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  • Basic strategies for a local muscle building

    author Puma

    Learn how to exploit your weakness to achieve great gains.

    In past I wrote many articles dedicated solely to the subject of packing meat all around the body. Now is a time to learn about something more localized. Why? It is very simple. You do your medical/postural examination, then your rehab and bang – you start to grow but… But there is always a “but”. If things would be always so simple, there would be no need for writing articles.
    It is possible and quite often [for intermediates and above] that your lagging body part will still be lagging. Not lagging in the terms of “warning, injury ahead”, not lagging in the terms of “you got no meat there” but rather in terms “your XYZ is visually the least developed muscle, it is big but still its size is destroying symmetry”.

    So our goal is to develop very stubborn body part which is growing but damn suboptimal or/and is creating pathetic shape [multi-head wise]. If your body part is NOT GROWING – this article is NOT for you. Read the basics first – especially our articles about technic, periodization and posture. Your answers are there.

    You need your own individual solution. How to create solution? It is very simple, yet many people forget about this very basic process. Analyze previous attempts, specify the problem, establish the goal and THEN create solution which is in pair with your body and goal. Anything other is only a lottery. In a lottery 50 million people are losing and only one is a winner. Not the brightest idea for treating your own body, right?

    Let us look at the problem from a time point of view. When and why problem might occur?

    Level 0 – Basic lifts training / no special day

    At this stage you are training 3-4 times a week. Nothing special, pure compound lifts. Whole body is growing, strength is sky rocketing, beginner is happy. You will spend 10-25 weeks at this stage. No need to add anything. Isometric or isotonic stimulus – no matter – every muscle is growing.

    Level 1 – Basic lifts + heavy support training / no special day

    At this stage the lifter reached his basic peak strength attack. The simplest solution burned off. You know that you can, you know what is your goal and you know why you suck in a particular lifts. By the need you add heavy support exercises to target your weak spots. What does it mean? Most often you add different stimulus. Dynamic stabilizers receives heavy isolation work, medium-time stabilizers receives long term stabilization exercise etc.
    From a local mass point of view things can go in two ways. Either muscle is still growing at a decent rate or a growth is a little bit smaller than other body parts.
    If you are a competitive lifter disrespecting bodybuilding – your adventure with localized building of weak body part [size weak, not strength weak] ends here. Of course, from yearly perspective, even the most stubborn body parts will still be growing but it will be not optimal from “visual” perspective. If you want something more from life, you hop to level 2.

    Level 2 – Basic lifts + heavy support + muscle support training / some space in a big lift day

    You are placing additional exercise to your routine. This time dedicated solely to the local mass building. For some it’s a win-win combination for life. But for others it is a solution for 6-50 weeks. After that lagging hits again.

    Level 3 – Muscle building training /significant space

    Muscle building training is a good solution. Whole session dedicated only to adding meat to your frame. Especially to places barely scratched by main lifts. Most commonly you group muscles by lifts-usage, pushing/pulling or by localization. No solution is the best one. In fact – every is a little bit incomplete. Lift-usage grouping might waste energy needed to perform last exercises in routine. Push-pull grouping treat that every muscle is only pull or only push muscle, which is not true. Localization grouping treat muscle as a “solitary-man” forgetting about chains and compound stuff, which might lead to great overlap. Just pick your poison and do not abuse it. Remember – P E R I O D I Z A T I O N .

    Level 4 – Muscle building training / Dominating place

    This time you simply give your size lagging muscle more space. For example three exercises out of five. A thought in your head is shyly born – “I might be doing something wrong”.

    Level 5 – Specialization training / single session

    You want it, you got it. Whole day dedicated to one muscle. If your competition rat – it might be good approach in the terms of optimization. If you are not – something might be VERY WRONG here.

    Level 6 – Specialization day / 2 sessions a day and...
    ...Level 7 – Specialization day / 3 sessions a day

    Still – ten weeks prior to Olympia it might be great idea – but for others it might be a clear sign that “YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG”.

    That was plain and simple. But it did not give us exact view at the routine. Let us look at the order of battle.

    Order of battle in a strength camp

    Level 0 – Basic lift
    Level 1 – Basic lift + heavy support
    Level 2 – Basic lift + heavy support + muscle support exercise
    Level 3 – Basic lift + heavy support + 2 x muscle support exercise
    Level 4 – Nightmare begins - Bye bye biceps, welcome strength gains only for life?

    Order of battle in a bodybuilding camp

    Level 0 - Muscle emphasis compound
    Level 1 – MEC + Isolation
    Level 2 – MEC + Isolation + Isolation
    Level 3 – MEC + Isolation + MEC + Isolation
    Level 3 – Nightmare begins – Bye bye biceps, welcome genetics limitation?

    For both question – no. You simply did it wrong. Just adding exercises is not a guarantee for a constant growth. In fact it is only a true at the very beginning of your career. At some point you reach a point where more is worse, causing muscle loss. Again – do not treat it like a final verdict cause periodization might lead you to phases when you do insane amount of work while achieving gains. Just keep in mind that there is always a fluctuating line where more is worse.

