes towards your shins) on the concentric range and plantarflex your feet (point your toes away from your shins) on the eccentric range.

As you can see this workout calls for you to perform 5 hamstrings exercises back-to-back with only 10 seconds rest between exercises. You start with leg curls but quickly move onto a wide variety of hamstrings exercises. Stiff-legged deadlifts are performed last to really stretch out your hamstrings when they are already pumped up and filled with blood.

If you have lagging hamstrings muscles then the take-home message is clear:

  • Start your hamstrings workouts with isolation exercises like leg curls
  • Finish your hamstrings workouts with compound exercises like stiff-legged deadlifts, good mornings and back extensions

If you follow these 2 simple rules for the order of your exercises then you will have such the better hamstrings development.

Part 3: Training Frequency

The two most important things for bringing up your weaker body parts is using the right exercises and performing those exercises in the right order in your workouts. Strategies like “getting weird” with your exercise selection, using loaded stretch exercises and sequencing your workouts so you really feel the lagging muscle working are all important.

So what do you do if you are already doing these things and you still have a lagging muscle group? This is where things get a little more complicated. To get weaker body parts to respond you may have to increase your training volume / frequency or use some high-intensity training techniques.

Charles Poliquin used to say that if you are trying to kill a fly then a fly swatter is the right choice. However, if you are trying to kill an elephant then you are better off using a bazooka!

Lagging muscle groups are like the elephant. Sometimes you just have to bust out the bazooka and absolutely destroy the target muscle and force it to grow! Two of the best “bazooka” strategies are increasing your training frequency and using beyond-failure training techniques.

First let’s talk about increasing your training frequency for weaker body parts.

If you have a weaker body part then you probably need to train it more than once per week to bring it up to speed. There are several different training splits that you can use to train weaker body parts.

Here are a few of your best options:

  • The Charles Poliquin Training Splits
  • John Meadows’ Mountain Dog Training Splits
  • Dante Trudel’s DC Training 5-Way Split
  • Scott Stevenson’s Fortitude Training Split

Let’s take a closer look at each of these training splits.

The Charles Poliquin Training Splits

Charles Poliquin was a Canadian strength coach who was known for his unconventional training strategies. He used the following training split with about 70% of his professional-level athletes:

The Charles Poliquin Training Split

  • Day 1: Chest / Back
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Arms / Shoulders
  • Day 5: Off
  • Day 6: Repeat!

As you can see each muscle group is trained directly once every five days. This is an awesome training frequency that works really well for a lot of trainees.

In my experience this Poliquin split works especially well for bringing up lagging arms. Your arms are trained directly on the arm / shoulder day but they are also indirectly worked on the chest and back day. That means they are getting trained directly or indirectly twice every five days!

This split also makes it easy to use antagonistic body part supersets which is a fantastic way to bring up lagging muscle groups.

John Meadows’ Mountain Dog Training Splits

John Meadows began experimenting with higher-frequency training splits and special intra-workout nutrition protocols around the year 2013. The results were shocking: John was able to add about 10 pounds of pure muscle mass to his frame in about 1 year!

That is an incredible amount of progress for someone who was already a national-level amateur bodybuilder.

John was training almost every muscle group twice per week. He had a heavy loading day early in the week and a lighter “pump” day later in the week. Here is the exact split he used in 2013:

John Meadows’ 7-Day Training Split

  • Monday: Legs
  • Tuesday: Chest / Shoulders
  • Wednesday: Back
  • Thursday: Arms
  • Friday: Legs (Pump)
  • Saturday: Chest / Shoulders (Pump)
  • Sunday: Back (Pump)

This split works incredibly well if you have way above-average recovery ability and are looking to build muscle across your entire body. If you have specific muscle groups that you want to bring up then you may want to use the pump workouts for those muscle groups only.

