Deciding which muscle groups to train together can be confusing.
Most people say chest and triceps should be trained together, since they’re both involved in bench and overhead pressing.
Others say you should train biceps with chest because your arms will still be fresh after benching, so you might as well train them together.
Arnold was known for training his chest and back together, and if that was good enough for The Oak, then it should probably work for you, no?
Other people still say that you shouldn’t program your workouts around individual muscle groups at all, but should simply focus on doing a lot of heavy squatting, deadlifting, and bench pressing or full-body training.
So, how are you supposed to put all of this into an effective training plan that you enjoy?
Well, I have good news for you:
There is no “best” way to combine muscle groups together in your training. So long as you understand a few basic principles, there are many ways to combine them into workouts that not only work, but that you enjoy and can stick to.
Body-part “bro” splits, push pull legs, and upper/lower routines can all work equally well, and which one you use really depends on how many times per week you want to train, how many years you’ve been training, and what muscle groups you want to work on most.
And we’re going to break it all down in this podcast.
By the end, you’re going to know which muscle groups to train together and why, the best exercises for each, and how to create a workout routine that’s guaranteed to deliver results.
7:24 – What is a major muscle group?
8:06 – Chest training
10:39 – Back training
18:20 – Arms training
30:16 – Shoulders training
35:40 – Legs training
50:47 – Core training
Mentioned on The Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hey, hey, I’m Mike Matthews and welcome to another episode of Muscle For Life. Thank you for joining me today to talk about how to best train each of the major muscle groups that we want to most develop.
Now, this is something I get asked about fairly often, and I have written and spoken a fair amount about it, but it occurred to me that I haven’t yet done an episode like this where I summarize my current positions and my current thoughts on how to best develop each of the major muscle groups.
And so that’s what this episode is going to be about. It is going to just focus on the fundamentals, of course. So if you are an experienced weightlifter, you may not learn too much, however, you may pick up a few new exercises to do.
But if you are confused, regardless of your experience level, if you are a bit confused, Workout splits and how to best combine muscle groups, should you be training chest and triceps together, or maybe chest and biceps or Arnold, he was known for training his chest and his back together.
That really worked well for him. And if it was good enough for the oak, Then, hey, maybe it’s good enough for you too. And of course, there are people out there who say that you shouldn’t program your training around individual muscle groups at all. But really all you should do is focus on heavy squatting, deadlift, bench pressing, and overhead pressing, and.
Full body workouts, right? Those philosophies usually go together. So people who are saying that you really should just focus on your compound lifts and everything else doesn’t really matter. Often will program full body training where you train, not necessarily your entire body, but several major muscle groups, usually at least one major muscle group from both your upper body and your lower body in the same workout.
And so if you have not sorted all of that, Yet to your satisfaction, then this episode is going to be helpful for you. Also, if you like what I am doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world, and we’re on top because every ingredient and dose.
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Order. So again, if you appreciate my work and if you wanna see more of it, and if you also want all natural evidence based supplements that work, please do consider supporting Legion so I can keep doing what I love, like producing more podcasts like this. All right, so let’s start with a simple maximum, a simple principle that you can take to the bank, and that is, there is no best way to combine muscle groups in your training so long as you understand.
A few basic principles that I’m gonna share with you on this podcast. There are many ways to create effective workout routines and many ways that you will not enjoy. And those would not be for you in ways that you will enjoy, and those would be for you. That’s an element of training that many people don’t talk about, and it should be emphasized because compliance is key to long term results.
Adherence to your diet and adherence to your. Workouts to your routine, showing up every day, putting in the work, and then also working hard in your workouts and working hard in every set. And it’s hard to continue to do that week after week when you don’t enjoy your training, when you don’t look forward to your workouts at all.
And even worse if you dread them. So I don’t care how scientifically optimal a workout routine might be, if. Don’t like it. It is not for you. And fortunately because there are many ways to build effective training routines, you don’t have to do something you don’t enjoy. It is not self-indulgent.
It is not a luxury to have a workout. Program that you like? I would say it’s a necessity. So for example, if you like body part or bro splits, if you just enjoy training that way you can make it work. If you like push pull legs or push legs pull, you can make that work if you like upper lower, of course that works and full body training works as well.
There are many ways to get to the same ends, which for most of us is maximum muscle and. And I would say that applies to both men and women. Many women, when they start out, they don’t think with that goal in mind in the beginning of, I just want to gain as much muscle as possible. But then many of those same women, after they have, let’s say a year or two of weight lifting experience under their belt and realize how hard it is to gain a fair amount of muscle, and particularly for women, it’s very hard for men too.
But women can gain about. Of the muscle that men can gain over the course of their entire weightlifting career. So most men can gain probably around 35, maybe 40, maybe 45 pounds of muscle. Naturally, that’s it. No matter what they do, no matter how long they train for, that is their ceiling. Most women, it’s about half of that, and women can gain muscle.
About as effectively as men in terms of percentage of body weight, and so it is a myth that women just can barely gain muscle. No, actually, when we look at the rate of muscle gain relative to body weight, women can gain muscle about as effectively as men, but women start with a lot less muscle, and of course a much lower body weight on average.
That’s why I’m saying it is important to consider the rate of muscle gain relative. To body weight. So in a sense, us guys just have a head start on women. We start with more muscle and we start with a bigger skeleton and we start with more body weight and that allows us to gain more muscle in an absolute sense.
