There are a number of reasons as to why specific body parts for specific people don’t grow as well as others. Many of you completely understand why things work out this way. But many of you out there don’t, and too often I see less informed lifters go out and hunt down the people who have the best versions of the body parts they long for and adopt their philosophies overnight. Some of you are chuckling, but a few of you are wondering why this is not an approach I would ever recommend. See, if you understand the root cause of the issue, a few positive things can happen going forward. Understanding the root cause will help you know how to better train to improve the situation, and you will perhaps gain a better perspective on the progress you have made thus far and will make from here on out.
I can’t really think of many sports out there were the outcomes of one’s training are so heavily dependent on the parental unit we picked like bodybuilding. Other sports often use the words “talent” or “gifted” to describe athletes with outlier DNA. In bodybuilding we don’t sugar coat it, we go straight for the double-helix, and proclaim he/she has “great genetics.” When Kevin Durant hits a “stop and pop” shot the commentators don’t commend him on his great genetics, despite the fact that in any sport, great athletes are just as much born as they are made. How you as a whole respond to resistance training is heavily influenced by genetics, and even within your own skeletal muscular system you will see that some muscles are better responders than others.
There are two main reasons that some body parts grow slower than others, or better said grow differently than others. The first reason takes place in a small world we can’t actually see. Simply said, differences at the physiological level of muscle results in some of your muscle groups not being very predisposed to hypertrophy. The other reason though, you can point out from across the room, and it’s much easier to notice early on. That being, the structure of the muscle belly itself (which is related to the bones it is attached to). You can indeed have a muscle belly with a very desirable shape, but it not be very responsive to training. Or on the other hand, a muscle belly with less than ideal shape, which is a rapid responder to training. Out of the two I will say that the latter is the better of those combinations, and of course some unlucky folks have body parts which come up short in both categories.
So, these “stubborn” muscles lack the textbook structure we are aiming for, and don’t respond well to the training stimulus. If this is the case, it’s important to have realistic expectations sooner rather than later, and this is why we must not use athletes that are blessed in both departments (the folks with the best –insert muscle group- are almost always blessed in both structure and physiology) as role models to follow. Simply put, you are better off focusing on the progress you are making, not on why your biceps will never rival Jim Cordova’s. On any given day, in other sports, there is a chance that some team’s back-up small forward can neutralize Kevin Durant’s attempts at a basket. However, Jim Cordova and I can play rock, papers, biceps a thousand times, and then another thousand times, and I will never win a biceps to biceps confrontation.
You Are a Newb
Newer lifters will often prematurely categorize a muscle they want to improve really badly as a slow/non-responding body part when in reality they just haven’t had enough time under the iron. They might run to the gym fantasizing about having a chest like Arnold’s, but they haven’t trained more than a year. Before we can confirm the status of any body part, I think it’s best we have at the very minimum 36 months of general bodybuilding training. Of these 36 months, at least 24 months should have been outside of a fat loss phase. You might just not have enough time bodybuilding, and anyone with some significant time in the iron game will tell you that body part strengths and weaknesses have a way of rotating in your early stages. When I first got started, the muscle groups in my back actually outpaced my chest development. Overtime I learned to use my pecs much more efficiently on all pressing movements, and discovered what chest movements worked best for me, and the roles swapped overnight. The best way to cure a lagging body part is to not have one all together, and there is a good chance that you my green friend, might not have one at all. Or more accurately said, you are accusing the innocent here, and letting potential criminals off the hook early.
Poor Exercise Execution
As embarrassing as it is for some to find out that this is indeed the actual diagnosis, it’s the easiest one to work with, and unlike genetics, it’s fixable. You cannot discount the possibility that this might indeed be the reason a body part is not growing. Think about the people who go to your gym who have less than ideal form. They aren’t lifting in this manner to simply annoy you, the truth is that if they knew better, they would do better. There is usually also a strong correlation with how well executed an exercise is, and how developed the participating muscle groups are. You rarely see a person hitting quarter squats with tremendous quad development. The guy whose curls look like a full body exercise typically doesn’t have big arms. It’s important that we don’t ever see ourselves as too advanced for the basics. Why should we? The basics are the foundation in which all high-level skills are built on. If something in our base isn’t up to standard, then it’s only a matter of time before we implode upon ourselves. It is not uncommon for someone to be four years deep into training, but a select region looks no different than it did when they were an early intermediate. I have personally taught world champion bodybuilders how to perform a lat pulldown, and bodybuilders with much better delt development than I how to perform a lateral raise correctly. Humility is an important trait to carry with you regardless of how advanced you are. When addressing why a specific body part might not be growing, it’s not an absurd notion to consider for a minute that you might not be executing the movements correctly. The good news is that if this is the case, I am going to encourage you to not change a thing with your programming for now. This is especially true if the system you are using has been working well for all other body parts. Rather than upping frequency or volume for a given muscle group, I would encourage you to simply apply your newfound technical discoveries to your current system, be patient, and see if there is a notable difference over time. If this section is making you second guess your current technique on exercises that target your stubborn body parts, well then good. Now it’s time to do some research to see how your current technique measures up, and if you are fortunate enough to live near a qualified professional, it would not be bad idea to get some in-person help.
So, there you have it, you know why some body parts don’t grow as well as others. Now that you know the root cause for most lagging body parts, you can stop blindly following those who have the exact opposite situation. However, if you are indeed Rob Hope, this article was totally useless. But, since most of aren’t Rob Hope, perhaps this piece can help you take the necessary steps to better deal with your asymmetries.