The Priority Training Principle

The Priority Training Principle

Table of Contents

What´s the Priority Training Principle?

Priority training is a Weider´s training principle, used when a muscle (or muscle group) is not developing at the same rate as the rest of the body. The difference between a good physique and a great physique is proportion, balance and symmetry.

The ideal physique is symmetrical, the upper and lower body are in proportion, and there are no muscles which stand out to the eye as over or under-developed in relation to the others. Unfortunately, the body doesn’t always develop evenly.  After a few months of starting a regular training program, most people have already noticed that some muscles grow faster than others. 

Two main factors cause this unbalanced muscle development:
  1. Genetics: meaning that even if you’re diligent about training every muscle equally with the same amount of intensity and consistency, you’ll probably see some muscles fall behind others. That’s simply your body following its natural genetic pattern.
  2. There’s also a natural (unconscious) behavior. Most people give certain muscles special treatment, while other muscles are neglected. The body parts you don’t focus on, your least favorite body parts, or the exercises you find most difficult or unpleasant often get left to last and trained as an afterthought, or blown off completely. If you recognize errors like these and correct them, you can develop outstanding proportion, balance and symmetry.

How to get the most out of the Priority Training Principle

The good news is, even the most stubborn muscles can be improved by working hard and using the right training strategies. It’s all about making weaker muscle groups your top priorityAmateurs focus too much on their strengths. Priority training is a principle used to improve muscles that lag behind the others. 
 
Here is where priority training begins: with honest assessment. Your first assessment is right in the mirror and you can do that immediately. Next come photos, videos and the opinions of fellow athletes, trusted friends and expert coaches.
Once you’ve identified body parts to prioritize, you’re ready to start making changes to your workout schedule and using priority training techniques. In some cases, this means training completely the opposite of the way you’re used to. That will take an open mind and willingness to change your training habits.

Priority training is not a single tactic, but a group of them, designed with one purpose: to put more attention, energy and effort into training the lagging body parts until they come into balance with the rest of your physique. 

Here, you’ll find the best priority training techniques that I’ve used and which I’ve taught to my clients over the years. These are classic techniques, dating back to the Weider era, so they’ve been tested and proven for years. Some people start by choosing the one strategy that seems most logical or appropriate based on their situation. But keep in mind, to get better results, you can attack your weak areas using multiple strategies.

Change the order of your exercises (train your weak body parts first)

Whatever you train first in your workout usually gets trained the hardest simply because you have more energy and strength at the start of the workout. Whatever you do last in the workout is usually trained with the least effort.
 
Change the order of the exercises in your workout so that the body part that needs the most work is done first, when you are mentally and physically the freshest. Never train your weak body parts last.

Change exercises to emphasize specific parts of a muscle.

A muscle has different sides, angles or facets. Some muscles are more complex than others, with fibers that fan out in multiple angles or which have separate heads with different tendon attachment points.
 
For example, the deltoids are well known for being multi-angular with distinct movement patterns for the front, side and rear portion of the muscle.
 
How much you can isolate individual heads of each muscle is controversial, but we know it’s possible to place some added emphasis on different portions of a muscle by choosing the exercises that best activate those portions. 
If you carefully choose the exercises to work the part of the muscle that needs the most work, that one simple change, combined with persistence, can bring everything into balance and create an impressive muscle from any angle.

Use a body part split routine with dedicated days for your high priority muscles

Full body workouts are popular, effective and ideal for beginners, for anyone with strength goals or limited days per week to train. There’s nothing wrong with full body training in those cases.
 
However, body part split training is ideal in the case of priority training to bring up a weak muscle, it’s one of the best strategies. You simply choose or create a custom split routine that gives you an entire day dedicated to your prioritized muscle group.

Increase your training intensity for your prioritized body parts

This simply means putting more physical and mental effort into every set and every rep. The whole idea of priority training is that you don’t push harder for every exercise or body part; you conserve your energy and put the extra effort only into your prioritized body parts.

Increase the volume (more exercises, more sets)

Usually, when you think of progressive overload, you think of increasing how much weight you lift. But another way to increase overload is simply do more sets (increase the volume). That could be more sets of the same exercise, or additional exercises.
 