But relatively speaking, women can gain muscle about as effectively as men. Okay. So with the preamble out of the way, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the episode, which is how to best train each of. Major muscle groups. Let’s start with defining what a major muscle group is, and that is muscles that are situated closely together that performs similar movements.
So that’s really what a muscle group is. And when I say major muscle groups, I’m talking about the six big muscle groups that we pay the most attention to in terms of developing our strength and our physique. So you have the chest, back, arms, shoulders, legs, and calves. If you can achieve optimal development in each of those.
Major muscle groups, you will have the body you want. Of course there are smaller muscles, many smaller muscles that go into performing well and looking good. But again, if you just focus on developing the big ones, the smaller ones will take care of themselves. So let’s start with talking about training the chest.
The main muscle of the chest is the pectoralis major and its main function is to bring. Upper arm across the body. Many people think it’s main function is to press things, but that’s actually not the case. It’s main function is to bring the upper arm across the body, so toward the midline of the body.
And the peck major has two heads. It has the sternocostal head and the clavicular head, and that just refers to how the muscles attached to our skeleton. So Sternocostal head attaching to the breast bone, clavicular head, attaching to the collarbone and exercises that involve. Pushing the arms in front of the chest emphasize the larger head of the pex, the sternocostal head.
Whereas exercises that involve moving the arms up and away from the chest emphasize the smaller clavicular head. And that’s why, for example, the flat barbell bench press emphasizes the bigger breast bone. Head, the sternocostal head, whereas the incline barbell bench press emphasizes the smaller clavicular head.
And same goes for the reverse grip bench press. That is also a good exercise for targeting the quote unquote upper chest. Now speaking of exercises, my favorite exercises for developing a big strong chest are the flat barbell bench. Press the incline barbell bench press the flat, dumb. Bench press, incline, dumbbell bench press, close grip bench, press, reverse grip, bench, press and dip.
And just to be clear, then, what I’m saying is if you focus on getting strong on those exercises and if you do nothing but that, if you nothing but those exercises and getting strong on those exercises, you will build an impressive chest. Period, and that applies to both men and women. Obviously men are usually a lot more interested in building up their pecks than women, but many women do notice that as they develop their chest, as they get stronger on their bench press, for example, their boobs look a little bit quirkier because the muscle lies underneath the fat.
So it props up the breasts a little bit. So again, those exercises, just to repeat them, are the flat barbell bench press. The. Barbell bench press the flat dumbbell bench press, incline dumbbell bench press, close grip bench press, reverse grip, bench, press and dip. Those are the absolute best exercises for developing your chest muscles.
Okay, so now let’s talk about the back and the four muscles that make up the bulk of the back are the trapezius or traps, the OIDs, the litmus. Do. Or the lats and the erector spine, a muscles that run along the spine and that are heavily involved in something like the deadlift, for example. Now, as far as the best exercises for building your back, for building a strong, wide, thick, defined back are the barbell deadlift, the sumo deadlift, the trap bar deadlift, and I would not rank any of those over.
The other, as far as the traditional barbell versus the sumo deadlift goes work with whichever feels most comfortable to you. Neither is going to be more effective. Ultimately, as far as gaining muscle and strength goes, and the trap bar deadlift is a viable alternative to the barbell or the sumo deadlift.
If you can’t do either pain free, for example, or if you just. To give your lower back a little bit of a break after, let’s say a training block of a lot of hard, traditional or sumo deadlifting because of how you set up with the trap bar deadlift. It’s like a more squattier deadlift where your lower back isn’t.
Involved as much as the traditional and the sumo deadlift and where your quads are involved a little bit more. It’s still a deadlift and it’s still an effective exercise. I personally though, wouldn’t only trap bar deadlift unless I had to, unless I could not Traditional. Deadlift. I don’t like sumo. It’s not comfortable for me, so I just go with the conventional.
Okay, going down the list, we have the LA pull down, very effective exercise seated cable row. Very effective horizontal exercise. The pull up, the chin up, the dumbbell row, and the seal row. So those exercises again are all you need to build an outstanding. Back. You just need to focus on getting strong on those and getting in a lot of volume over a fair amount of time.
Think in terms of years, especially if you’re a guy trying to gain as much muscle and strength as you possibly can, that takes five years, six years, maybe even seven years, depending on how things go for you. A lot of it probably is gonna come down to compliance, but also genetics will come into play. How well do you respond?
Weightlifting, Does it take more work to gain muscle for you than the average guy or vice versa? And also, just to share a quick anecdote that I’ve seen play out with many other people over the years now, that is that my back development really reached another level. When I got strong on the deadlift, so for the first six or seven years of my training, I didn’t do a single set of deadlift.
I didn’t come across it in the body building magazines and stuff online that I was following, and so I just never did it. I did a lot of all different other types of pulling. I did a lot of lap pull downs, a lot of pullups, a lot of chin ups, a lot of dumbbell row, a lot of seated rowing et cetera, et c.
I’m not sure if I did much barbell rowing. I didn’t do much barbell anything back in those days, and sure my back had developed to some degree, but to put it in perspective, after about six or seven years, I had gained, It’s hard to say exactly because I wasn’t tracking my numbers as meticulously as I do now, but I do have pictures and I do remember things.