For example here is how you might design a Mountain Dog training split if your chest and shoulders are weak:

Lagging Chest / Shoulders Training Split

  • Monday: Legs
  • Tuesday: Chest / Shoulders
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Back
  • Friday: Chest / Shoulders (Pump)
  • Saturday: Arms
  • Sunday: Off

As you can see there is an extra chest / shoulders “pump” workout thrown in later in the week. This helps you to increase both the volume and frequency for your weaker muscle groups.

John likes to focus on joint-friendly exercises during these pump workouts to stimulate hypertrophy without causing too much muscle breakdown.

Dante Trudel’s DC Training 5-Way Split

Dante Trudel has a 5-day “bro-split” that he uses with his advanced bodybuilders to bring up weak muscle groups. He calls it the “5-way” split. Check it out:

The DC Training 5-Way Split

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Biceps
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Shoulders / Triceps
  • Saturday: Back
  • Sunday: Off

In my experience this is one of the better bodybuilding bro-splits out there. When Dante has an advanced bodybuilder with a weak muscle group he trains that muscle twice per week by adding some exercises on another training day.

For example here is how Dante would structure the 5-way split for an advanced bodybuilder with lagging arms:

The DC Training 5-Way Split For Weak Chest / Back

  • Monday: Chest (Extra Triceps)
  • Tuesday: Biceps
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Shoulders / Triceps
  • Saturday: Back (Extra Biceps)
  • Sunday: Off

As you can see Dante adds some extra triceps work to the chest day and some extra biceps work to the back day. Normally this would be one higher-rep straight set performed to failure on a key exercise.

The idea is to increase the training frequency for that muscle without causing too much muscle soreness so you are ready for your next training day.

Scott Stevenson’s Fortitude Training Split

Dr. Scott Stevenson is one of the brightest minds in the fitness industry. He is known for his evidence-based approach to bodybuilding and is a very successful bodybuilding coach among other things. Scott used the DC Training system to compete as a national level bodybuilder for many years.

More recently he invented his own bodybuilding training program called “Fortitude Training.” Scott’s new program blends together many different training methods including heavy loading sets, pump sets, extreme stretching and a cluster set method called “muscle rounds.”

One of the most interesting things about Fortitude Training is it uses a TON of training frequency! Scott has many different training splits but you can train weak muscle groups up to 4 times per week using his program.

Here is what a Fortitude Training split might look like if you wanted to bring up your upper body:

Fortitude Training Split

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Tuesday: Lower Body (Upper Body Pump)
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Upper Body
  • Friday: Lower Body (Upper Body Pump)
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: Off

As you can see some lighter “pump” sets are performed for your upper body at the end of your lower body heavy loading days. This is an interesting strategy which can be used with Fortitude Training or any other training split to increase your training frequency for weaker body parts.

The bottom line is if you have a weaker body part then a great strategy is to train that body part more than once per week. There are an endless number of training splits that you could use but these 4 should give you some ideas.

Part 4: Advanced Training Methods

You’re using the right exercises for your body, you’re performing those exercises in the best possible order AND you’ve played around with bumping up your training frequency for your weaker body parts. The problem is your lagging body parts are still growing at a snail’s pace!

If this describes your situation then it’s time to bust out the advanced training methods! There are many advanced training methods that you can use to bring up lagging body parts. In this guide I will cover 6 of the most effective ones:

If you use these training methods correctly then your lagging muscle groups will have no choice but to grow. These methods are like CT Fletcher: they command your muscles to grow!

Advanced Training Method #1: Giant sets

Giant sets were popularized by the bodybuilding coach Milos Sarcev. To perform a giant set you will perform at least 4 exercises in a row for the same body part with 10 seconds rest between exercises. For example:

  • Perform exercise #1, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform exercise #2, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform exercise #3, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform exercise #4, rest 2-5 minutes and repeat the whole circuit again.

Giant sets are so effective because they prolong the time under tension of your set and make your muscles work harder than normal.

Let’s say that a regular set takes about 20 seconds to complete. That means with a giant set your set will last for 80 seconds! That is 4 times longer than normal and you don’t have to use a super light weight to accomplish this!

