Today’s blog post comes from my good friend and personal coach, Ryan Faehnle. Ryan earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science while serving in the U.S. Air Force. After college, he became an NCAA Division I strength and conditioning coach at Miami University, where he helped athletes from 20 different sports (from football to ice skating to powerlifting) achieve their physical goals. His abilities were acknowledged from the highest level when famed Olympic strength coach Charles Poliquin welcomed Ryan to his staff.
Coach Ryan has lectured internationally on training athletes, fat loss, hypertrophy, nutrition, energy systems, and supplementation. Ryan has been running a private consulting business for 5 years and has coached both athletes and coaches in the professional ranks and the Olympic Games. I believe in Ryan so much that he’s been single-handedly designing my training and nutrition programs for the last two years!
Without further ado, allow me to hand the reigns over to Ryan.
P.S. The content from this post is taken from a coaching call Ryan and I just recorded. The call is 45 minutes long and goes into more depth on each of the topics below. You can listen to the call here.
Thanks Vince! I’ve got some really solid info that I’m excited to share, so let’s dive right into the top 6 body part specialization mistakes.
1. Not training strength
You must train your brain for maximal gains! If you are not activating your central nervous system (CNS) to a great degree, you are missing out on proper development of weak body parts. Keep in mind, fast twitch fibers are the largest and have the greatest potential for growth. If you’re not training for strength, you’re not training your fast twitch fibers optimally and you’re leaving a lot of growth on the gym floor.
Strength work potentiates hypertrophy. In other words, the stronger you are, the more potential you have to build muscle. For example, someone who benches 500 pounds (with proper technique) has greater POTENTIAL to build large pecs than someone who bench presses 300 pounds.
Finally, some research is demonstrating that, when volume is equated, strength work is every bit as effective for hypertrophy as drop sets, high rep sets, etc. Simply put, strength training can build muscle directly, in addition to increasing the potential for hypertrophy. Don’t neglect it!
2. Not taking a deload
A deload is a period of time (typically a week) during which you reduce training stress, either by taking complete rest or reducing the volume and/or intensity of your workouts. Knowing that we grow when we REST, not when we train, it’s obviously critical to manage recovery wisely.
When the time between training sessions (i.e., off days) is no longer enough to promote adequate recovery, we utilize deloads to ensure we continue to make progress towards our goals and minimize the risk of overuse injuries.
Research has demonstrated that even when eating over 3 grams of carbs per pound of body weight, after a certain period of time, ONLY rest in addition to the carbs will fully replenish glycogen. This means that people who are slamming carbs all the time and still looking flat might simply need to take a deload.
Glycogen replenishment aside, you need to heal tissue damage. Specialization programs are BRUTAL and creates lots of micro-tears in muscles, tendons, and joint tissue. Many times the period between training sessions is not enough to heal these tears completely. If we don’t deload, these micro-tears can turn into macro-tears (injuries)!
This is probably the biggest problem I see when people specialize. Look, the body has limited recovery resources. If you want a weak or lagging body part to grow, all other body parts need to be on maintenance—2 sets per week tops!
And don’t even bother to ask me if you can do cardio or add some ab work—I think you know what my answer will be!
4. Trying to cut while specializing
This is similar to number 3. You can’t do everything at once. Honestly, the idea of cutting weight while specializing boggles my mind: it’s hard enough to build muscle as it is, and now you want to build muscle on one of your weakest body parts while in a caloric deficit? Nonsense!
You can get away with this if you’re a contest bodybuilder shooting insulin before workouts, blasting growth hormone all day and loading up on anabolics—if not, forget about it!
You need FUEL to build new tissue; you need to be in an anabolic state as much as possible. If you’re not gaining at least 1% of your body weight per week on the scale, you’re wasting your time with a specialization program. (Yes, there will be fat gain too, but you need to give your body the best chance at success by supplying more than enough calories.)
5. Not disrupting homeostasis enough
Homeostasis refers to a state of balance; basically, “same old, same old.” You need to cause a disruption in this balance in order to create a training effect. Not surprisingly, the larger the effect you desire, the more disruption you need.
As such, if you want to make a weak body part grow, you have to do something vastly different than what you’re currently doing. Moving your weak body parts to the beginning of the week and/or the beginning of your workouts just isn’t going to cut it for a successful specialization.
I should be able to look at your workout plan for the month and have no shadow of a doubt in my mind EXACTLY what you are trying to do. Sadly, all I generally see when people ask me to review their specialization workouts is a “normal” training routine with maybe 1 or 2 more exercises for the given body part and no other adjustments.
6. Not being able to properly contract the underdeveloped muscle
Before we discuss this point, let me first say that I believe, in most circumstances, you do not have to micromanage your muscle contraction. In other words, if you are using proper technique on the right exercises, then the proper muscles will be activated and you can focus on getting stronger across a wide variety of rep ranges and program designs.
However, in the case of a very weak or non-responding body part, re-education is often needed. What causes muscles to be weak?
- poor range of motion—due to muscular, joint capsule, or CNS restrictions
- ischemic (without oxygen) pressure—for example, “sitting on your ass” restricts blood flow to glutes which restricts blood supply to nerves
- short, tight, or hypertonic antagonist muscles—for example, the biceps might not contract like they should if the triceps are tight
- poor innervation—lack of nerve supply or nerve tissue
- disc compression—this one requires the help of a physician
In my next post, I’ll share some of the strategies I use to activate weak body parts!
Leave your comments and questions below!
If you’re serious about developing your weak or lagging body parts, you need to check out our Vanity Specialization System. Vince and I put these 9 body part specialization programs together for you guys and they’re epic.
Are you ready to focus your body’s mass-building efforts into a single muscle group and finally get the tools to blow up ANY lagging body part, literally FORCING it to grow? Then the Vanity Specialization System is your next logical step!
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