I think it’s fair to say I gained about 20. Pounds of muscle. I don’t think more than that. Maybe 27 to maybe 30. But I think 25 is a fair guess. And yes, that is a lot of muscle and that’s of course not in my back. That’s my whole body. That’s a lot of muscle. But yeah, six or seven years for that, no, six or seven years.
Should yield 40 plus pounds of muscle. Again, you should be basically tapped out as far as muscularity goes, if you are a natural weightlifter in six or seven years. So if you look at it in those terms, where I had achieved maybe 60% of my potential muscularity, then you can think with my back being of course, a major muscle group, a very big muscle group, and it did account for a bulk of the 25 ish pounds, but it didn’t look.
Impressive. It didn’t look like it looks now, and I don’t know if I would say my back looks impressive now, but it certainly looks properly developed and fully developed considering the rest of my physique, and that really started to. Happen noticeably after I started deadlifting, after I started fixing my training.
And yes, that does mean that I made changes in the programming as well, and I started lifting heavier weights and I learned about progressive overload and how to use double progression is what I mostly used to gain the rest of the muscle I gained. And so there are some confounding factors for sure, but I do remember making a mental note that.
It seemed like my back really started to respond and grow again from the deadlift in particular, and I have seen that happen now with many people I’ve worked with. Many guys in particular who like me, had done many years of all kinds of pulling and only gotten so far. Then started heavy deadlift plus the.
Pulling and all of a sudden their back started growing again. And after a year, two years, three years of consistent deadlifting in some cases had basically transformed their back. And I would say that was the case with me as well. Now, of course, after a few years of deadlifting, I got pretty lean for the first time, and so that skews things as well.
There is a major illusion that occurs when you drop. Body fat, you look bigger and you just look more attractive. And sometimes people are shocked, like they will see you. Let’s say you’re a guy and you’re at, I don’t know, 15% body fat, and then you disappear for a bit or you don’t see people for a bit and you come back at eight or 9%, you are going to get.
Wide-eyed stairs Are you on steroids? Oh my God, what are you doing? I didn’t know you’re so fit. It’s funny. And the female equivalent of that would be, being around 25% body fat, where you look good, you look athletic, and then you come back at. 18% body fat and people are like, Whoa, you are ripped.
Anyway, my point with saying all of that is if you want to develop an outstanding back as efficiently as possible, I think it’s fair to say that you should get strong on the deadlift, that is going to help you get there faster than if you were not deadlift and just doing a bunch of other. Mostly isolation exercises cause you don’t have too many compound exercises for the back beyond barbell rows and some similar variants, like maybe a seal row you could say is a compound exercise.
Maybe you could say a dumbbell row is compound exercise. Not though. And the reason why that is important is compound exercise exercises allow you to load the most weight, which allows you to gain the most strength and that allows you to gain the most muscle. And that is especially true as an experienced.
Weightlifter. If you want to continue getting bigger, you have to figure out how to continue getting stronger. And the deadlift, for example, is a fantastic exercise for loading a lot of weight and subjecting a lot of muscles to a large amount of. Load, and that then in turn is great for improving whole body strength.
The deadlift really is a whole body exercise, much like the squat. All right, now let’s talk about the arms. And here we have four primary muscles in this major muscle group. We have the biceps bray eye, we have the brachialis, we have the triceps and the forearms. These muscles do different things. Of course, the biceps flex the arm, but they also supinate the elbow.
And supinate means to turn to the bottom of a body part. So for example, if you turn your palms upward, if you flip your hands over. That is Super Nation. And then we have the Braus, which lies beneath the biceps bray eye, and it helps in flexing at the elbow. And it isn’t as prominent as the biceps bray eye, but it does play an important role in the overall appearance of your arms.
For example, the primary connection that people. Between the brachy muscle and how your arms look is the biceps peak. Because if you have a well developed brays, it can push up the biceps bray eye a little bit, and it can give the appearance of a larger biceps peak. Unfortunately though, there’s nothing you can do to reshape the peak of your biceps.
You can make your biceps bigger. You can flex them and see how they look, and that’s about it because the. Peak itself, and particularly how steep it is, how bunched up the muscle looks, comes down to the structure of the muscle itself, and we can only make muscles bigger and smaller. Unfortunately, we can’t make them longer.
We can’t make them shorter. They grow or they shrink, and how they attach to our skeleton. In this case, our arm bones is going to determine how they look as they get bigger and. Okay, moving on to the triceps, which are the trio of muscles on the back of the arm, and their job is really the opposite of the biceps.
So their job is to push or form away from your upper arm to extend your arm. And there are three. Heads, there are three parts or three sections to the triceps. There’s the long, the lateral, and the medial head. And if you want the biggest possible arms you can get, you’re gonna wanna make sure that you do a lot of exercises that emphasize the long head, because that’s the biggest, that’s the one that is most noticeable.
That doesn’t mean you are going to neglect the others, and you couldn’t. Entirely because exercises that effectively train the long head do effectively train the other heads. But you’re gonna want to emphasize the long head over the others. And for example, exercises that have your arms overhead, like an overhead triceps extension, or a skull crusher.
Emphasize the medial and the lateral. Heads, whereas exercises that have your arms at your side with an overhand grip, like the close grip bench, press the dip and the push down emphasize the long head and just to give you a visual in case you don’t feel like searching. The long head is the head of the muscle that is closest to your torso, so it is on your right arm.
