Let’s face it, in terms of our physique, we’ve all got weak points. That one (haha!) lagging muscle group that just doesn’t seem to respond as well as the others. But before you jump on the specialization train, let’s make sure you earned that ticket.
First-up, weak point training — do you need it?
The [harsh] reality is that unless you’re at or approaching your genetic limit in terms of overall physical development, you really don’t need a specialization protocol. Or, said differently, any time spent working to improve a single body part is probably better spent focused on your big rocks, and improving your overall physique development.
So let’s say objectively, we often don’t need specialization. What about emotionally? What if you just can’t get past the fact your arms are too small? (Because they are, you know)
Here’s what you need to understand:
1. Specialize on ONE and only ONE body part at a time
There’s a cost to specialization, and It’s Uncommon Sense that if you are going to double-down on improving a weak body part, you can’t afford more than one. For example, you can not effectively bring-up chest AND shoulders, back AND arms etc. There’s just not enough recovery to go around.
So pick one and only one, and focus on improving that body part for a minimum of eight weeks, and preferably twelve to sixteen.
Also consider that BACK or LEGS is probably two big of a body part to truly specialize. So consider focusing on one of quads, glutes, hamstrings or calves, or back thickness versus width, or traps versus lower back. etc.
2. Put just about everything else on maintenance
When it comes to weak-point specialization, the cost is NOT in the training, it’s in the recovery. Hence, you’ll want to direct as much of your recovery ability to your weak-point as possible, and that means taking it easy on your other lifts.
Now maintenance is not an absolute, but you’re probably looking at something like half to two thirds of your normal volume, with no advanced training protocols and steering well clear of failure, 1RMs and PRs.
3. Plan your attack
When it comes to weak-point targeting, the goal is to significantly increase the training volume on the target muscle. But of course, there’s more than one way to add size to those guns.
First consider whether you need to modify your current split. For example, if you’re looking to focus on arms, where does your arm work currently sit?
If you already have a dedicated arm day, you might look to increase the frequency of exposure, adding one or more additional arm workouts during the training week.
If you are training arms with chest and back, you might want to increase the total sets/reps, increase the number of movements or add some intensity techniques (rest/pause, myo reps, intra-set stretch, slow concentrics etc.) to the mix.
In terms of how much volume to add for your specialization focus, there’s no prescriptive way to answer that question. It really comes down to your current total training volume, how you structure your workouts and how much “space” you create when cutting back volume from other body parts.
But in general, I’d look to add something in the range of four to eight additional sets for the focus body part, either as one to two sets per workout (frequency) or as a single, additional workout in the week.
4. Don’t specialize while in a deficit
We’ve already said that weak-point training is all about balancing volume and recovery. And Uncommon Sense tells you that you can’t build muscle while in a caloric deficit.
So before you make a run at weak-point specialization, make sure you’re in a modest calorie surplus and planning to get plenty of rest and recovery time.
Hopefully this brief article gives you some insight into IF and HOW to target a weak point in your physique. If you have questions or comments, leave them below, or find me on Facebook, Twitter, or in my closed group, Uncommon Sense Physique. Of course, if you have a different opinion, experience or counter-examples, I’d love to hear your point of view! Cheers.