Even Bodybuilders Have a Tough Time Hitting These Muscles

Bodybuilders are the epitome of strength, the kings of the muscle court. So it probably comes as a shock that even they have a difficult time building certain muscles up.

These men and women are in killer shape, however, they aren’t immune to the struggle that is muscle gain. Trainers and bodybuilders alike ranked the hardest muscles to tone and build and gave tips on how to finally build those tough-to-target muscles (page 7).

6. Biceps

female athlete performing push-ups on a medicine ball

Sorry, but your bicep curls aren’t working as well as you think. | iStock.com/Ibrakovic

Various bodybuilders expressed difficulty building up their biceps. However, according to Muscle and Fitness, they may just be doing the wrong bicep exercises for long-term results. “Curling aimlessly is just as limiting as it sounds,” it found, and encouraged using bands and widening your grip to further define the biceps.

If you want to define your biceps without building big muscle, try these exercises designed to tone your arms without using weights.

Next: How do you turn that four-pack into a six-pack?

5. Abdominal muscles

man doing bicycle crunches

Bicycle crunches help to hit those hard-to-reach lower abs. | iStock.com

Regardless of how long you plank for or how many crunches you do, your “lower abs” (biologically speaking, there is no distinction) never seem to surface. It feels nearly impossible to complete the six-pack, and more often than not, most people just settle for the top two to four.

Biology and diet are in part to blame for the struggle, however, there are still a few tricks you can use at the gym to target your lower abs. Incorporate exercises that target all of your abdominal muscles like jackknives, boat pose, and bicycle crunches. Focus on engaging your lower abs with each movement to optimize the exercise.

Next: You won’t want to shrug off this muscle group.

4. Shoulders

A woman doing side shoulder fly exercise

You need to be careful how you work your shoulders. | iStock.com

Lifestyle coach and trainer Craig Ballantyne called the shoulders “the first place to get hurt and the last place to get big” for bodybuilders. He recommended building big shoulders using the “back-to-front” approach in order to increase muscle mass while reducing the potential for injury.

The “back-to-front” approach is fairly self-explanatory: start each workout training the back of the shoulder, then the middle deltoid, then finish with exercises for the front of the shoulder. For example: Start with reverse flyes, move onto standing deltoid raises, and finish with a seated dumbbell press.

Next: Don’t neglect this hard-to-build muscle group.

3. Pecs

man doing bench press exercise on an incline bench

Pecs are notoriously tough to grow. | iStock.com

The pecs are a notoriously difficult muscle to build according to Men’s Health, and many bodybuilders feel the same. Derek Charlebois — known as “The Beast” among the bodybuilding community — called his chest the “stubborn muscle group that just does not seem to want to grow.”

Physical trainers recommend warming up, taking things slow to start, and incorporating regular rests to start. Charlebois claimed the bench press, incline bench press, and cable crossovers all contributed to the incredible results he saw over the course of just six months.

Next: These muscles are the hardest to build and easiest to injure.

2. Lats

woman doing pull-ups

Full range of motion is key when developing the lats. | Kostolom/iStock/Getty Images

The biggest issue with lats? They’re nearly impossible to isolate. Bodybuilding experts stress focusing on quality rather than quantity when targeting your lats. “What’s most important is to cut back on the amount of weight in order to perform the reps at a full range of motion,” Generation Iron recommended in order to build real muscle mass.

Bodybuilders use chin-ups and pull-ups to build up their lats. Remember to keep your elbow position in mind throughout your workout: holding them wide will target the upper lats while keeping them tighter to your sides will trigger the lower lats.

Next: Bodybuilders call this muscle group the hardest to build up.

1. Calves

a bodybuilder's calves

Make sure to add calf raises into leg day. | iStock.com/Ibrakovic

Genetics play a large role in calf size since they control muscle distribution. There are other factors — like your circulation and nerve supply — that also affect how your calf muscles develop.

According to the experts at Generation Iron, the key to overcoming “chicken legs” to make your calves a priority rather than an afterthought. Build a well-structured workout that incorporates all three of the calves’ major muscles. The site recommends including reverse calf raises and standing or seated barbell calf raises in your workout.

Next: These tips will help you build any muscle, no matter how pesky.

So, what’s the secret to targeting tough-to-build muscles?

woman stretching at the gym

Low weights and high reps are key to building muscle. | iStock.com

The bigger the weight, the bigger the muscle, right? Wrong. It turns out using low-weight volumes and high repetitions actually lead to the greatest hypertrophy, or enlargement of cells, by pumping more amino acids into muscles.

Research also shows that focusing on full-body workouts, eating small meals throughout the day, and incorporating a thorough warmup can help you build and maintain muscle mass.

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