A strength for most bodybuilders is easy to find. If you have ever attended a bodybuilding event, you will always see that most of the competitors have great upper body development. Chest, shoulders, biceps, abs, and even sometimes the back areas always stand out. The problem is, it doesn't set you apart from the rest! When I first began weight lifting, my goal was to have a barrel chest. Why? I really don't know. Probably because a strong looking chest is so masculine or everyone else was doing the same thing. Next, I wanted to have bulging bi's and hammer looking tri's. I trained and trained with those isolated areas being my sole concern. As I began to bodybuild and attended bodybuilding events, I soon learned that I had several weaknesses. Areas of my body that I had neglected for years and years due my tunnel vision. I began to notice the people that were winning the shows I attended had a complete package. The development they had achieved was balanced. Even though they might not have had as large a chest or shoulders the size of a grapefruit, as the next guy or lady, they had good development in all areas.
Next time you attend a show, look at some of the competitors with that "complete package" mind-set. What you will see is that most of the competitors will have great upper bodies and lag in the lower body severely. I can't help to notice those that will neglect quad, ham, and calve training and place full emphasis on chest, biceps, triceps, and ab training. To win, you must develop the full and "complete package". The best way to realize your weaknesses is to evaluate yourself. Video record your body from top to bottom, front and back, side to side. Then attempt to point out the weaker areas. You will hate every minute of it, trust me, but in order to focus on those neglected areas, you must know what they are! At one time, my hamstrings were non-existent. I realized it when looking at competition photos while I was performing a rear double bicep. My hams were nowhere to be found. I had assumed that training legs, particularly quads, was all I needed. I did squats, leg presses, leg extensions thinking that they were sufficient. Later, after my shocking discovery, I incorporated partial dead-lifts, leg curls, varying my foot positioning on the press machine, and even flexing to bring out the hams. The results were amazing. The ultimate key was that I realized it as a weakness. Why did it take so long to realize it? It was probably due to my hate for the pain and soreness that is associated with a great ham training session. My next discovery were lagging calves. My soleus area needed work badly. Again, I had neglected them.
Mostly due to the fact that I really hated the burn. Although I knew that someday I wanted to have heart-shaped calves like in the magazines. What I'm about to describe are three important areas for developing a "complete package". Again, this is from my actual experience and was trial and error at its finest!
This is the first step on the road to improving those weaknesses. It requires the identification of those areas through continual and thorough self-evaluations. As I mentioned previously, examine photos or videos of yourself. Make a list of all the areas you feel are weak as well as strong. An additional source for critique could be a judge at a bodybuilding event. Their input may re-affirm your opinions of yourself as well as help you identify other areas that you never considered a weakness. I would have never realized that my posterior (rear) delts were lagging until a judge pointed it out for me. My shoulder training always primarily hit the anterior and/or medial portions of the delt. It cost me that round and full shoulder appearance from a side view. It also cost me a first place finish in my class!
Now, I focus on the rear delt area by doing bent-over lateral raises with dumbbells or cables. I even do a variation of a dumbbell row to hit the rear delt on shoulder day. Just the little bit that I have done, has made a world of difference for me.
Once you have identified the areas to improve following your self-evaluation, you must attack those areas in order to bring them up. One strategy I have adopted that seems to work is, I will train those weak areas first in my routine. For instance, the upper pecs are a definite weak area for most bodybuilders and is truly evident from a side chest pose. To attack this area, I train the upper pecs first during a chest routine. This way I am stronger and can place more emphasis on this weak area. A second strategy is to train the area on a day by itself. As I discussed before, my hamstring development was not where I thought it could be. To improve, I train hamstrings on a separate day than quads and on a day by itself. This way I can place maximum focus and intensity on training them. Finally and again, my calves were another weak area. I now train calves twice a week and with extremely heavy loads. The philosophy for training my calves the way I do, came from an article written by Skip La'Cour. In short, he said that because you use your calves constantly each and everyday by walking, running, jumping etc., it takes extra effort to develop them. The fact that they are so use to being worked on a daily basis, requires great loads while training in order to develop them.
Now that you have attacked those weak areas, you will need to re-evaluate yourself to find new areas to improve. This can also help to gauge your success. A very important consideration to be made during re-evaluation is to make sure that the strengths you identified are not becoming weaknesses. It is easy to let those stronger areas go while improving the weaker ones. Remember, the whole objective is to achieve the "complete package". That means you will still need to retain those hard earned strengths while improving the weaker areas. You can always pick out that one competitor in the line-up that has the "complete package". They have development that is evident from all angles and sides. Quads, hams, calves, lats, abs, chest, shoulders, arms, serratus, obliques, etc..., are all distinctly visible. When you see it, like me, you'll probably say, "How the hell did they do that".
To be a "complete package" is not easy. It means paying attention to detail and developing areas of the body that many people will overlook. The judges won't. They will appreciate the obvious effort that it takes for a competitor to develop the "complete package". To them, you will stand out from the rest. You will know how much they appreciate it when your name is called as the winner! Even then, you will still need to improve. That's what makes bodybuilding the beautiful art that it is!
Well another wrap! Thanks again and stay tuned for more!
"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."
- Antoine de Saint Exupery