Why is it that once you get into a workout groove, you often plateau in certain body parts. Suddenly your muscles aren’t growing as quickly as they used to—regardless of how many reps you do or protein shakes you down.
Oftentimes, the answer is that most people move weights instead of training their muscles. Yes, they do the exercises, often with a good amount of weight on the bar, but the actual work is done by joints, ligaments, inertia—in short, everything but the target muscle.
As an extreme example you can look at the guy who seems to be entering the “how low can I go contest” when curling a barbell. He might be curling 60lbs, but his biceps only move around 30lbs, whereas his elbows get hit with 100-plus-lbs. Result: blown out elbow and no growth.
When it comes to sculpting a chiseled physique, muscle activation matters most.
Most people treat their training like homework, checking off a box 3×10, very neat and tidy. Here’s the issue: your muscles do not have eyes, they have no concept as to how many sets you did or what day of the week it is. They only register one thing: how many fibers have been activated and for how long.
The amount of fibers that have been properly activated per set is the single biggest factor toward your success in building a better physique. It will absolutely make or break your progress.
Pros use about 30% of their fibers during each set while others are around 8-10%. That means that pro workouts are three times as effective as ours. If you multiply that by hundreds of workouts over the course of years, it becomes evident why they look so big and ripped.
It all starts at the top. The body will always use whatever muscle you activate first to move the weight. The first motion often dictates the quality of the ensuing set. Therefore, you must make certain that you’re using the muscle you’re trying to work, not just move the weight. This will also require you to leave your ego at the front door. You’re a physique athlete, not a weightlifter.
What follows are targeted pointers for each muscle that will encourage growth.