Have you ever seen those guys in the gym who look huge from the waist up but have spindly little bird legs holding up their torso? Even if you haven't seen them in person, you've no doubt seen the Facebook and Twitter memes mocking this imbalance.
Sadly, men aren't the only ones who have this problem; ladies can have unbalanced physiques as well. With such a demanding travel schedule, I'm guilty of it myself!
When I'm in an unfamiliar gym, I immediately resort to training shoulders or back because they require the least amount of machines and moving around. I never want to wander the gym searching for equipment to use, so I set up camp near the dumbbells and hit my shoulders hard so it looks like I know what I'm doing. Training my shoulders and back every time I travel is all well and good, except that there are other areas of my body that really need attention. Far too often, my lower half in particular suffers from neglect.
We all tend to have a favorite body part to train. More often than not, it's a favorite because it responds so well to training stimulus. Isn't it funny how we all have one area that just seems to respond so easily while other areas seem miles behind?
So, how does one correct an unbalanced physique? You train your weaknesses, of course! Here's how to do it:
Train Lagging Muscle Groups Twice Per Week
Because my legs and glutes are stubborn areas, I train them twice per week, sometimes even three when I'm feeling bored with my routines. I train quads and calves one day and glutes and hammies on the other. All my other muscle groups I train just once per week. Sometimes, when I'm short on time, I'll combine upper-body muscle groups and train them on the same day.
If I can at least commit to training my lower body twice a week—regardless of what I manage to train for the rest of the time—it will give my legs and glutes a chance to catch up with the rest of my physique. Hopefully, that extra leg work will result in a more balanced body!
If your legs seem to be super responsive, yet your upper body lags behind, then train your shoulders twice per week. A developed set of shoulders can really transform someone's overall shape. If your legs are considerably more developed, or even bulky, do plyometrics for legs or lift very light weights with higher reps to give your upper body a chance to catch up.
Here are some example splits. They're not set in stone; move elements around depending on your weaknesses and preferred schedule.
Lagging Lower-body Split
Monday: quads and calves
Tuesday: chest and triceps
Thursday: back and biceps
Friday: glutes and hams
Saturday: shoulders and abs
Lagging Upper-body Split
Tuesday: back and biceps
Friday: legs or plyos and abs
Saturday: chest and triceps
You can train a lagging muscle group twice per week, but you may not see it catching up unless you train with intensity, focus, and enough weight to tax your muscles and elicit a growth response. If you want your shoulders to grow, you can't expect five-pound dumbbells to do the trick. Pick up some weight and work your muscles hard. They'll respond by growing.
Eat to Grow
Bringing up an area of your body means consuming adequate calories. No matter which muscle group you're growing, training without fuel won't yield the best results. So don't be afraid to eat!
Remember, your calories have to be quality. All the training in the world won't yield impressive results without proper nutrition. On days that I train lower body, I like to carb up with brown rice, along with lean protein. After a leg workout, I put a banana in my protein drink. The banana adds the advantage of a natural sugar spike. This spike acts like a broom to sweep nutrients into my muscles.
Unsure what works best for you? Don't be afraid to experiment. Rule of thumb: Eat more calories on days you lift heavy and fewer calories on days you use lighter weight or aren't training as intensely.
You might be feeling really motivated right now to whip those legs into shape, but your attitude could change in a couple of weeks. Don't let slow progress stop you from working toward your goal of symmetry and balance. If you get fed up and quit before you body has any time to change, you won't see results. Changes will only come with consistent attention to your weaknesses.
It's also important to remember that you're not going to see changes in a couple of days. It may take more than a month or two to see your body taking shape. Be patient and let it happen!