Why Won’t My (Insert Muscle) Grow?!

Over the past several years, my interest in bodybuilding has grown considerably. Having taken a step back from powerlifting in 2016, I began to work on my powerbuilding philosophy and training style. One thing I have always lamented is my calf development (or lack thereof). My whole life, even when I was a skinny kid, I had big legs and a developed posterior chain from all of the sprinting, squatting, and power movements that I did as a football player. I am also just genetically built like a sprinter/jumper, so I always had a fast twitch dominance in my calves, which led to a much less developed soleus (the opposite of what you would see with distance runners). 

A lot of the time, with underdeveloped muscles, increasing frequency is the name of the game. My friend Robert Sikes told me he used to struggle with the same thing. It turns out he was also not blessed with the best genetics when it came to calf development. His response was to train calves every single day that he lifted, and now his calves are a point of pride for him. So...why is a certain one of your muscle groups underdeveloped? Chances are that you are not hitting it with enough frequency. One thing I must point out immediately, is that the amount of frequency you can handle without risking over training, and going backwards, is heavily dependent on the type and the size of muscle group you are trying to improve.

For example, the largest muscle groups are the muscles of the back, legs, and to a lesser extent, chest. If one of these muscle groups is underdeveloped for you, increasing frequency is still an option, but you will need to manage volume more closely. Let's take the muscles of the back, for instance. You can train them more often, but you may not be able to handle several full workouts a week of back. In this case, you would hit a full back day, a second day with slightly less volume of work and less intensity (spaced a few days apart from the main back day), and a few other days with 1-2 support movements. For smaller muscle groups, like triceps, biceps, and calves, you can easily have 3 full workouts a week and still recover enough for continued growth. There are always outliers, but I think it is safe to say the majority of people would be able to handle this, given their nutrition is on point.

Since I love you people, I am going to share a high frequency program that I wrote for myself last summer that gave me some great results. First, let me share what my goals were so that you can see what my thought process was when I wrote it. My back and shoulders are two muscle groups I have been trying to develop more since leaving the sport of powerlifting. The main reason why is that my waist is thicker from years of putting heavy weights on my back. You simply cannot consistently squat heavily without developing the muscles of your trunk. For this reason, even at my leanest, my waist is not very small. A larger back and shoulders can help off set this and still give me that V taper look that so many of us aim for.

I also trained calves almost every day. Doing this last June allowed me to increase the size of my calves by over half an inch in only 4 months. According to my fit3d, I had grown my right and left calves from 17.4 and 17.6 inches on July 5th, to 18.0 and 18.2 inches on September 29th. That is pretty awesome progress if you ask me! This program was high frequency in general, as I even hit legs twice. But it was especially for back, shoulders, calves, and to a lesser extent, chest. For those of you who are focused on building up those legs and glutes--fear not! Maura is going to add a workout program for that as well.

An ancillary goal was to improve my rowing times in the 100m, 200m, and 500m sprint, and distances in the 1 minute max distance and 30 seconds max distance sprint. Keep in mind that I also used a range of reps because I was trying to go to near exhaustion on my sets, and was aiming to do that by the reps in that range. I also try to hit the sauna at least 4 days a week for a minimum of 19-20 minutes. For some cool information on why sauna is a great addition to your health and fitness program, you may want to watch THIS and listen to THIS (this one is long, and she covers a LOT more than just sauna, but it is worth your time).

Day 1 - Chest/back

Row 500m warm-up

500m sprint

A1. Pec dec 3x15-20

A2. Chest supported row 3x15-20

A3. Leg press calves 3x15-20

B1. 1-arm Incline DB bench 3x15 each

B2. Lat pull down 3x15-20

B3. Seated calves 3x15-20

C1. Dips 3x15-20

C2. Seated row 3x15-20

20 min sauna

 

Day 2 - Legs

500m Row warm-up

100m sprint

A1. Leg extension 3x20

A2. Leg curl 3x20

A3. 1-leg DB calf raise 3x15-20 each

B1. Squat 3x8

B2. Decline sit-ups with negatives 3x10>>1

C1. DB Lunges 3x15 each

C2. DB RDL 3x15-20

D. Santa Monica stairs (or stairmaster) x15 min

 

Day 3 - Back/shoulders

500m Row warmup

200m sprint

A1. Closegrip lat pulldown 3x15-20

A2. BB OHP 3x15-20

A3. BW calf raise 3x35

B1. Widegrip pullups 3x8

B2. Cable lateral raises 3x15-20 each

B3. 1-leg BW calf raise 3x20-25 each

C1. Seated Face pulls 3x15

C2. Incline high row to external rotation 3x10

20 min sauna

 

Day 4 - Chest/arms

500m Row warmup

1 min max distance

A1. Push-ups x100

A2. Seated calves 3x15-20

A3. Cable curl w squeeze 3x15-20

B1. Smith machine JM press 3x15-20

B2. Incline DB curl 3x15-20 each

B3. DB flye 3x15-20

C1. Triceps rope extension 3x15-20

C2. Concentration curls 3x15-20

20 min sauna

 

Day 5 - Legs

Row warmup

30 sec max distance

A1. Deadlift 3x8

A2. Stir the pot 3x30

A3. Leg press calves 3x15-20

B1. DB lateral step up 3x10 each

B2. 1-leg KB RDL 3x8 each

B3. Ab roller 3x12-15

C1. 1-leg leg curl 3x15 each

C2. KB goblet squat 3x15-20

D. Santa Monica stairs (or stairmaster) x15 min

 

Sat - Chest/shoulders/back

500m Row warmup

15 sec max distance

A1. 1-arm shoulder press 3x15-20 each

A2. Neutral grip chins 3x8

A3. Cable crossover w tempo changes 3x15-20

B1. DB rear raise 3x15-20

B2. Plate front raise 3x15-20

B3. 1-arm chest supported row 3x15 each

C2. 1.5 rep dips 3x10-15

C2. 1-arm DB row 3x15-20 each

20 min sauna

 

Sun - Cardio

20 min stairmaster intervals

20 min uphill walk

20 min sauna

Try this increased frequency strategy to improve your own lagging body parts, and as always, make sure to share this with your friends and family if you find value in it!

Danny Vega