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Symmetry Training for Size and Strength
by Chris Colucci – 7/05/2012
"Good bodybuilders have the same mind, when it comes to sculpting, that a sculptor has. You have to analyze. You look in the mirror and say, 'Okay, I need a little bit more deltoids, a little bit more shoulders to get the proportions right.' So what you do is, you exercise and put those deltoids on." – Arnold in Pumping Iron. What do Frank Zane, Flex Wheeler, Dexter Jackson, and Phil Heath have in common, other than being four guys you'll probably never get to talk training with over a beer and some wings? They stood out from the rest of the big guys on stage because of their constant focus on building symmetry rather than simply adding muscle regardless of proportion. They paid deliberate attention to developing each side of the body relative to the other – front, back, left, right, upper, and lower – as well as only building each individual muscle as it relates to "the total package." Whether we're talking about the delts, arms, calves, or any other bodypart, symmetry and proportion are aspects of bodybuilding that often get overlooked by the recreational lifter. It's considered something only the pros have to be concerned with, or "not important right now because I have to get big before I worry about that detail work." That kind of thinking is as inaccurate as it is shortsighted. Muscular size without balanced symmetry is like a gym with seven squat racks and only two barbells. The potential for something great is there, but it ends up totally missing the mark because of poor planning. Not to mention the strength and health benefits of a balanced physique. Healthy joints, surrounded on
One of the biggest indicators is your posture. Upper body and lower body.html all sides by well-developed muscle. Discovering Your Weak Points There are a bunch of examples throughout the body where muscular symmetry. but for 100% maximal gains. Left and right. abs/waist. Look at the right arm versus the left. On a large scale: Front and back. Let's all do our part to kill the chickenwww. Let's figure out how we can implement symmetry training into your current plan for even better results. will be better protected and more resistant to pulls or strains.html 2/9 . can be either impressive and noteworthy or laughable and embarrassing. and it can have a huge effect on your overall look and performance. As far as using that strength. and calves.com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01. If you're a sloucher. it's a safe bet your training needs fixing. glutes. and quads to the back.t-nation. "Training the mirror muscles" is the common motto to remind lifters that what you can't see does still exist.17/11/13 www.com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01. This should be self-explanatory. Take a "big picture" view and compare the chest.t-nation. hamstrings. show me a powerlifter who doesn't think a big. as well as the right and left legs. strong back is required for a big bench press and I'll show you a guy who needs to increase his bench. or a lack of it. work to minimize any discrepancy in size or performance. The majority of people have one limb slightly larger and/or stronger than the other simply by being dominant on that side. It's normal and expected.
Speaking of arms. make sure you're building big arms. trap. in that order – would practically be a miracle cure for most folks' physiques and their shoulder health. and long. If your tris look less like a horseshoe and more like a half www. then immediately check your calf size and feel terrible.com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01. Triceps heads. and front delts. medial.t-nation. Biceps and triceps. side. Then why do you see people in the gym doing "arm routines" that use four different types of curls and only one or two types of extensions? Because most people are.t-nation. and invisible rear delts. kick him in the nuts and tell him when his legs are bigger than his arms. and neck region. bodybuilders with a keen eye will point out that overwhelmingly high traps will encourage the illusion of narrow shoulders. it's often pointed out that the triceps take up the majority of space on your upper arm.html 3/9 .com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01. lateral. The classic bodybuilder's goal is to have the calves measure the same as the upper arms (biceps/triceps) for a balanced look from head to toe. well.html legged bodybuilder stereotype by the end of the decade. Don't be satisfied with big biceps. So find the measuring tape. The traps are one of those muscles that can warn people from a distance. Check out the shoulders around your gym and you're most likely to see overdeveloped front delts. In reality. On a relatively smaller but still significant scale: Calves and arms. Deltoid heads. If you know a guy who gives any excuses for avoiding or minimizing leg work. everyone struggling for side delts.17/11/13 www. and nobody wants that. Traps and shoulders. he can kick you back. if we consider the entire shoulder. check your arm size." However. simply reversing the priority – a focus on building rear. dumb. feel a moment of awesomeness. "Do not aggravate this dude.
