Shape Up

There are some trainers/gurus/coaches/science geeks who say that you cannot do a damn thing about the shape of your muscles, as it’s 100 percent genetically determined. Others believe that by “targeting” certain areas of a muscle, you can, in fact, change its shape. Well, I fall somewhere between those two far-apart thought processes.


While I do not believe we can change the actual genetic “map” we have been provided for each of our bodyparts, I do believe that we can use specific exercises, angles and grips to bring out the full potential of each muscle. In other words, when trainees lack upper-chest development, I don’t necessarily assume that it’s due to genetics but, rather, that their upper pectorals aren’t receiving the right stimulation to reach their maximum potential. While some insist that an incline press targets the entire chest, not just the upper chest, I disagree. Yes, it is true that you cannot completely isolate one area of a muscle from another no matter what exercise you use; however, you can affect certain groups of motor units more than others in a single muscle by using specific grips and/or planes of motion, as EMG studies have proven. That can lead to accelerated growth in a particular “head” or section of a complex muscle.


The take-home message here is, before you take the easy way out and blame faulty genetics for your disproportionate physique or lousy muscle shapes, make sure you are doing everything possible in the gym to address the problem.


Upper chest: incline presses, incline flyes, DB pullovers, low-cable crossovers, bench presses to neck, reverse-grip bench presses


Biceps peak: hammer curls, reverse curls, lying and seated overhead cable curls, 90 degree preacher (spider) curls, concentration curls


Vastus medialis (the “teardrop”): leg extensions with feet angled outward


Rectus femoris (“thigh rods”): sissy squats, lean-back leg extensions


Long head of the triceps (“triceps hang”): seated and incline overhead extensions, bent overhead cable extensions, one-arm overhead dumbbell extensions, Smith-machine elbows-flared bench presses


Lateral deltoids: dumbbell, cable and machine laterals; just-wider-than-shoulder-width-grip barbell upright rows; partial wide-grip behind-the-neck presses.

Be man enough for a wrestle.

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