Giant sets also work because you can use different exercises which overload different portions of the strength curve and different muscle fibers within the working muscle. If you have a weak muscle group then giant sets are one of the fastest ways to bring it up to speed with the rest of your body.

Here is a quadriceps giant set routine that Charles Poliquin wrote many years ago. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin Quadriceps Giant Set

  • A1: Front squat, 3 x 6, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B1: Back squat, 3 x 12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C1: Alternating DB step up, 3 x 12, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • D1: Walking DB lunge, 3 x 12, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • E1: Alternating DB Russian step up, 3 x 12, 2/0/1/0, 4-5 minutes rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise A5.

Giant sets for the quadriceps are especially brutal because they produce an unbearable amount of lactic acid in your legs. It takes some real guts to push through this type of workout!

Of course it’s impossible to talk about giant sets without talking about Milos Sarcev. Milos is one of the world’s most sought-after bodybuilding and contest prep coaches. Milos trains all of his athletes with giant sets and often has his athletes perform 10+ exercises in a row for the same body part! This is an extreme way to train but Milos has a gift for bringing up weaker body parts this way.

Here is a Milos Sarcev style upper back giant set workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

Milos Sarcev Upper Back Giant Set Workout

  • A1: Dead stop t-bar row, 3 x 13, 1/1/X/0, no rest
  • B1: Rack deadlift (just above knees), 3 x 10, 1/1/1/0, no rest
  • C1: Barbell shrugs, 3 x 10, 1/0/1/1, no rest
  • D1: Hammer strength pulldown (wide / neutral grip), 3 x 10, 1/0/1/0, no rest
  • E1: Trap bar row, 3 x 10, 1/0/1/1, no rest
  • F1: Lying DB pullover, 3 x 10, 1/0/1/0, no rest
  • G1: Lat pulldown (medium / neutral grip), 1/0/1/1, no rest
  • H1: Lat pulldown (narrow / pronated grip), 1/0/1/1, no rest
  • I1: Machine pulldown (medium / pronated grip), 1/0/1/1, no rest
  • J1: Seated cable row (semi-supinated grip), 1/0/1/0, no rest

You can click right here for a video of this exact workout.

When you are using giant sets it is still important to use the most effective exercises. This is especially true if you are using giant sets to train your weaker muscle groups. However, you have a lot more room to include more “fluff” or “pumping” exercises than normal.

That doesn’t give you a free pass to be a dweeb in the gym though. If you start using pursed lip tricep dumbbell kickbacks with the pink dumbbells then don’t blame Revolutionary Program Design when your triceps start to shrink in size!

Advanced Training Method #2: Isometric Training

Isometric training is an incredibly powerful tool for training weaker body parts. The basic idea behind isometric training is your muscles are going to contract without moving!

Isometric training is so effective because it teaches your body to recruit new muscle fibers that otherwise wouldn’t be activated. Let’s look at a couple of examples for how to use isometric training for weak muscle groups.

If you have lagging triceps then you are in luck: I’m going to teach you a top-secret training method called “iso-dynamics.” The basic idea is to perform a tri-set with powerlifting style isometrics and more traditional exercises.

Here is an iso-dynamics triceps routine invented by Josh Bryant. Check it out:

Triceps Iso-Dynamics Bench Press Routine

  • A1: Bench press overcoming isometric (shoulder-width grip)**, 3 x 6 second hold, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Bench press against bands (shoulder-width grip), 1/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Decline DB extensions, 3 x 10, 5/0/1/0, 4 minutes rest

**Press an empty 45 pound barbell into a pair of safety pins set 2 inches below lockout on the bench press. I want you to press the bar as hard as you can for 6 seconds. Your goal is to break the pins in half!

You can click right here for a training video for this workout.

The basic idea behind this workout is you use the isometric bench press to recruit as many muscle fibers in your triceps as possible. Then you move onto more traditional exercises where you fatigue these newly recruited muscle fibers.

