Most people would like fuller biceps or more well-rounded quads.
Well, today I’m going to show you how to change the shape of your muscles with 3 straightforward tips.
You see, there’s a large percentage of the fitness world which are under the illusion that this cannot be done. That you are restricted by your DNA to such an extent that you simply need to be satisfied with what you’ve got.
That isn’t true.
Sure, some people will find it easier to bring their abs through than others.
And yes, some people will have a split between them while others may have blocky abs, and others have more well defined obliques on one side.
Ultimately, our genetic make up will determine what we look like at our lowest body fat percentage.
But I find that the genetics card is played far too early.
For the vast majority of people, minor training imbalances or neglections are responsible for many of the issues they believe they are stuck with.
And after training models and athletes for so long I can tell you right now – by the time your “genetic ceiling” even become a side issue, you’ll already be in great shape!
So here are 3 things you can do right away that will literally teach you how to change the shape of your muscles.
1. Train With A Full Range Of Motion
If you are performing reps in the “ego range” you’ll quickly begin to notice imbalances.
The “ego range” is my term for half-repping.
During pull ups we stay in the top third of the rep because it’s the easiest and makes us look the strongest. During biceps curls we stay in the top third because, again, it’s much easier to handle a heavy weight.
And a heavier weight means you’re more man than anyone else. Right?
Heck, all guys have done this – me included.
In fact, I did the biceps curls one for about two years when I first started to lift weights.
I’d “curl” dumbbells which were far too heavy, restricting my range of motion to the top third of the rep because if I did venture into the lower portion I’d quickly find that my forearms – the weakest muscle involved in the exercise – wouldn’t be able to handle the weight.
A disproportionate gap in the bottom half of my biceps.
How many guys do you see in your local gym with this same problem? Tons!
It’s one of the most common training errors out there, something I see every day.
But, as you can see from the second picture below, it is something which can be sorted out.
Nowadays, folks at my gym ask how I have biceps which go “all the way down” and the answer is really simple – all you need to do is lower the weight and train with a full range of motion.
In addition to training with a full range of motion, I also want to point out that you can specifically target a certain area by switching up your grip.
You may hear people claiming “Oh, that exercise is for accentuating the biceps peak,” or “this is to develop the thickness of the back” and studies do confirm you can target certain parts of a muscle depending upon the grip you take. (1)
In addition, certain exercises work different parts of the muscle more effectively than others.
For example, a 2015 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research discovered that the lying leg curl was able to activate the lower hamstrings 170% more than a stiff leg deadlift. (2)
So depending where your imbalance is, there’s more than likely a tool for the job.
2. Train Opposing Muscle Groups
Here’s another gem which I used to erase some of my own muscular imbalances.
I remember when I used to have issues with – what I believed to be – my quads.
They looked a little out of proportion to the rest of my legs and every time I did lunges, I would feel it pulling uncomfortably.
Someone else’s point of view can be invaluable when searching for weaknesses, so I got my buddy Stevie HIIT to take a look at my legs and this helped me to identify the problem – I needed to train my hamstrings harder!
You see, I can handle a serious amount of weight with my quads, they are among my strong points.
But my hamstrings were being hit with nowhere near as much resistance and, over time, this amounted to a noticeable muscular imbalance.
By hitting my hamstrings hard over the next few weeks and months, the issue corrected itself.
I see the upper body version of this problem with a character you may recognize from your own gym. I call him “Chestasaurus Rex”.
- Monday is Chest Day.
- Wednesday is Shoulder day with a bit of chest thrown in
- Friday is Arm Day with a few sets of bench
Of course, his issue is that he only enjoys training the muscles he can see in the mirror.
It’s like attaching jump-start cables to the ego.
Therefore no need to train back or legs, because they don’t provide the same buzz.
Newsflash – you can’t see them in the mirror, but they’re still there. And hammering your chest to hide small legs doesn’t solve anything, it only magnifies the problem.
After a couple of months, old Chestasaurus Rex is so hunched over it’s like he’s trying to touch his shoulders together in front of his body, and he’ll complain about feeling tight across the chest.
All he should do in this situation is to start training the muscles which have been neglected.
Within 3 weeks he’ll see a difference.
In fact, there are more crossover benefits to this than meets the eye.
During a 2010 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Australian researchers discovered that when subjects trained their back prior to training chest, they also significantly boosted their power output on the chest exercise. (3)
Before you start thinking “Russ has gone all New Age on us,” let me make something clear.
No, I am not gonna start asking you to hug trees, “engage your core” or spend 20 minutes breathing in and out to emotionally prepare yourself for the workout ahead.
The simple fact is stretching is great for you and nobody does it.
Guys think it’s for girls, and girls think it’s for girls on Instagram.
I regularly hear guys claim that they “train like an athlete.”
Well, I don’t know one athlete who’ll hit the gym and go home without stretching. It’s that simple.
In fact, stretching is a really important part of their training regime.
But the reason I tell you to do this is because one of the benefits to stretching is it lengthens your muscles.
Trust me, you don’t want to be one of those guys at the gym who’s hamstrings or pecs are so bunched up they look like they are ready to snap at any second.
And it only takes 2 minutes to throw in some dynamic stretches before you train followed by some static holds after you train.
In a world where people pay extortionate fees for pills and powders that make a fractional difference, it seems crazy that so many of us neglect something so beneficial which is totally free.
If you have enjoyed today’s post on how to change the shape of your muscles, smash the Twitter button below to share it. I love it when you share my work. You may also enjoy my recent article on how to build a better back.
Here’s a picture of a shapely bottom.
1. Tesch, P.A. Target Bodybuilding. Human Kinetics, Champaign Ill. 1999.
2. Brad Schoenfeld, et. al., “Regional Differences in Muscle Activation During Hamstrings Exercise.” J Strength Cond Res. DOI: 10.1519/JSC.00000000000005.
3. Baker, D. and Newton, R. U. “Acute effect on power output of alternating an agonist and antagonist muscle exercise during complex training.” J Strength Cond Res. 19(1): 202-205, 2005.