    So, what to do to not get stuck? In term of classifying exercises as: main lift, support list, structural-mass lift, isolation, prehab – nothing. You drank every last drop form that bottle. Time to learn something new.

    Lesson one – your musculature is your body state. It is not a constant. It is not given for life. If you stop training your muscle will atrophy in time. If you pound them more, they will grow in terms of hypertrophy and hyperplasia. Your physique is only your current body state. There is a constant change. The global direction is giving a final result. That means that for example – “not growing biceps” is the biceps that is trained->destroyed->rebuilt similar to the entry state. That means – your solution helps you not to lose a local mass, but it is insufficient in building additional growth.

    Lesson two – your muscle is pointed in one of two directions. One maximum is over stretch, second is over shortening. Both maximums are out of balance. Beginners got to deal with them. That’s why we order MNBBC.COM readers to do postural examination. You can’t bypass the problem. You must cure it or over stretched muscle will always be pathetic weak and painful, and over shortened muscle will always be too strong and too small. Keep in mind – action equals reaction. If agonist and antagonist are out of balance – you will injury yourself and look like Quasimodo. Theoretically you want to be around zero point. Practically – there is NO zero point. It is a virtual line. Sometimes you are over it, sometimes below it. “Plateu” or “lag” is a result of forcing to stick too long at one side [additionally creating yours new path to injury]. Beginners with postural problems must stick to one side [while coopering with a therapist]. Intermediates and advanced adepts must manage their ratio on a phase-to-phase basis. Both your health and progress are at stake. That’s why most “uber homeostasis theories” are worth crap. Training is a very strong stimulus [heck – it alters your body state – it is a real nuke!]. If you want homeostasis – you must work for it. It will not last forever if you will be forcing your muscles to one direction all the time. Adaptation is the strongest process that is driving our body. Your job is to keep adaptation in pair with neutrality via training. Diversity of stimulus via periodization while keeping a balance. Stick with this – no lags guaranteed. Sadly, most people forget about this. That’s why I always remind that big Natural is intelligent Natural. Just read it again – simple talk about muscle building supported by Darvin and “Panta Rei”.

    Lesson three – every exercise got own preferred muscle starting state, execution direction and finishing state. That means that even the best all-arounder might give you nothing if it is misplaced in your training. Stretched muscle will respond better to shortening exercise. Shortened muscle will respond better to stretching exercise. Shortened muscle after stretching exercise will be in prolonged state. If it is still not above the line – pound in again with stretching exercise. Over the line – now pound it with shortening exercise.
    Just keep in mind that we are working here in more abstract terms. Acute state not a constant state.
    Person with a muscle totally out of balance must perform rehabilitation to avoid enhancing bad posture [for example stretching overstretched muscle].
    Person after rehabilitation due to skeletal issues often must stick to domination ratio 2:1, 3:1 etc. I’m still talking about ONE muscle. Do not mismatch it with push/pulling ratios.

    In order to create the best training composition you must properly place exercise in the best order according to
    -Your body tendency [posture and lifestyle]
    -Periodization tendency [phase result wise]
    -Training rhythm [exercise order]
    …at once!

    That’s it for a theory. Now is a time to learn practical adaptations – brutal local mass building strategies.

    Stretcher exercise – exercise that by anatomical position is enforcing uber muscle stretch in an eccentric phase, rendering small muscle pump

    Pumper exercise – exercise that by anatomical position is creating strongest resistance force in the peak of concentric phase, rendering great muscle pump

    Static stretching – stretching performed after strength phase of a training

    MEC – muscle emphasis compound – compound exercise with changed body position that always result in a targeted muscle being weakest link of the exercise, rendering it to extra growth

    CT MEC – constant tension MEC – compound exercise with shortened ROM and/or altered body position resulting in a constant tension targeted at the muscle on all phases.

    For example:

    Muscle / Stretcher / Pumper / MEC
    Biceps / Incline DB curl / Decline DB curl / No retraction chin-up
    Triceps / Bent-arms barbell pullover / Rope extensions / Close grip bench press
    Pecs / DB Fly/ Cable fly / wide dips /
    Quads / Sitting extensions / Lying extensions / narrow front squat
    Calves / Donkey raises / Standing raises on the ground / High jumps
    Hamstrings / Lying curls/ Sitting curls / RDL
    Lats / Deadhangs vertical pulls / Puma everse vertical row [ ] / Pull-up with retraction

    Remember – there are thousands of exercises out there. Do not do something because it is listed above. We are all different. Choose exercises that suit your body best.

    Behold – Eight Brutal Strategies

    Strategy 1 – Stretcher > MEC -> Pumper -> static stretching

    This one is quite simple. It is best for people with tendencies to shortening the specific muscle. Start your routine with some great stretcher. Do your long ramp here. After that do your preferred muscle compound [not a heavy strength lift!], in that order you will feel it better. Finish with a high rep [4-8 reps more than stretcher] pumper. After that – do your static stretching or do not [if it is counterproductive to your body posture]. Remember – first static stretching of trained muscle than static stretching of a whole chain.