On the left hand side of your right arm, right closest to your torso, and the lateral head is the second largest, and it is on the other side. So it is the pair, the smaller brother of the long head, and it’s on the outside of your arm, furthest from your torso. And then the medial head straddles both sides of your arm bone, but is overlapped by the long and lateral heads and the medial.
The smallest of the three muscles last, we have the forearms and those are comprised of several smaller muscles. And although they are usually not the focus of anyone’s arm training, if the forearms are underdeveloped, it does quickly become obvious, especially if you’ve done a lot to develop your biceps and your triceps, but not much for.
Forearms. Now, I don’t think you need to train your forearms directly. Most people do not. Some people like to, some people need to for the purpose of improving their grip for deadlifting, although I would say you could just use straps at that point. If you get your grip strong enough to, if you’re a guy, for example, and you can deadlift three 15 for reps, double overhand without.
Grip so you’re not relying on breaking your thumb to hold the bar, but you’re actually relying on your grip strength. You have probably done enough pulling to develop your forms enough to have them look proportionate to your biceps and your triceps. However, if you want to be able to double overhand, More than that.
Certainly if you’re getting into the four hundreds, and for women, I would say just cut those numbers in half. But if you’re a guy and you want to be able to double overhand and not hook grip 400 plus, you’re gonna have to do some grip work. And if your grip is holding you back on other exercises like a dumbbell row or a barbell row where you should be able to handle, for example, 200 plus, if you’re a guy on a barbell row without straps, cut that in half.
You’re a woman. If you’re a pulling dumbbells, I would say you should be able to handle. Somewhere at least around hundreds without straps. But if you’re getting up to, and I’m speaking for myself here, where straps start to become very useful for me is probably three 50 plus on the deadlift, because the deadlift is funny in that if your grip starts to fail, that’s it.
It’s over. You are not going to be able to get the weight up, even if you have the whole body strength to get it up. If your grip fails, your set fails. So there is a point where you either have to develop a much stronger grip or you have to do a mixed grip where you have one arm. Palm down one arm, palm up, and I don’t recommend that unless you are willing to alternate fairly often.
So what can happen is if you use a mixed grip, so when I was mixed gripping some time ago, I would always have my right arm. Palm up. I would not alternate because at that time I didn’t know the importance of it, and eventually what happened is I irritated my biceps tendon on my right side because there’s obviously asymmetrical force there and it’s great.
The mixed grip is great for gripping a lot of weight without straps, but it’s not so great for your biceps tendon if you don’t alternate. Now, if you can alternate, then I would say you’re probably fine if you were to alternate, let’s say every month or so. But what happened to me? Alternating. It felt really awkward.
I had gotten so used to my right hand palm up that when I alternated and I was trying to get used to the other, it would’ve meant probably at least a month of deadlift, not very much weight, and relearning. The deadlifted almost felt like in some ways, and I could have done that, but instead I was like, You know what?
Why? Why am I bothering with this? I’ll just use straps. I have a strong grip. I have Defined. I well developed forearms, who cares? And I don’t wanna hook grip because it blows your thumbs up. I did it one time with 225 pounds and I was like, Nope, this is gonna suck. And you can laugh and call me a pussy.
But go and do it if you haven’t tried it. If you’re a guy, go load 2 25 and hook grip it and see what you think. And if you’re a woman, go load 1 25 or maybe 1 35 and hook grip it and see if you want to. To your normal heavy weights. If your normal heavy weights are heavier than that, so particularly if you’re a guy who is currently pulling 400 plus, or if you’re a woman pulling 200 plus, do what I just said and then imagine how it’s gonna feel.
I think what eventually happens is your thumbs just go numb, I think. I think you just, you mess ’em up enough to where you no longer really even feel them anymore, I’m guess. Anyway, so I choose to use straps and I haven’t looked back and my grip has remained strong as evidenced by my performance on other exercises where I don’t use straps, so I will not use straps on barbell rows.
I will not use straps on dumbbell rows unless I’m getting up to probably one 30 plus. That’s where I really start to notice it. I will also not use straps on any sort of seated row or. Pull down, or of course a chin up or a pullup, even if it’s weighted or a seal, et cetera, et cetera. Okay, so now let’s talk about the best exercises for your arms, and particularly the biceps and the triceps.
You have the barb bell curl, dumbbell curl, easy bar curl. Those are biceps. And I would say also the hammer variation of the dumbbell. It’s still just a dumbbell curl, of course, but instead of rotating your palms to face upward or just starting in a palms up position and maintaining it, you have the weight straight up and down.
You have your grip essentially in a neutral position. Think about a neutral grip seated row, and you have your palms facing each other, right? So with the hammer curl, you have the dumbbell in an upright position, and it just remains like that for the. Exercise. And the reason why I like that in particular is research has shown that it helps emphasize the brachialis muscle that I was talking about.
And then there are two other exercises that I like for developing the biceps. And they are the chinup and the pullup. The chinup being better for bicep development than the up, because the pull up involves the back muscles, the big back muscles. Then the chinup does, whereas the Chinup relies a lot on your biceps strength.
Now, as far as using these exercises to get big biceps, it is pretty simple. If you get strong on your curling, on your barbell curl in particular, and your basic dumbbell curl, and sure easybar curl as well, that’s fine. I would say that’s probably interchangeable with the barbell curl if the straight bar doesn’t feel good to you, and if you supplement that with some hammer curl, And if you work to get strong in your pulling in your back training, you are going to get big biceps or at least as big of biceps as you can possibly get.