The key to making this routine work is pressing as hard as you can into the pins during your isometric bench press. Your goal is to press so hard that you break the pins in half!

The other way to perform isometric sets is to hold a weight in place by fighting against gravity. This is often called an “iso-hold” by bodybuilders. Iso-holds are a great way to prolong the time under tension of a set and to force the release of various anabolic hormones like MGF and IGF-1 into your muscle cells.

Iso-holds are a great way to create extra tension in a stubborn muscle group and to force it to grow.

Here is a Mountain Dog chest workout where John uses iso-holds to finish off his chest on his third exercise. Check it out:

Mountain Dog High-Intensity Chest / Shoulder Workout

  • A1: Hammer strength flat press, 4 x 8**, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Hammer strength incline press, 4 x 6, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Supine machine fly, 3 x 10-15***, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Perform 8 reps to failure, rest 20 seconds, train to failure a 2nd time, rest 20 seconds, train to failure a 3rd time, done!

***Perform 10-15 reps to failure, immediately followed by 10 partial reps in the stretched position, immediately followed by an all-out isometric hold performed to failure in a “power position” (have your training partner help you into the power position).

You can click right here to see a training video for this workout. John often uses iso-holds as a way to prolong the time under tension of a set. The key is to use it on exercises and in situations where it is safe. You want the muscle in a “power position” where you can really feel the target muscle working in a safe manner.

Other bodybuilding coaches like Dante Trudel and Christian Thibadeau often use iso-holds in their training programs to bring up lagging muscle groups as well.

Advanced Training Method #3: Eccentric Training

Eccentric training is probably one of the best training methods for advanced athletes to blast through size and strength plateaus.

Eccentric training works especially well for forcing a stubborn muscle group to grow bigger and stronger. The basic idea behind eccentric training is to use training methods that specifically overload the lowering phase of the exercise.

There are tons of different ways to do this. Many bodybuilders use eccentric training on their back workouts without even knowing it!

Just think about the way most bodybuilders perform barbell rows or t-bar rows: they use a little bit of momentum to get the weight moving so they can drive the weight into their stomach. If you think about it this is actually a form of eccentric training!

You are using your lower back to drive the weight up so that you can overload the fully contracted and lowering phase of the exercise with a heavier-than-normal weight.

Just take a look at Ronnie Coleman performing a heavy set of t-bar rows:

Talk about a big, strong back! Ronnie may not know it but he is actually performing eccentric training for his upper back! Ronnie can’t t-bar row 9 plates using ultra-strict form. However, if he uses his lower back to get the bar moving then all the sudden he can overload his back with this unbelievable weight.

These eccentric contractions are unbelievably beneficial for building a bigger, stronger back.

If you really want to overload the eccentric phase of your lifts then weight releasers are the way to go. Weight releasers are giant metal hooks that attach on either side of a barbell. They drop off the bar when you reach the bottom position of the exercise so they make the lowering phase of the lift heavier and the lifting phase lighter.

You can click right here to see Josh Bryant give a perfect demonstration of weight releasers in action.

Using weight releasers on the bench press is one of the best ways to stimulate growth in your chest and triceps. Even if you cannot feel your chest and triceps working during a normal set of bench presses you are guaranteed to feel them working when you use weight releasers!

Here is a weight releasers bench press routine that you may want to try for beefing up your chest and triceps. Check it out:

Eccentric Clusters Bench Press Routine

  • A1: Bench press with weight releasers (competition grip)**, 5 x 5****, 8/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Subscapularis pull ups, 5 x 5, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline DB press, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated cable row (v-handle), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest

**The weight on the bar should represent 70% of your 1-rep max. The weight on each of the weight releasers should represent 10-30% of your 1-rep max. Therefore you will be lowering a combined wight of 90-130% of your 1-rep max on each rep.

