Bodybuilding is nothing if not a game of balance—a quest to achieve a physique in which all muscle groups are developed to their fullest. Alas, this balance can be hard to achieve. Every bodybuilder I've even known—myself included—knows that it's easy to get muscle growth in some areas but frustratingly hard in others. To achieve a balanced physique, you have to constantly ask yourself whether your goals are being met and, if not, adjust training frequency, volume, and intensity accordingly.
That might mean combining body parts into the same workout, or training a lagging body part more often. Shoulder-and-triceps training serves as a great example of how we can combine body parts for less time in the gym, but better development.
Target Multiple Body Parts In One Workout
There is no right or wrong when it comes to training: There is only what works and what doesn't. But multiple body-part training seems to work for just about everyone. You just can't overdo it.
When we first begin training, most of us set out with a plan to train everything every day. We quickly realize you must break things up if you want to maximize the effort you dedicate to each body part—without spending three hours in the gym. The most logical approach, in my opinion, is to schedule training around the largest muscle groups of the body—the chest, back, and legs—while being careful not to combine them on the same day.
Most people don't need to dedicate an entire training day to shoulders and triceps, because both muscle groups are engaged when you do chest and back. Back training also places a great deal of stress on the rear delts, while chest training hits the front and medial delts and the triceps. You also hit triceps when you're shoulder pressing for delts.
Why Combine Shoulder And Triceps Training?
Pairing shoulder and triceps training has several advantages. If you've been training arms and shoulders on two separate days, you can now do shoulder and triceps one day, then add biceps to your chest or back training the next. This frees up an entire day you can use to rest, train a lagging body part, or pay more attention to your legs.
I firmly believe it makes more sense to split up leg training and give hamstrings and calves their own day, rather than trying to train your entire lower body at once.
Train Lagging Body Parts Less Often
In bodybuilding, as in the rest of life, less is often more. If you were to give both triceps and shoulders their own training days, you'd be in the gym seven days a week. That's a bad idea. Not giving your body time to rest won't lead to (and may take you further from) a balanced physique.
Most people with lagging body parts think the answer is to train them more frequently. Increasing intensity almost always helps develop large muscle groups such as legs or back. For most people, though, training these big muscles takes so much energy that it's hard to maintain intensity in the long run. Instead, people tend to intensely train smaller muscle groups, such as their arms and delts, mostly because it doesn't take as much energy to train them.
When I suggest continuing to train arms and shoulders, but to do it with less volume and more intensity, people often worry this approach will cause their muscles to shrink. But, as I mentioned earlier, these body parts get put through their paces as part of other exercises and so don't require as much direct training.
Too Much is…Too Much
People typically try to improve lagging muscles by doing more in training through greater frequency or volume. Based on firsthand experience, though, I find this approach rarely works. Since these smaller muscle groups like arms and shoulders are subjected to quite a bit of stress when training back and chest, giving them each an entire day harms instead of helps them.
Get more efficient with your training by combining shoulders and triceps, add biceps training to your back or chest day, and use your suddenly free day to give your body some extra rest. Or, you can use that extra day to hit neglected parts of your body, like maybe your hamstrings and calves. Give first priority to body parts that usually get the leftover scraps from a hard and heavy quad training session, and they'll repay your attention with growth.