    Strategy 2 – Pumper-> MEC -> Stretcher -> static stretching

    It is a mirror to strategy to strategy one. It is best for people with tendencies to over stretching the specific muscle. Start with a pumper. But this time do a few sets with medium weights. After that do your muscle compound [again, no place for strength lift], you will feel it much better than normal. Finish with a high rep and longer TUT stretcher. After that static stretching [good posture] or simply finish [if it is counterproductive to your body posture].

    Strategy 3 – Stretcher -> CT MEC -> Pumper -> static stretching

    That one is more advanced. Best done after exploiting strategies 1 and 2. Do not hop here out of a blue. Simply change your MEC to a constant tension MEC. For people with tendencies of shortening – pick “deadstart” exercises, for people with the tendencies of overstretching – pick exercises with the strongest resistance at the top of the rep.

    Strategy 4 – Pumper -> CT MEC -> Stretch ->static stretching

    It is a mirror strategy to strategy three. Same rules apply.

    Strategy 5 – Heavy lift -> Stretcher -> CT MEC -> Pumper -> static stretching

    That is a strategy suited for a strength enthusiast as well as for a bodybuilder during periodization menace. Start a training with very basic heavy whole body lift – typical strength attack. Then stretcher, CT MEC and pumper. After that stretching and you are done. Keep in mind – heavy lift is a squat, deadlift, press etc. not a MEC. Choose heavy lift where your desired body part is working!

    Strategy 6 – Pumper -> CT MEC -> Stretcher -> Heavy exercise -> static stretching

    That strategy is mostly for bodybuilder or for a strength enthusiast during a very specific and rare lift correction phase. Start with pumper, MEC, stretcher, than do a Heavy exercise. Just remember – you are after three local targeted exercises. Targeted body part will always be a weakest list – which will result in great stimulus by the cost of a great temporal strength loss. Remember – manipulating with a “root” just before performing strength lift will change fiber recruitment and muscle firing order on all muscle involved in a lift. Do not expect do beat your PR here. Expect minimum 35% strength loss [if you are lucky]. Try to charge – injury guaranteed.

    Strategy 7 – Heavy lift -> Support exercise-> bodybuilding strategy

    Something for a strength enthusiast as well as a bodybuilder on rare occasions during “periodization adventures”. Do a heavy lift, than a support exercise for that lift, than add strategy 1-4. Keep in mind that your lagging body part must be involved in a heavy lift and its support. Otherwise – training got nothing to do with any advanced strategy.

    Strategy 8 – Pump -> CT MEC -> Stretcher -> Heavy exercise -> Finisher -> static stretching

    That one is a real killer. You must work your way to it. Jumping on it out of the blue will give you minor results – you will be too overwhelmed by the volume.
    Start with a pumper, than do your constant tension MEC, then a stretcher. After that add lightly modified heavy exercise. My favorite for a biceps is chin-up hanging on fingers [remember about temporal strength loss, do not charge with ultra-heavy weights]. Then do a finisher. Exercise with a shortened ROM, different strength curve [band, chains, expander, explosiveness etc.] on a very high rep approach to over-burning failure. After that do your static stretching. It is the Holy Grail of basic strategies. Very demanding but producing great results.

    Big Picture

    These strategies works great if performed one by one. You can easily build few mesocycles around it. Just remember to change reps according to a mass periodization and your body preferences.

    Annual cycle for a lagging body part:

    Mesocycle 1
    Phase 1 – Strategy 1 / 3-5 weeks
    Phase 2 – Strategy 2 /3-5 weeks
    Phase 3 – Strategy 3 /3-5 weeks
    Deload /1 week

    Mesocycle 2
    Phase 1 – Strategy 4 / 3-5 weeks
    Phase 2 – Strategy 5 /3-5 weeks
    Phase 3 – Strategy 6 /3-5 weeks
    Deload /1 week

    Mesocycle 3
    Phase 1 – Strategy 7 /3-5 weeks
    Phase 2 – Strategy 8 / 3-5 weeks
    Deload/ 1 week

    44 weeks of a constant growth for desired muscle. Add bonus 10 weeks for goofing around for some training fun– and bang – whole year of progress.

    As you see, all we have done is an intelligent approach to an exercise order based on muscle reaction to a strength curves. Nothing fancy, no advanced methods. Only 3-5 exercises in the damn good anatomical order. And it works. Simple as that.

    But… there is always a “but”. What about multi approach for a very big muscle in the terms of many heads [think quads] or aspects [think lats]? What about trying to target number of muscles bigger than number of training days? What about sniper shooting the whole body?

    Here we are crossing the line. Anything more is for far more advanced meat packers. By more – I not necessarily mean adding more exercises. But that is a thing for another article.

    Image: creativedoxfoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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