For priority training, simply do more sets for the lagging body part. More is not always better, but as long as you have the time to do more sets and to recover from the added volume, this is a simple and effective way to increase growth.

Train overdeveloped body parts with less volume, intensity or frequency

Although most of these strategies revolve around working harder on the body parts you want to improve, it is entirely possible that to balance your physique to the proportions and symmetry you want, you may also need to back off training your most well-developed muscle groups.
 
It’s ok to train some muscle groups harder, and at the same time train others lighter, if they are already highly developed.

Mentally train yourself to focus on improving your priority body part

Mental training is a vital part of achieving your muscle-building or fat loss goals. In the case of priority training, it’s important because many people develop negative belief systems about their “weak” body parts (often blaming them too much on genetics).
 
The mental training starts with believing it’s possible to grow and change your body. You must visualize it and mentally see yourself training hard and growing into exactly what you want to look like. 
 
Change everything to the positive. What you used to call a weak or lagging body part, you can start calling it a priority body part. Stop thinking about it as weak.

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Lower Leg

The gastrocnemius and the soleus form what we know as calf. They are involved in activities such as walking, running, jumping… 

Hamstrings

A hamstring is any one of the three posterior thigh muscles in between the hip and the knee (from medial to lateral: semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris). The hamstrings are quite susceptible to injury.

Quadriceps

The Quadriceps Femoris is the knee extensor muscle.  As a group, the quadriceps femoris is crucial in walking, running, jumping and squatting. It´s subdivided into four separate “heads”.

Glutes

The gluteal muscles are a group of three muscles which make up the buttocks: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. The three muscles originate from the ilium and sacrum and insert on the femur. The functions of the muscles include extension, abduction, external rotation, and internal rotation of the hip joint.

Lower Back

The Erector Spinae is not just one muscle, but a bundle of muscles and tendons. Paired, they run more or less vertically. It extends throughout the lumbar, thoracic and cervical regions, and lies in the groove to the side of the vertebral column.

Obliques

The External Oblique is situated on the lateral and anterior parts of the abdomen. It is broad, thin, and irregularly quadrilateral. It is the largest and the most superficial (outermost) of the three flat muscles of the lateral anterior abdomen. 

Abs

The Rectus Abdominis is the most superficial of the abdominal muscles. It is this muscle which forms the six-pack shape! It is a paired muscle running vertically on each side of the anterior wall of the abdomen. There are two parallel muscles, separated by a midline band of connective tissue called the linea alba.

Pecs

The pectoralis major makes up the bulk of the chest muscles in the male and lies under the breast in the female.

The pectoralis minor is a thin, triangular muscle, situated at the upper part of the chest, beneath the pectoralis major. 

Forearm
(Posterior muscles)

The Extensor Digitorum muscle helps in the movements of the wrists and the elbows. It extends the phalanges, then the wrist, and finally the elbow. It acts principally on the proximal phalanges. It tends to separate the fingers as it extends them.

Forearm
(Anterior muscles)

The Pronator teres pronates the forearm, turning the hand posteriorly. If the elbow is flexed to a right angle, then pronator teres will turn the hand so that the palm faces inferiorly. It is assisted in this action by pronator quadratus.

Triceps

The Triceps Brachii muscles  have three muscle heads: Lateral, Medial and Long head. Primarily responsible for the extension of the elbow joint. The lateral head is used for movements requiring occasional high-intensity force, while the medial fascicle enables more precise, low-force movements.

Biceps

The Biceps brachii is  actually two separate bundles of muscles (heads). The two heads of the Biceps vary in length and as a result, are called the Short and the Long Biceps heads.

Infraspinatus

The Infraspinatus muscle is one of the four rotator cuff muscles crossing the shoulder joint and is commonly injured. It is the main external rotator of the shoulder joint.

Deltoids

The Deltoid muscle is the muscle forming the rounded contour of the shoulder. It is divided into three portions, anterior, lateral and posterior, with the fibers having different roles due to their orientation.

Latissimus Dorsi

The latissimus dorsi is the larger, flat, dorsolateral muscle on the trunk, posterior to the arm, and partly covered by the trapezius on its median dorsal region.

Trapezius

The trapezius is a broad, flat and triangular muscle. The muscles on each side form a trapezoid shape. It is the most superficial of all the back muscles.

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