****Performed as a Poliquin-style cluster sets workout. Perform sets of 5 while resting for 30 seconds in between each rep. So you would perform 1 rep, rest 30 seconds, perform your 2nd rep, rest 30 seconds and so on until you have performed 5 total reps. Perform 5 sets like this. While you are resting you would re-rack the weight releasers back on the bar.

You can click right here to watch one of Christian Thibadeau’s athletes giving a perfect demonstration of this workout.

Weight releasers and other forms of supra-maximal eccentric training are not for beginners. You need at least 2 years of hardcore training experience before you use weight releasers. However, if you are an advanced bodybuilder and you want to bring up the size of your chest or triceps then weight releasers are one of the most powerful tools you can use.

If you want to learn more about eccentric training then be sure to check out the following guides available right here on Revolutionary Program Design:

These are by far the best guides available anywhere in the world on eccentric training. Trust me, I looked!

Advanced Training Method #4: Extreme Stretches

Extreme stretching was invented by John Parillo in the 1980s and later popularized by Dante Trudel with his DC Training system.

Every serious bodybuilder knows that the stretched position of an exercise is where the magic happens. There is just something about the bottom position of a stiff-legged deadlift or a lying triceps extension that just seems to make the hamstrings and triceps grow.

This may sound like “bro-science” but there is more and more research coming out supporting the use of loaded stretches to build muscle mass.

John Parillo and Dante Trudel took this concept one step further: they had their bodybuilders perform static loaded stretches for all of the major body parts right after you trained it. For example Dante Trudel might have his clients perform a rest-pause set of incline bench presses followed by an extreme stretch for their chest.

Extreme stretches accomplish a number of things:

  • They stimulate mTOR, the “on” switch for protein synthesis
  • They preferentially overload your fast-twitch muscle fibers
  • They increase blood flow and induce hyperemia in your muscles
  • They release anabolic hormones into your muscles like MGF and IGF-1
  • They **potentially** stretch out the fascia surrounding your muscles
  • They **potentially** stimulate hyperplasia in your muscles

Extreme stretches do all of these things at the same time? Talk about a potent training method!

Many DC Trainees have reported that their lagging body parts suddenly started to grow when they implemented extreme stretches into their routine. The soreness you get the day after a workout with extreme stretches is simply out of this world.

You can click on the following links for videos of extreme stretches for every body part. Most of these extreme stretches were performed by IFBB pro Dusty Hanshaw, a longtime DC Trainee. Check it out:

So what are the best ways to incorporate extreme stretches into your training program? Dante Trudel likes his athletes to perform 1 all-out extreme stretch for 60-90 seconds immediately after training that body part. This strategy works perfectly in conjunction with Dante Trudel’s low-volume training program.

Other guys like John Meadows, Scott Stevenson and Christian Thibadeau use slightly less intense extreme stretches blended throughout their workout to foster muscle growth.

For example Christian Thibadeau often has his athletes perform 3-4 reasonably hard sets of extreme stretches at the end of a higher-volume workout. John Meadows often uses extreme stretches blended in with his arm workouts to stimulate more growth.

You can click right here to watch John’s “mega-pump arm workout” where he uses extreme stretches 3 separate times in a single arm workout for his biceps and triceps.

If you have a lagging muscle group then using extreme stretches or loaded is a fantastic way to break through a size plateau. No one really knows for sure exactly why these work. However, every serious bodybuilder and coach knows they are worth their weight in gold!

Advanced Training Method #5: DC Widowmaker Sets

Dante Trudel has a very unique way that he trains his bodybuilders to bring up weaker body parts. This strategy is unique to his DC Training program but I am sure you could apply it to any other bodybuilding program if you are creative enough.

Dante feels that if you are an advanced bodybuilder and you have a lagging body part then all of the regular exercises you’re doing aren’t getting the job done. His solution is to “get really weird with it.”

Dante finds a key exercise for you and then has you perform that exercise for many months or even up to a year. Your job is to get so ungodly strong on that key exercise that your muscle has no choice but to grow. Dante calls this a “widowmaker” exercise.