And so now let’s talk about the triceps. My favorite triceps exercises are the skull crusher. The triceps press down either with a rope, Or a metal handle. I like to alternate every month or two months. So for a bit I’ll use the rope and then for a bit I’ll use the straight bar, and then for a bit I’ll use the easy bar and then go back to the rope.
The dip is a great exercise for building triceps mass, as is the triceps overhead press. You can do that with a cable or a dumbbell. I prefer. The dumbbell, but either way it works well. As well as the close grip bench press. That is a big one for building big triceps. If you can get strong on the close grip bench press, you will see development in your triceps.
And as far as using those exercises to get the most. Out of them. I mentioned earlier you have these three different heads of the triceps and you are gonna get the most size out of the long head, and so most people like to make sure they do. Plenty of exercises that emphasize the long head, wouldn’t be unreasonable to do 50% of your volume for your triceps with exercises that emphasize the long head.
And then the other 50% of the volume on exercises that emphasize the other two heads. And just to repeat how you can know if an exercise emphasizes the long versus the lateral versus the medial. So if an exercise has your arms at your side with an. Overhand grip, like the close grip bench press, or the dip or the push down, that is going to emphasize the long head.
But if it has your arms overhead, like the overhead triceps extension, or the skull crusher, it’s gonna emphasize the medial or the lateral head.
If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world. All right. Moving on to the next major muscle group. The shoulders, which are comprised of three primary muscles, which are the deltoids.
You do have smaller muscles, the rotator cuff muscles, but usually you don’t have to do specific exercises for them unless you’re trying to address a problem. Because if you train your OIDs correctly, and if you also train your chest muscles and your back muscles correctly, your rotator cuff muscles will get plenty of training.
And so we have. Deltoids. We have the rear Dels on the back, and those help the lats and the traps. Bring your arms behind you. And then we have the front deltas, and those help the pecks bring your arms out in front of you. Then we have the lateral dels, which help the traps, the pecks, and other muscles around your neck and your upper back.
Raise your arm to the side and those basic movements give you some clues as to the exercises that best. The Del Tos. So my favorite Deloid exercises are dumbbell side raises, dumbbell rear raises, barbell rose, dumbbell rose, the military or the overhead press. I know those are not necessarily a synonymous but an overhead barbell press.
Essentially, the flat dumbbell or barbell bench press and the incline dumbbell or barbell bench press, as well as some form of overhead dumbbell pressing. I prefer seated some people. Prefer standing, but I think seated is better for specifically targeting the shoulders. And the same thing would go for a barbell press if you’re doing a standing barbell press.
It’s a great exercise and it certainly trains your shoulders, but it does require more coordination. It requires more whole body strength and balance than a seated press, which really just requires strong shoulders. And a common mistake that a lot of people make when training their shoulders is they do a lot of front dealt work.
So they do a lot of bench pressing for their chest and they do a lot of shoulder pressing and they don’t do nearly as much side or rear dealt work. And the reason that’s a mistake is the look that most people are after, I would say men and women with shoulders requires well developed. Lateral and rear deltas.
And the only way to get highly developed side delta, so you can think of the lateral on the side, deltas and rear belts is to directly train those muscles. You can get very strong on your overhead press. You can get very strong on your poles. You can get very strong on your bench press and still have.
Underwhelming shoulders. Your shoulders can actually look small compared to your biceps and your chest if you also do a fair amount of biceps work. And so if your shoulders are underwhelming and if they look like they’re lagging, and if you really want to try to round them out and get that full capped kind of 3D look, you need to be doing at least three hard sets of side raises per.
And chances are you might need to do a bit more to be happy with the results. More like six hard sets of side raises per week. I personally have never done more than nine hard sets per week. I don’t think that would be necessary, but I have done that because there was a time when looking at my physique, it just was apparent to me that my side dealts, my lateral dealts needed some more.
And so I did a bit of a specialization routine you could say, where you do a lot of volume for an individual muscle group, and you usually have to bring volume down elsewhere to compensate for the additional work that you’re putting into the muscle group. And there’s also a time factor. However, in the case of the lateral dealts, they’re very small muscle group, and they repair and recover quickly from training, and they don’t cause much in the way of peripheral fatigue.
So you. Really usually have to change much. You can just add some side raise volume essentially to whatever you’re doing. Whereas if you wanted to do a lower body specialization routine, let’s say it’s just legs period, or even quads for example. You wanted to focus on your quads for a training block.
To do that, you are going to have to bring volume down elsewhere. There’s gonna be the time factor, but then there’s also the difficulty factor. For example, if you are now squatting several times per week and doing additional quad work, of course you’re gonna be doing some hamstring work as well. But if you are trying to really push, let’s say you’re an advanced weightlifter or at least an intermediate weightlifter, and you’re looking to do 20 hard sets for your quads per week, and you’re gonna do that for a couple of months, I would not recommend trying to do that for a long period.
But you’re gonna do that for a couple of months. And if you start thinking about programming wise, how you’re gonna get to 20 hard sets for your quads, and you can’t just do leg extensions, you’re gonna have to do squats and of course squat variations, and you’re gonna have to do lunges and you will do leg extensions.
But when you start looking at those workouts, You immediately see Oh, so I have three hard lower body workouts every week, and then I have to do everything else on top of that. That doesn’t work, anyway, back to shoulders. Some people say that if you are doing a lot of bench pressing, you don’t have to bother with your overhead pressing or your dumbbell.
