Block Training for Lagging Body Parts

JC note: this is an article I wrote 2 years ago for a bodybuilding website that never got published. I found it randomly as I was going through old emails and figured I’d share it with you. It’s funny to see how my writing style has changed over the last few years. Also, this is 90% in its original form. I made a few edits to the training and added/removed links where needed.

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What is small, always goes unnoticed, often laughed at and something you are completely embarrassed about?  It’s your lagging body parts.

So you’ve been training a fair amount. You’re pretty strong and can be observed pushing respectable weight in the gymnasium 3-4 times per week. In fact, some are probably even jealous of your abilities, but there’s just this one tiny problem.

You’d like to fix it but haven’t quite discovered a way to go about it yet. You may even be neglecting the reality; subconsciously hoping it will resolve all by itself.

You’ve admitted that (insert body part here) is lagging behind everything else and you may’ve even taken action by training this body part first during your workouts but it seems a lost cause. Maybe you’ve even accepted that Mother Nature simply dealt you a bad hand.

Time to get new parents? Nope.

You see, even though we’re all fairly similar anatomically, our genetic predispositions are partly at fault for which muscles develop more so than others. The other factor in this aesthetically obsessed equation is our training, temperament and priorities.

When you darken the doorway of many iron-houses, despite the guys wo are lost, confused and getting no results, you’ll typically find a handful of folks who’ve been at it for many years. You know, the ones who have garnered very respectable physiques from their efforts.

Many will have one or two body parts treading water despite possessing a nice balance of both strength and power. Sure, they bench press twice their body weight for reps but their shoulders pale in comparison to their barrel chest and cotton-concealed pythons.

It’s also fairly common to find guys who purposely neglect leg work while vehemently punishing their upper body. What do you know? They’re jacked up top with flower stems for legs.

The commonality here is typical: body parts that receive the most attention are usually the most developed. It’s why some guys have great arms, shoulders and chest, but a puny back. They forget to work the muscle groups they can’t easily admire in their reflection.

Some athletes also fall victim to this detriment but it’s usually not due to vanity or purposeful neglect.  It’s sometimes a result of training that is heavily focused on producing a specific result.

I knew track athletes in high school who had great quads, hamstrings and glutes, but a smaller (not necessarily weaker) upper body. It was simple – most of their training stressors came from hammering the lower body more often than their upper body. The sheer volume of heavy squats, cleans and sprint work built a rock-solid lower portion.

So what can we do if a few body parts aren’t up to par? What if we’re somewhat self-conscious when our shoulders overpower our chest or our enormous quads swallow our hamstrings?

We must do something different and make some changes. We must specialize and make a focused effort to bring up said lagging body parts. A nice remedy for such an inconvenience is a little something called Block Training.

Image Creditpasukaru76

Block Training For A Bigger, Better (insert muscle group here)

Block training is simple. You dedicate a chunk of time to certain movements and body parts. During this period, the priority muscles are hit with more frequency and volume while other muscle movements are simply reduced to maintenance mode.

The specialization can last anywhere from 4-6 weeks depending on your goals and recovery ability.  After the initial block is over, it’s time to revisit normal training or to place focus on different body parts.  I’d never recommend going any longer than 6 weeks to avoid burnout and possible injury from the extra volume and frequency involved.

However, while block training is a fairly simple concept, many don’t understand how to implement such a strategy. When done correctly, one can make major improvements to their lagging muscle groups in relatively short time periods. One problem lies in the know-how part of this ideal.

Before we get into the concept, I’d like to illustrate a few points. Muscle growth is a result of a myriad of factors. A consistent stimulus with adequate rest days and sufficient nutrient intake are of utmost importance.  Once these variables are taken care of, we must look at the individuals training age, life stressors, recovery ability and aesthetic build.

As you should know by now, repair and growth occurs at rest, not when we’re under the bar. Thus, when designing your training program, it’s imperative to ensure your rest days are in line with your goals. If you aren’t resting, you obviously aren’t interested in muscle growth.

Therefore, in order for block training and specialization workouts to produce results, we must take advantage of the time we have to recover.  In other various strength and hypertrophy programs like LGN365, you’re hitting each body part in a similar fashion (similar volume and intensity); therefore your body distributes nutrients and recovery units to all muscle groups accordingly.