The widowmaker exercise has to meet 3 criteria:

  • It puts you into a deep loaded stretch at some point in the movement
  • It puts you into a power groove where you can just grind, grind, grind out your reps
  • You can train progressively over time on this exercise

Dante has you perform the widowmaker exercise every time you train that specific body part after your main rest-pause exercise. For example in the year 2011 Dante Trudel was helping IFBB pro Cedric McMillan bring up his lagging shoulders and arms.

Dante felt that Cedric needed to bring up these muscles to be more competitive at the pro-level. Dante had Cedric use the seated hammer strength dip machine as his key widowmaker exercise. Cedric started out by performing his tricep widowmaker for one all-out set of 30 reps.

Once he got the hang of the exercise he started bumping the weight up almost every single workout. The idea is to allow your rep range to fall from 30 to 25, then 20, then 15 and finally 10 reps over many months of time. You are taking small but consistent weight jumps every single workout as the reps fall downwards.

Here is a sample progression on the widowmaker exercise:

Dip Machine Widowmaker Progression

  • Workout #1: 270 pounds x 30 reps
  • Workout #2: 280 pounds x 29 reps
  • Workout #3: 290 pounds x 27 reps
  • Workout #4: 290 pounds x 29 reps
  • Workout #5: 300 pounds x 29 reps
  • Workout #6: 310 pounds x 27 reps
  • Workout #7: 320 pounds x 25 reps
  • Workout #8: 320 pounds x 27 reps
  • Workout #9: 330 pounds x 25 reps
  • Workout #10: 340 pounds x 24 reps

And so on… This process is repeated until you are lifting an ungodly weight for 10 reps in 6-12 months time. When you finally bomb out and get 10 reps you switch to another widowmaker exercise and repeat that process all over again. But by the time you switch exercises your weak muscle group will have taken a giant leap forwards in size.

Here are the exact three tricep workouts that Cedric McMillan rotated through when he was working with Dante Trudel. Check it out:

Cedric McMillan Tricep Workout #1

  • A1: Decline ez-bar extension (to forehead), 1 x 10-12**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Hammer strength dip machine, 1 x 10-30****, 2/0/1/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Triceps extreme stretch x 60-90 seconds

Cedric McMillan Tricep Workout #2

  • A1: Decline ez-bar extension (to forehead), 1 x 10-12**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Hammer strength dip machine, 1 x 10-30****, 2/0/1/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Triceps extreme stretch x 60-90 seconds

Cedric McMillan Tricep Workout #3

  • A1: Decline ez-bar extension (to forehead), 1 x 10-12**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Hammer strength dip machine, 1 x 10-30****, 2/0/1/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Triceps extreme stretch x 60-90 seconds

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Perform 10-12 reps to failure, take 10-15 deep breaths, train to failure a 2nd time, take 10-15 deep breaths, train to failure a 3rd time, done!

****Performed as a DC-style widowmaker set for weaker body parts. Perform 30 reps to failure on your first workout. Then slowly but consistently increase the weight at every workout while letting your reps slowly fall. In 6-12 months time your goal is to lift an ungodly amount of weight for 10 reps to failure. When you get down to 10 reps you swap it out for another key exercise and repeat the process all over again.

After the third workout Cedric repeated his first triceps workout and fought like hell to “beat the logbook” by lifting more weight and / or performing more reps on each exercise. Here are some sample widowmaker exercises that Dante Trudel might use to bring up various weak muscle groups:

Sample Widowmaker Exercises

  • Chest: Machine pec-dec, incline smith machine (wide grip), flat DB fly
  • Shoulders: Machine lateral raise, cable lateral raise, cable upright row
  • Triceps: Machine dips, close grip bench press, reverse grip bench press
  • Back Width: Dante rows, rack chins, machine pullover
  • Hamstrings: Glute ham raise, leg curl, sumo leg press
  • Quads: Leg press, machine hack squat, walking DB lunges

The DC-style widowmaker for weak muscle groups is an advanced training technique. Dante believes it should only be used by advanced bodybuilders with a lot of experience under their belts. If you fit this description then it is one of the fastest and most effective ways to bring up your lagging muscle groups.