Shoulder pressing or your military pressing, and I would mostly disagree. I would say for most people it makes sense to do both and they will progress faster in terms of whole body strength and muscularity. If they do both the bench press and in not just the barbell, it could be a dumbbell variation, but if they are bench pressing, And overhead pressing.
And that brings us to the legs, the biggest major muscle group in our body. And we have several muscles that make up our legs. We have the quadriceps, we have the hamstrings, and we have the glutes. So the quads are four quad large muscles on the front of the legs. You have the vast laterals, you have the vast.
Meteors, the VA intermed and the Recist Femes. And these muscles work together to extend the knees and to flex the hips. And flexion is the reduction of an angle at a joint or between two body parts. So when you sit down in a chair, and especially if you hunch over, you are flexing the hips. And if you were to stand up, you are extending.
Now my favorite exercises for emphasizing the quads for getting big and strong quads are the barbell back squat, the barbell front squat, the dumbbell lunge, leg press, and Bulgarian split squad. Of course, there are many other exercises you can do, and that is true for every major mouse group we have discussed.
Thus far, but I’m just sharing with you the ones that I would say are the 20% that will give you 80%, that the ones that are going to give you the most bang for your buck, that for every set that you do, you are gonna get the best results. So long as you are also programming your training properly. And if you are surprised to hear that the back squat and maybe the front squat, but particularly the back squat is on the list.
Quads exercises. That’s because the squat is primarily a quadriceps exercise. It is not primarily a hamstring exercise. Of course, the hamstrings are involved but not nearly as much as the quads. And so if all you did. Was squat, for example. You are going to get great quads, but your hamstrings are probably going to become a weak point.
They’re gonna become a muscle imbalance, something that you might see in the mirror, and something that also could impair your performance or even increase your risk of injury. So it’s important to squat, but also to do some exercise. For the hamstrings. Now let’s talk about the hamstrings. Now, this is a group of three muscles.
On the back of the leg, you have the biceps, femoral, you have the semi tendonosis and the semi osis, and together these muscles work to flex the knee. So if you have your leg straight out in front of you and then you bring your heel toward the ground, that’s. Hamstrings working to flex that need to make that angle smaller and to maximally and optimally develop your hamstrings.
You want to focus on several exercises, the barbell deadlift. Then you have the sumo deadlift in there as well. The Romanian. Deadlift, the hamstring curl machine. I really prefer the lying curl machine. I find it a lot more comfortable, but the seated hamstring curls just fine. So if you prefer that, you could do that, or you could alternate between them again every month or two, switch from the lying to the seated because it may stimulate your hamstrings in a slightly different way.
Or if nothing else, it just adds some variation to your training. Which can be nice and now that I think of it regarding lying versus seated, what I’ve experienced is lying hamstring curl machines have always felt pretty good to me, whereas the seated machines have been hit or miss, sometimes they have felt fine and sometimes they’ve just felt awkward.
No matter how many different adjustments that I. Made. So I do default to the lying machine because again, I’ve yet to find a lying hamstring curl machine that feels off. Anyway, so we have a few more exercises here. We have the barbell Good morning, fantastic hamstring exercise, also back exercise, and we have the glute.
Ham raise machine. Now, similar to what I told you about deadlifting and back development. If you get strong on a big squat movement like a barbell back squat or a barbell front squat, you are going to get big legs. Now it doesn’t. Mean that is all that you should do or all you need to do to get the overall leg development you want, but a large percentage of your potential muscularity in your legs.
And by the way, when I say bigger legs, for women listening who don’t want bigger legs per se, just think developed. Anyway, the majority. Of the leg muscle that you can gain is going to be attainable with just a barbell back squat or a barbell front squat, again, gets strong on either of those movements and you will have well developed legs.
That said, it does make sense to do other exercises for two reasons. One is, The amount of volume it’s going to take to reach your potential, your genetic potential for lower body strength and muscularity is probably gonna be anywhere from 15 to maybe 20 hard sets per week. 15 though is probably enough for most people.
Some people might be able to get there with just 12 hard sets for their legs per. And if all you did for all of those 15 sets were the barbell back squat or the barbell front squat, or maybe you alternated, it’s gonna be very hard, if not impossible to get in enough volume for the other major muscle groups because of time and because of how beat up you’re gonna feel from all of the squatting.
Try to do that, for example, and three or four hard sets of deadlifting per week. Just try that and then try to do the bench pressing and the overhead pressing and everything else it is. Viable for most people, and as I mentioned earlier as the squat is primarily a quadriceps exercise. You can do all the squatting you want and you will get big legs, particularly big quads.
And the quads are a much bigger muscle group than the hamstrings. So your legs are gonna look very worked out, very defined, but you will probably have underwhelming, imbalanced. Hamstrings and so it makes the most sense to me to focus on getting strong on a squat movement, Barb, back squat, barbell front squat.
Do plenty of that to make sure that you’re doing that every week at least once per week. And then to use other exercises to increase volume in the quads and in the hamstrings. Without all of the added peripheral fatigue that comes with the big squat movements. For example, a leg press is great for adding volume to your quadriceps in particular, and it is not nearly as taxing as a barbell back squat, right?
Because the barbell back squat is a whole body exercise. Really, it involves just about every major muscle group, whereas the leg press allows you to really just focus in on. Legs and then for your hamstrings. I like to target them. I like to give them some direct volume every week just to ensure they don’t fall behind in development.
