Want To Sculpt The Ultimate Physique? You're Going To Need To Understand The Priority Training Principle
The different between a good physique and a great physique is proportion, balance and symmetry.
If you've been lifting heavy and building muscle for a period of time now following a cookie cutter workout regime chances are you'll benefit from implementing the priority training principle...
What Is Priority Training?
Priority training or the priority training principle is a protocol of training to bring weak or lagging muscle groups up to speed.
If you've been following a standard one body part per day style regime for a reasonable amount of time chances are you'll find that certain muscle groups are getting stronger and bigger, while others are lagging behind.
Priority training focuses on hitting the lagging muscle groups with more intensity/volume/frequency to bring them back up to speed with your other muscle groups.
I'm sure you and I both have different strong and lagging muscle groups, this is why priority training MUST be implemented on a per person basis... chances are if you follow my workout regime you'll end up worse off because it's not tailored to your specific weaknesses and vice versa.
Muscles gain size and strength via the application of progressive overload, as I've explained before progressive overload can be applied by...
- Increasing the weight
- Increasing the volume
- Increasing the frequency
- Altering rest periods
The priority training principle applies one or more of the above in order to force your lagging muscle group(s) to catch up.
What Causes Muscle Groups To Lag?
There's a number of possible reasons why you could be finding that a particular muscle group is lagging behind...
The biggest cause is genetics.
I always say genetics cannot be used as a cop-out for why you can't lose weight or transform your physique and I stand by that.
BUT genetics can influence the way we train.
If genetics blessed you with a big upper chest but left you with narrow, slender shoulders would you train your chest as often as your shoulders?
No, that doesn't make sense.
But most guys stick to their cookie cutter workout regime and continue to do so anyway.
As a newcomer in the gym you should NOT be falling victim to paralysis by analysis over priority training. Forget priority training until you've got at minimum a year or two or consistent training along with a solid diet. Build muscle, build strength and then assess and make the necessary pivots.
Until you've built the clay you haven't got anything to mould.
Form & Exercise Selection
Poor form and a poor choice of exercises for a specific muscle group will also lead to mediocre results.
If you've got the form and exercises down pat for your chest workout but disregard pull-ups and bent over barbell rows on your back day it comes to me as no surprise that your back probably isn't progressing as well as you'd like it to.
As always, heavy compound movements are king for natural bodybuilders to pack on muscle mass and strength. Ensure you're performing the following exercises:
Chest - Bench press (barbell or dumbbells)
Back - Weighted pull-ups, Bent over rows
Shoulders - Barbell press
Legs - Barbell back squats
Arms - Barbell curls (biceps) Close grip bench press (triceps)
Once you've got the most effective exercises in your regime focus on all aspects of your form (the tempo of each repetition, range of motion etc.) before thinking about increasing the weight.
Implementing The Priority Training Principle
There's a number of different ways to implement priority training into your current regime to bring a lagging muscle group up to speed.
Give the 3 techniques I use a try and stick with whichever works best for you (perhaps throwing in an additional workout isn't possible given your schedule... in which case volume manipulation may be key).
Hit that muscle first
If you're following a split workout routine that combines multiple muscle groups in one workout (for example chest and triceps, back and biceps, chest and back etc.) ensure you hit the lagging muscle first with a heavy compound movement.
If your biceps are lagging behind and you're following a three day split regime that combines back and biceps in the same workout I'd recommend hitting several sets of heavy barbell curls before moving onto any back related exercises, as by the time you've finished your back exercises your biceps (being the secondary muscle group when training back) will be relatively fatigued and will therefore not be able to be overloaded as well (as, provided you trained your back intensely you won't be able to lift the same amount of weight when it comes time to do biceps curls).
Increase and decrease the volume
If your shoulders are dominant and your chest is lagging I not only recommend performing shoulder exercises at the start of your workout, but also decrease the volume or frequency of training of the dominant muscle group.
In this case, ensure you're hitting your chest exercises first AND reduce the volume for your shoulders.
Volume reduction can be in the form of...
Decreasing the number of work sets per workout
Decreasing the number of exercises per workout
Decreasing the frequency you're training this dominant muscle group (from once per week to once per two weeks perhaps)
Throw in an additional workout
The first lagging muscle group I encountered after a couple of years in the gym was my back.
Gaining back width and the strength to perform bodyweight pull-ups was a long road for me, by combining shoulders and legs (two of my strong muscle groups) into one workout I was able to free up a day to hit my back once again. After training my back twice per week (allow a minimum of 72 hrs between consecutive back workouts) I was able to gain the size and strength to keep up with my strong muscle groups.
Since going through this phase my back has remained one of my strongest muscle groups and is back to being trained once per week directly.