Advanced Training Method #6: 20 Rep Breathing Squats

20 rep breathing squats are one of the oldest training methods in the iron game. I first read about them in the classic book “Super Training.”

Breathing squats have a reputation for being one of the fastest and most effective ways to increase the size of your legs. The legendary bodybuilder Tom Platz used a form of 20-rep breathing squats to build up the best lower body the bodybuilding world has ever seen.

If that isn’t proof that this training method works then I don’t know what is!

The idea behind a 20-rep breathing squat is simple: you are going to perform 20 reps with your 10-rep max. First you squat 10 reps just shy of failure. Your 10th rep should be very difficult but you will make it without breaking form. Then you lock out your legs and take several deep breaths.

As soon as you feel ready you squat back down and perform 1-3 more reps. Then you lock out your legs and take several more deep breaths.

This process is repeated until you perform 20 total reps with your 10-rep max. For example:

20 Rep Breathing Squat Protocol

  • Perform 10 reps with your 10-rep max. After the tenth rep you lock out your legs with the barbell still on your back and take several deep breaths.
  • Perform 1-3 more reps, then lock out your legs and take several more deep breaths.
  • Perform 1-3 more reps, then lock out your legs and take several more deep breaths.
  • Perform 1-3 more reps, then lock out your legs and take several more deep breaths.

And so on. You keep going until you have completed 20 total repetitions. You can click right here for a video of Tom Platz performing a 20-rep breathing squat with 580 pounds!

So why do breathing squats work so well? Basically they are an extreme form of rest-pause sets. You are performing a set of 10 reps just shy of failure, then you are resting just long enough to perform a few more reps. These extra post-failure reps absolutely murder your fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Your lower back also receives a brutal workout as you have to hold the weight on your back the entire time.

Many old-school bodybuilders have reported building 10+ pounds of muscle within a month of using breathing squats.

If you are going to use this training method then you should not perform anything else for your quads that workout. Don’t worry, if you perform this method correctly then you will be so sore that you have a hard time sitting down on the toilet for several days! Don’t ask me how I know…

Conclusion

lagging body part

There is nothing more frustrating for a serious bodybuilder than a lagging muscle group. Fortunately there are ways to force even the most stubborn of muscles to grow. In my experience here are the 4 best strategies for getting lagging muscle groups to respond:

  • Use the absolute best exercises for your unique structure
  • Find the most effective ways to sequence the exercises in your workouts
  • Use a higher-frequency training split to train that muscle group more often
  • Use high-intensity training techniques as necessary to force the muscle to respond

These strategies are in order of importance. In other words the most important thing is to use the right exercise for your structure. If you use the wrong exercises then no amount of high-intensity training techniques will help you.

If all else fails then you may have to “get really weird with it” on your exercise selection. That means using non-traditional exercises for your weak muscle groups. Many famous bodybuilders have had to “get really weird with it” for various muscle groups.

For John Meadows nothing builds his back like Meadows rows and 1-arm barbell rows. For Dorian Yates the Nautilus pullover machine is absolutely essential for fully isolating the lats. For Dusty Hanshaw nothing beats rack chins for building a wider back.

If you want to bring up your lagging muscle groups then you must find the exercises that work best for you. Then you must find the best ways to sequence your exercises so that you can train the target muscle as hard as possible.

Finally you may need to play around with a higher-frequency training split or even some high-intensity bodybuilding techniques to get the muscle to respond. If you follow this blueprint then you will be on your way to eliminating your weak points once and for all!

“Champions aren’t made in the gym. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen

I am the creator and owner of Revolutionary Program Design. I help advanced athletes take their training to the next level and achieve results they never imagined possible.

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