And anywhere from probably three to six hard sets per week specifically for the hamstrings should be enough. And my go-to is the lying hamstring curl. I don’t make it more complicated than it needs to. Okay, now we have the gluteus muscles, the glutes, your butt, and there are three primary muscles here that form your butt.
We have the gluteus maximus, the gluteus minimus, and the gluteus medias. And together these muscles play a key role in stabilizing your body during all kinds of movement. And they also help generate force in exercises like the squat and the deadlift, and that’s why. You probably don’t have to do additional training for your glutes if you are training your lower body correctly.
But many people, and in my experience, this is more often the case with women than men are training their lower body correctly. They are getting in enough volume, they’re doing the. Plenty of squatting as well as other exercises, and they are not happy with their glute development. And of course then they can directly target their glutes with some extra volume, similar to what I was talking about in the case of shoulders where you’re doing your overhead pressing, but then you’re supplementing with some side raises and some rear raises so you can do the same thing.
I think it is generally a mistake. To do more glute volume than, let’s say, quadriceps volume or hamstring volume, unless that is a glute specialization routine, unless it is being done deliberately and it is being done by someone who probably already has a high level of development in their quads, in their hamstrings, and they really just.
Help bring their glutes up. So for a training block, they might do a lot of glute specific exercises and not so much squatting or other exercises they would normally do. They might bring that down to a bare minimum amount of volume to just maintain their quads, maintain their hamstrings, maintain their strengths so they can really hammer their glutes.
However, I have seen on social media in particular, many. Women usually doing a lot of glute work who really have not built their base yet. They haven’t built their foundation of muscle and strength in their lower body with proper squatting and the other exercises I just told you about. And so that’s something to keep in mind if you are.
Unsure as to whether you should be directly training your glutes. Now, as for directly training your glutes, the best single exercise you can do would be a barbell hip thrust or a hip thrust movement. If you are not strong enough to use the barbell, you could start with a glute bridge, for example.
And there are different variations of glute bridges you can do to make them a bit harder, but you can work up to. Barbell hip thrust or a machine version of the hip thrust, and similar to the calves, which we will talk about, and the hamstrings and the lateral deltas and the rear deltas. You don’t need seven different glute exercises really, because we’re just targeting this one muscle group and we want an exercise that we can use.
Effective loads with, and that we can increase the loads over time so we can progressively overload our glutes and the hip thrust is a great exercise for that. That said, other great glute exercises are the barbell deadlift, the sumo deadlift, the Romanian deadlift, the glute ham raised machine, the dumbbell lunge, and the barbell squat, which again is why I will repeat myself and say that most people I’ve worked with over the years.
Who are doing plenty of those exercises, don’t feel the need to do additional glute work. Maybe they do a little bit here and there, or they do it for one training block, they add in some hip thrusts just to see how their body responds. But it is rare. I’ve yet to come across someone, I’ll put it this way.
I have yet to come across someone. Who is strong on the deadlift, whichever variation they’re doing is strong on the Romanian Deadlift is strong on the barbell squat. Who doesn’t have great glutes? Now if you want extra large glutes maybe. Maybe you’ll need to get strong on those exercises. And get strong on the hip thrust.
But that is the exception, not the rule. And so that’s good news, particularly for women, again, who are generally more interested in glute development than men. If you just train your lower body correctly and get strong on the. The big exercises, the best exercises I’ve shared with you for your quads and your hamstrings.
Chances are when you start to notice that your legs are really coming together, your butt will also really start to be taking shape and looking the way you want it to look. Okay. That leaves us with the. Calves. I saved those for last of course, because they’re bastard. The calves are made of two muscles.
You have the gas rockus and you have the solis. And together these muscles work to manipulate the foot and the ankle joint. And they’re also involved in knee flex. And there aren’t too many worthwhile calf exercises you can do in terms of different variations and so forth. But my favorites are the standing cal phrase machine, the standing barb.
Cal phrase, the seated cal phrase machine, the donkey cal phrase machine, and the single leg body weight Cal phrase. And I mostly do the, Oh, I should add the leg press cal phrase too, just because I like it is easy to set up and I feel like you can really isolate your calves. And so I mostly do standing.
Calf raises, seated cal phrases and leg press calf raises, and yes, I do six to nine or even 12 sets hard sets per week for my calves. Despite what you might think, looking at my calves, and I can rightfully blame my genetics for my small calves because genes do play a big role in this case, my dad, for example, has literally no calf muscles.
He has a knee that kind of just turns into an ankle, and I’m exaggerating a little. But that’s more accurate than inaccurate. And other people, for example, and we all know these people will have huge calves despite never having trained them once. Now often these people were once overweight and so their calves did get a lot of volume and load for a long time.
But still, I knew a guy, his name. Adam and he read my book Bigger Than Stronger some time ago, and got into the program and went from overweight to in Great Shape, and his calves were so big and defined almost every time he stepped in the gym, almost every session, he would have at least one guy come up to him and.
Either just acknowledge his calves or ask him, How did you do that? How did you get those calves? And of course, he had the best answer, the trollies answer, which is that he doesn’t really know. He’s always just had them. He has not done a single cal phrase ever. And that, of course, was not what the guys wanted to hear, but it was the.
