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The Priority Training Principle

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.
Balanced body
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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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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Weider´s training principles: The isolation principle

Several muscles can be trained as a unit or isolated and trained individually. All muscles are involved more or less in every movement – either as stabilizers, agonist, antagonists or synergistic. If a particular muscle is to be built up, it needs to be exercised as separately as possible from the other muscles.

The isolation principle

The main focus for isolation work is to concentrate fully on using the main muscle to move the weight.
Main Muscles Worked: The muscles that are used the most during the exercise.
Secondary Muscles Worked: Muscles that assist the main muscles in the exercise.
Stabilizers: Muscles that are not worked by movement, but rather assist in stabilizing the body in addition to the weight of the exercise.
Let´s analyze the Barbell Curls, for example:
Main Muscles Worked:
  1. Biceps Brachii
Secondary Muscles Worked:
  1. Brachialis
  2. Brachioradialis
Stabilizers:
  1. Deltoid, Anterior
  2. Trapezius, Upper
  3. Trapezius, Middle
  4. Levator Scapulae
  5. Wrist Flexors
Some people often make the mistake that isolation work is useless and a full compound routine is all one needs to build muscle. While compounds are the quickest way to work your body, they fail to fully exhaust the muscles. This is where isolation work is needed.
While a compound workout is faster, isolations will better target each individual muscle, resulting in a complete workout. This puts more stress on the muscles, and thus makes them grow better than a full compound workout.

What Are Some Of The Benefits Of An All Isolation Workout?

Results: Put in simpler terms, it will give you maximum muscle growth. When body parts are neglected they won’t be able to grow. Isolation movements give you the ultimate edge. You get to hit the muscle group that couldn’t be hit with compound movements, or it wasn’t hit as good and that’s why it’s lacking.

Completely exhausting a muscle. Compounds work multiple muscles at once, yet it is impossible to work each of those muscles to its max with a single compound exercise. One muscle will tire out before the other. Thus the only way to get a complete workout with compounds would be to do a compound exercise for every muscle in your body. And that is not feasible due to energy and time. This is where isolation work shines, each muscle can be worked to its maximum potential that does not take an extreme amount of time or more energy than one has.

Fewer opportunities for injuries: Injuries can arise in all types of workouts, but they are much less common in isolation exercises. This being because compounds are more intense than isolations. They use several muscles at once, which greatly opens the door for one muscle overpowering another, thus resulting in a pulled muscle. Examples are the “Big 3”: squats, deadlifts, and bench press. Squats and deadlifts put a great deal of pressure on your spinal column while bench press puts pressure on your chest and shoulders at once, often contributing to a pulled muscle if the barbell slips.
Fitness woman doing exercises on white background

Who Would Benefit From Using An All Isolation Workout?

The people who gain the most benefit from an all isolation workout would definitely be people looking for a symmetrical body.
Others who would benefit from an all isolation workout would be older people who may not have the strength or bone support to do squats, deadlifts, bench presses or pull-ups.
Also for beginners, who may not know correct form for the big compound exercises or have enough strength to perform them, would benefit from an all isolation routine.
There are not many people that can do pull-ups on their first day in the gym or can do a set of squats in proper form. An isolation workout would give these people an introduction to weightlifting before they start doing the more advanced exercises. Whatever the reason, an all isolation routine has its place.
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Weider´s training principles: The progressive overload principle

Training Plan
Joe Weider (November 29, 1919 – March 23, 2013) was a Canadian bodybuilder and entrepreneur who co-founded the International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB) alongside his brother Ben. He was also the creator of the Mr. Olympia, the Ms. Olympia and the Masters Olympia bodybuilding contests.
Joe Weider
Joe’s most indelible addition to the science and sport of bodybuilding is the Weider Principles: over 30 theories and techniques that forever changed the means by which someone could build a strong, muscular body.

The progressive overload principle

To increase any aspect of physical fitness (muscle mass, strength, stamina, etc.), your muscles need to be continually put under increased stress.
Today, I want to focus on muscle mass, to keep it simple for beginners. To achieve more muscle mass, the number of sets is key.
In the early years of bodybuilding, most experts believed that to increase muscle mass, we should only complete one set of each exercise per workout. If the whole body is to complete twelve exercises, this would mean twelve sets per workout.
Weider saw it differently. He was the first to recommend working out using several sets of one exercise (3-5 sets per exercise) to exhaust each muscle group and to stimulate maximum muscle growth.
Start with three sets of each exercise and continue increasing the number of sets until you make five. This strategy will also help you increase your muscle strength gradually without obsessing with the weight you lift. It´s no magic, it´s the progressive overload principle: once your muscles are used to perform three sets, you have to push them to do four sets and then five.
When you are able to do five series with the same weight with which it was hard to do three series the first week, it is time to add more weight.
I know that most bodybuilders speak wonders and encourage you to lift heavy, and so do I, but in due time. The word “heavy” means “difficult to lift or move” and this is a different weight to each person. Whatever is difficult to lift today for you, it will be easier to lift next month.
First, progress from 3 to 5 sets. Then progress to heavier weights.
The progressive overload principle is the core of all physical training and forms a solid basis for successful training.
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