When it comes to training for competition, the art of styling the muscle is somewhat of a love affair, and like all good love affairs, it has its highs and lows.
There’s the high of measuring your chest and seeing the numbers increase. Then there’s the low of realizing your quadriceps are stronger than your hamstrings, or your right bicep is larger than your left.
Knowing where your imbalances lie is essential to capturing that one critical element that will make the difference between first and second place: symmetry.
Not everyone is built the same way and this is the challenge of competing and building the perfect physique. If you’re genetically gifted with perfect symmetry, you’ll have a much easier time in your training, but even the most genetically blessed have muscle imbalances.
Almost everybody has one side more dominant than the other and this will affect how the muscle looks and performs. When you’re lifting weight, particularly in bilateral movements, your dominant side will take over and the weaker side will sit back and not work as hard, resulting in size and strength imbalances.
The trick to overcome this is to take a 2:1 approach to your lifting. This requires swapping out your bilateral lifts for unilateral lifts, and adding an extra set to your weaker side for each exercise. Just be careful not to overtrain your weaker side and make sure it gets sufficient time to recover and repair.
Here are some examples of bilateral exercises that can easily be adapted to unilateral movements:
- Bench press = one-arm dumbbell press
- Barbell row = one-arm dumbbell row
- Military press = one-arm dumbbell military press
- Barbell curl = one-arm dumbbell curl
- Deadlift = single-leg deadlift
- Squat = single-leg press or a split lunge
Muscle imbalances are just one area that may hold you back from winning; the other is proportion. I’m talking about the highly revered V-taper. If you have a thick waist, you can create the optical illusion of a V-taper by building out your shoulders and the best way to do that is to incorporate your shoulder training with your leg training.
Training the large muscles of the legs produces the greatest amount of growth hormone in your body. With elevated levels of growth hormone comes a higher potential to build some serious muscle, creating the ideal environment to build up your shoulders. Make use of supersets, working your legs, then swiftly moving into a shoulder exercise to keep your heart elevated and your fat-burning potential at its peak. This will also help to lean out your midsection. The reduction in rest time between exercises further stimulates the production of growth hormone and will help fatigue the muscles, resulting is the greatest amount of hypertrophy.
Of course, you can’t have a V-taper without fully developed lats and that means lots of chin-ups and pulldowns in all their variations. Working your back on days when you have the most energy will help push you harder towards your goal and achieve the look you desire for the stage.
Creating the perfect symmetry and styling the muscle requires an acute attention to detail. We follow the same protocol here at Fitmark when we design our bags, because we know how hard you train and how much you respect perfection.
Mark A. Samuel
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