Asians also tend to have bigger than average calves it seems. I don’t know why. Genetics again. Now, as for whether you should or shouldn’t directly train your calves, it really just is up to you. If you are happy with your calf development, don’t bother with it because of course they’re getting trained with your squatting, like all of your lower body work really, and you’re deadlift as well.
And that is plenty to maintain your calf muscle and to maintain calf strength. But if your calves are. Small like mine, or if you would just like more calf size really. I don’t know anybody who cares really about their one RM on their leg. Press cal phrases, that’s really just size, right? If you want more calf mass, then do some calf training.
Do. 6, 9, 12 hard sets per week for your calves. And an easy way to get that done is to essentially super set your calf training with something else. And the way I like to do that is do an exercise of literally anything, doesn’t matter. Rest about a minute, then go do a set of calves and then rest about a minute.
Go back to the first exercise, rinse and repeat. That way you should see no. Decrease in performance on the primary exercise that you’re working on, and it doesn’t add much time to your workouts. Okay, so one other muscle group I should mention is the core. The core muscles, particularly the erectus, adom, the ab muscles, because many people want great abs.
And the good news here is so long as you are training your other major muscle groups, and particularly your chest and your back and your legs, so long as you’re doing your big heavy compound exercises, your core muscles should. Just take care of themselves. You should see a market improvement in your core definition, and particularly in the development of your erectus adom.
If you just do a lot of the exercises I’ve been telling you about, and of course, you have to get your body fat down to the right percentage or the right level to fully see your abs. So for guys, they really start to become prominent around 10% body fat, and for gals around 20% body fat. And as you get leaner, they just become more and more.
Sharp and defined. And as far as core exercises go, I used to be a bigger proponent of these exercises than I am now. There’s nothing wrong with doing them. They may be able to speed up your core development slightly, particularly the development of your erectus abdominus. So it’s okay if you want to do them.
Something like a cable crunch. I used to do a lot of cable crunches and leg raises. I used to do a lot of leg raises and planks are fine, and air bicycles are fine. But at this point, my position. Most people don’t need to do them if they’re willing to just be patient and work on getting strong on the big compound exercises.
By the time they are happy with their squat and their bench press and overhead press and deadlift and happy with the overall development of the major muscle groups that those exercises primarily trained, they’re almost certainly going to be happy with their core muscles so long as they’re lean enough.
That said, I would say this has been the case more with guys than women. There are people out there who seem to have relatively underdeveloped recist ado muscles in particular, so abs, and so there are probably people out there who could benefit from some direct ab work in addition to everything else.
But most people will get to great abs one way or another. Maybe they’ll get there a little bit faster if they include some core training in their programming. All right, so that’s all of the major muscle groups and a lot of advice on how to train them most effectively. And this podcast is longer than I was anticipating.
I don’t want to go on for too long, but I should comment on workout splits and as I mentioned, Earlier in the podcast in the beginning, there are many different ways to make these exercises work. There are many different splits you can use. One is not clearly better than another for all people, and for all circumstances.
So you should really. Inform yourself about the main most popular workout splits that have stood the test of time. And you might wanna try each one and just see which you like the most and which you seem to do the best with in terms of workout performance. So again, you have the body part split.
You have the upper lower split. You have the push pull legs or push legs pull, split push legs. Pull is just a variant of push pull legs, and you have full body. And if I were to go into each of them here, this would probably turn into a three hour. Like a Joe Rogan podcast monologue version. So instead what I will do is I will send you over to legion athletics.com, my website, and you can search for each of those, actually just search for workout splits, and you will find a long article that goes over all of these different splits and explains their pros and cons, and it will help you understand.
Which is probably going to suit you best. And again, you may just wanna try all of them because if you are an intermediate weightlifter, for example, you have a lot of flexibility. You have even more flexibility than an advanced weightlifter or a beginner. And in the article over at Legion Athletics dot, Calm.
You will learn why. And while that’s everything that I wanted to share with you on this podcast, I hope you liked it. I hope it helps you get more out of your training and definitely keep an eye on the muscle for life Feed be. Cause next week I have a podcast coming on habits. How to build good ones, how to break bad ones.
I have one coming for women regarding how to eat and train during your menstrual cycle. I have an interview with Pat Flynn on religion as well as another says you. Podcast where I address things that people disagree with me on. Always like those. And I’m actually gonna be doing one of those every other week now, and then I’m going to be alternating with Q and as every other week because q and As and says, you episodes generally do the best in terms of plays and feedback.
So has the market has spoken, I must supply what it demands more q and a and more says you episodes. All right. That’s it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting and helpful. And if you did and you don’t mind doing me a favor, please do leave a quick review on iTunes or wherever you’re listening to me from in whichever app you’re listening to me in.
Because that not only convinces people that they should check out the show, it also increases search. Ability. And thus it helps more people find their way to me and learn how to get fitter, leaner, stronger, healthier, and happier as well. And of course, if you want to be notified when the next episode goes live, then simply subscribe to the podcast and you won’t miss out on any new stuff.
And if you didn’t like something about the show, please do shoot me an email at mike muscle for life.com. Just muscle r life.com and share your. On how I can do this better. I read everything myself, and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. Even if it is criticism, I’m open to it, and of course you can email me if you have positive feedback as well, or if you have questions really relating to anything that you think I could help you.
Definitely send me an email that is the best way to get ahold of me, Mike, at multiple life.com. And that’s it. Thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.
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