But Mostly You www.html 4/9 . slightly smaller than the number of people who still consider Nicolas Cage a talented actor. Other multi-headed or "multi-muscle muscles" such as the quads.t-nation. they're used to some degree in almost every exercise.com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01. If you take the time to include straight-leg work and bent-leg work to address both calf heads. you've got work to do. While you might not expect to see many underdeveloped forearms. the general idea is worth keeping in mind for the long run so you have that much less catch-up work to do when the time comes. If you're skipping overhead work. those last two examples are a type of fine-tune work that only deserves major attention if you're actually closing in on your physique goal.t-nation. If you look around. from rows and pulldowns to deadlifts and heavy bench presses. Asymmetry Makes an Ass Out of You and Me. and rope pressdowns. you're in a small club. Calves. Now admittedly. you're missing a big piece of the puzzle and a big piece of your total arm development. v-bar pressdowns. There's more to triceps training than just straight bar pressdowns. you'll find plenty of guys who could use more meat between the elbow and wrist. hamstrings. Forearms and upper arms.17/11/13 www. you're in an even smaller club. congrats. either.html parenthesis. gastrocnemius and soleus. And a stronger grip never hurts. If you even train calves on a regular basis.com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01. or biceps don't necessarily require the same particular attention because it's much more difficult to significantly target or prioritize those heads with special exercises or techniques. However.
I truly wish I'd have tried that first.com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01. Now that you've analyzed your physique and noticed what's disproportionate. John Romaniello wrote a pretty solid guide to specialization workouts here. prioritize. hard. the solution is kinda simple and also kinda counter-intuitive. the most direct way to get things back on track is to attack it head-on with a short-term specialization program designed to give the muscle enough time in the spotlight to get where it needs to be. that calls for a different plan of attack. Arbitrarily doing "a few more sets" for the lagging side just doesn't make sense.t-nation. remember when I pointed out that left/right asymmetry needs to be corrected differently? Well. once you're one step closer to being balanced. There are supposed to be hamstrings there. Figure out what needs the most work or what will have the biggest overall impact on your physique or strength.). Sample Solutions If your problem is as simple as one underdeveloped muscle (tiny calves. Sherlock. Consider the body part and think back to remember how long it's been slacking and then look at how you've been training it recently (the last month.com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01. However. truthful self-examination. the first step is to try to figuring out why. while putting the "good" side on maintenance. wait. lagging rear delts. etc. I've almost got a straight line from my ass to my knee. If it's an issue of left/right asymmetry. How many more sets? Should I keep the same rep range? Do I add the sets at the end of the regular workout or do I add a small-side-only training day later in the week? At best.t-nation. detailed training log is so important. they'll shoot you the obvious answer." This is like telling a 270-pound lady the best way to lose weight is." Ta-da. and address it. If you're looking to give a significant boost to one bodypart.17/11/13 www. which is probably the most common discrepancy around. you're going to waste time and energy putzing around instead of addressing the issue efficiently. "Just add some extra sets for the smaller side. Oh. whatever). "Hey." Thank you. work on the next issue. You're going to focus on the lagging side to an extent. Your thought process should be along the lines of. you can only have one "worst" bodypart at a time. That method might deliver some results in the short term. year.html Once you've taken a cold. If you've got more than one bodypart that needs to be evened out. I haven't deadlifted or done a leg curl since Chappelle's Show had new episodes. Then. we need to figure out how to fix whatever needs fixing. By definition. you'll flip the discrepancy because you lost track of the goal and end up with a new dominant. www. but it's not the most effective way and it doesn't really solve the problem.html 5/9 . If you ask most lifters the best way to address that issue. three months. "Just eat a little less at each meal. At worst. you can make a big difference with four to six weeks of targeted work if you go after it with 100%. This is why keeping a consistent. overpowering side.