The goal for block training is to manipulate your body’s recovery ability and shuttle all that energy towards the muscles you wish to bring up. Maintaining muscle mass is pretty easy but creating growth, especially for the intermediate and advanced trainee, is often an arduous task as we close in on our genetic ceilings.

Image CreditOfficial U.S. Navy Imagery

Setting Up Your Training

Alright, when diving into your specialization training, it’s generally a good idea to pick only 2 muscle groups to focus on; 3 if they’re smaller (arms, shoulders and calves).  Training will be intense and resolute. For each muscle group, you’ll pick one movement to focus on. This will ensure consistency and make it very easy to track progression. There’s no need to make your training a complicated endeavor.

Sample 6 week block

Target Muscle Groups: Chest and Back

For the example training program, we’ll focus on the chest and back.  Warm-ups should be thorough, meaning plenty of dynamic movements and progressive loading to become familiar with the working weights.  If you’re unsure of what to do for your warm-ups, here’s a starting point:

Working Weight = 225lbs

WU Set 1: 110lbs (50% of 225) x 10 reps
WU Set 2: 165lbs (75% of 225) x 5 reps
WU Set 3: 190lbs (85% of 225) x 3 reps
Get into the work sets

Weeks 1 and 4 are the higher rep work, which can be both fun and painful at the same time. If you’ve never done anything more than 8 reps before, your first few days are going to be brutal. Don’t worry though; you will acclimate.

One fanciful aspect of this type of training is the glycogen depletion that occurs. Therefore your muscles will be primed for incoming nutrients.

But of course, the most important thing here is to focus on the muscle groups being worked – this will aid in your control of the weights (which keeps you safe from injury) as well as give you that mind-muscle connection we all long for. This is the secret to Ultimate Swollertrophy™

As a Key, you’ll see a Primary movement and Secondary movement.

The primary movement should be a compound, such as a bench press, squat, deadlift variation (preferably no high-rep conventional deads, please), row, or chins.

The secondary movement can be more isolation-focused, such as a chest flye, machine flye, rear delt raises, cable pull-through, hyperextension, tricep extension, etc.  You get the point.

Weeks 1 and 4
Monday
Primary Chest Movement: 4 sets x 8-10 reps
Secondary Chest Movement: 3 sets x 12-15 reps
Primary Back Movement: 4 sets x 8-10 reps
Secondary Back Movement: 3 sets x 12-15 reps

Tuesday
Off

Wednesday
Same as Monday

Thursday – Maintenance
Squat/Leg Press 2-3×5-8
RDL or leg curl 2-3×5-8
Calves 2-3×5-8
Arms 2-3×8-10
Shoulder Raises 1-2×8-10 (possibly omit these due to their involvement during chest training)

Saturday
Same as Monday and Tuesday

Notes: Pick a weight you can do for the given rep ranges without going to failure. The goal is to maintain or slightly increase the weight on the bar each specialization day. If you can make small increases, do it.  2.5-pound plates are your friends.

Rest periods: 2-2.5 minutes between each set. Super set each movement if you want more intensity, or are short on time.

During Weeks 2 and 5, we’ll be slightly increasing the working weights and preparing for the heavy work in your near future. Again, it’s important here to focus on the movement and the muscles being worked, primarily for safety reasons, as you’ll likely be experiencing some delayed-onset-muscle-soreness from your previous session.

Weeks 2 and 5
Monday
Primary Chest Movement: 4 sets x 6-8 reps
Primary Back Movement: 4 sets x 6-8 reps
Secondary body weight movements:
Push-ups: 2 sets of as many as possible (elevate the feet or use bands if you get more than 20 reps easily)
Chins or Body weight inverted rows: 2 sets of as many as possible (add weight to your lap if you get more than 20 reps easily)

Tuesday
Off

Wednesday
Same as Monday but omit the body weight work

Thursday – Maintenance
Squat/Leg Press 2-3×5-8
RDL or leg curl 2-3×5-8
Calves 2-3×5-8
Arms 2-3 x8-10
Shoulder Raises 1-2×8-10 (possibly omit these due to their involvement during chest training)

Saturday
Same as Monday

Notes: Pick a weight you can do for the given rep ranges without going to failure. The goal is to maintain or slightly increase the weight on the bar each specialization day. If you can make small increases, do it.  2.5-pound plates are your friends. (same as above description)

Rest periods: 2.5 minutes between each primary set. Super set the secondary movements with no rest until you’re finished with all sets.