working the rest of your body in two or three sessions the rest of the week. practically withering away while we go on and on trying to improve the lazy. To really give the lagging side a chance to catch up. If you're like most people. technically you're doing more work than if you'd ended the set sooner. Restoring Balance. several weeks when our strong side does next-to-nothing. when you lift with both limbs and there's a noticeable difference in strength. we need to strategically use unilateral exercises that let one limb. We also need to let the problem side dictate the weight and reps used. Limb By Limb If your legs need to be evened out pronto. give these workouts a 6-week trial run. and only one limb. do all the work. which it likely hasn't been able to do for quite a while. Yes. but it's much lower quality work that isn't benefiting you in the long run.t-nation.com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01. and then lifting your ass a foot off the bench and bouncing the bar off your chest to continue repping out.html Oh no – gasp and double-gasp – the dreaded "M" word.t-nation. This approach makes the most sense because the lagging side needs the extra attention without the stronger side coming to the rescue. Surely that means wasted time.html Sets Reps 6/9 . Legs Day One: Exercise www.17/11/13 www. However. approaching failure.com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01. lagging side? Hardly. the weaker side will (obviously) fatigue first and the stronger side will compensate enough to let you finish a few more reps. this is the same as doing a barbell bench press.
touch the target muscle with the fingertips of one hand to improve the mind-muscle connection.com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01. Begin each unilateral set (the one-arm curl and the one-arm triceps extension) with the weaker/smaller arm and perform reps to near-failure. even though it should seem "too easy. lunge. touch the target muscle with the fingertips of one hand to improve the mind-muscle connection. Legs Day Two: Exercise A B C D Romanian Deadlift Standing Leg Curl Leg Press (high foot position) Standing One-leg Calf Raise Sets 4 4 3 3 Reps 6-8 8-10* 8-12 8-12* * Hold each peak contraction for a count of "one-one thousand" and. even though it should seem "too easy. if possible.html A B C D One-leg Extension Front Squat Stationary Lunge Seated Calf Raise 3 4 4 3 8-10* 4-6 6-8 10-15* * Hold each peak contraction for a count of "one-one thousand" and.html 7/9 . Arms Day One: Exercise A B C D One-arm (not alternated) Supinated Dumbbell Curl Straight-bar Cable Curl One-arm Horizontal Cable Triceps Extension Seated Overhead Triceps Extension Sets 3 3 3 3 Reps 8-10 6-8* 10-12* 8-10 * Hold each peak contraction for a count of "one-one thousand" and.com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01." www. if possible. leg curl. touch the target muscle with the fingertips of one hand to improve the mind-muscle connection. if possible. then switch to the stronger arm and only complete the same number of reps. then switch to the stronger side and only complete the same number of reps. The rest of your weekly training shouldn't over stress the upper body too much or else you'll dip into the arms' recovery time.t-nation.17/11/13 www. Something like legs/chest-shoulders/back or even a basic upper/lower body split would allow the arms enough rest between direct sessions. Begin each set of unilateral exercises (the leg extension. and standing calf raise) with the weaker/smaller leg and perform reps until near-failure." If your arms are most noticeably uneven.t-nation. give this twice-a-week plan a shot for a month or so.
begin each set with the weaker/smaller arm and work to near-failure.html Arms Day Two: Exercise A1 A2 One-arm Thick Rope Triceps Pressdown One-arm Thick Rope Cable Hammer Curl Sets 4 4 Reps 10-12 8-10 Perform one set of each exercise with each side before switching. or super-crazy-deep abs. then A2 left. www. putting them down. raw strength and power. and then switch arms and match the same number of reps. but you'll end up stronger. then rest. and with an even better-balanced physique to show for it. If you've had luck dealing with a strength or size disparity.com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01. let me know what worked for you in the LiveSpill below. It All Evens Out In The End If you haven't learned that balanced bodybuilding is better bodybuilding. healthier. Again.com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01.t-nation. maintaining an aesthetic eye in your program design will always pay dividends. Or you might just be forgetting that there's a bit more to building muscle than picking things up. Whether your current goal is massive size.t-nation. you might be a lost cause.html 8/9 . You'll still get where you want to go. then A1 right. and making the scale read higher.17/11/13 www. then A2 right. as with the other arm day. For example: A1 left.
17/11/13 www.html 9/9 .t-nation.t-nation.com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01.html www.com/portal_includes/articles/2012/12-739-01.
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