During Weeks 3 and 6 the weights will be heavy.  By this point, you’ve been through the pump work and it’s now time to focus on strength. During this phase, we’ll be utilizing a method known as reverse pyramid training. The weights are heavy and the results are stupendous.

Weeks 3 and 6 (Reverse Pyramid Training)
Monday
Primary Chest Movement: 3 sets x 4-6 reps
Primary Back Movement: 3 sets x 4-6 reps
Secondary body weight movements:
Chest flye: 3 sets of as many reps as possible immediately after the Primary Chest Movement
Lat pulldowns: 3 set of as many as possible immediately after the Primary Back Movement

Tuesday
Off

Wednesday
Same as Monday but omit the body weight work

Thursday – Maintenance
Squat/Leg Press 2-3×5-8
Hamstring movement 2-3×5-8
Calves 2-3×5-8
Arms 2-3 x8-10
Shoulder raises 1-2×8-10 (possibly omit these due to their involvement during chest training)

Saturday
Same as Monday

Reverse Pyramid Training notes:  For this type of training, the goal is to work up to a top set and back off for each subsequent set.  For instance, if your one-rep max for bench press is 325lbs, you should technically be able to get 260-275lbs (~80-85% 1RM) for the desired rep range without going to failure.

You must avoid going to complete failure on these sets because you’ll be doing them 3 times this weekMaximal loads creating a squashed beetle out of you is not what I like to consider “just another day at the office.”

Again, the goal is to maintain or slightly increase the working weights (don’t push the increases if you’re not feeling it). The overall volume and steady loading are important here.

After your first set, you will reduce the load by about 5-10% and repeat the same process until you’re done with all 3 sets.  AGAIN, DO NOT GO TO FAILURE!  Only go to the point where you’re just on the brink of keeling over – I always suggest leaving 1 rep in the tank.

Example Sets (dropped 5%):
1st Set: 265 x5
2nd Set: 250×6
3rd Set: 235×5

RPT Rest periods: 3 minutes between each set.

Secondary body weight movement notes: Begin these immediately after the last RPT set. Take 30 second rest in between each set until you’re done.

Wrapping Up
The template can be applied to any muscle groups you wish to prioritize. Just shift your focus and select the movements necessary and make sure the maintenance work doesn’t exceed the recommendations.

And of course, as you might have guessed, block training is absolutely unnecessary for beginners. A general rule of thumb:  If you’re still making linear progress from session to session or at least making progress on a week-to-week basis and have no issues with recovery, you’re probably not ready for a specialization cycle. However, if you’ve been hammering away and certain body parts are developing faster than others, it’s certainly acceptable to give the others the attention they deserve.

Just don’t get caught up in the extra volume for too long and let that short, 4-6 week block turn into a 12-16 week block, which might invariably result in a disaster as known as injury.

Oh yeah… Make sure you eat up – you’re going to need all the extra food.

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6 thoughts on “Block Training for Lagging Body Parts”

  1. Great article! I start monday with this program! My chest is a lagging bodypart and I give this a try. I will follow it for 6 weeks and hope for some good results!

  2. Nice article man. I’m doing something similar right now to target my traps. A little bit of a high rep experiment/ RPT with shrugs and face pulls. Cheers!

  3. Very interesting article, definitely!

    I really like how you put together the 3x week high frequency and the 3 different rep ranges/heaviness/that thing, since they are exactly the same things I want to couple and prioritize in a specialization program
    I designed one for myself a couple of months ago, and in my very humble and clumpsy way I tried to couple the high frequency with the subtle need of being able to push some more reps/some more pounds at every workout, by doing 3 different “routines” intraweek. btw, it worked damn well
    But next time I will be in need of specialization, I’ll definitely go for this one

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