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The Outdoor Athlete Book by Courtenay and Doug Schurman

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More Training Info > Priority Training

Priority Training

Q: What sort of program do you recommend for making progress on weaker muscle groups while not losing strength in stronger muscle groups?

A: You can do what's called "priority training," which means putting the emphasis on the weaker muscles earlier in the workout, while you are still fresh. To maintain strength in the stronger muscles, simply do a set or two for that body part toward the end of the workout, until the other muscle groups "catch up."

Example I) If you know that your lats are really strong but your rhomboids need help, start your back training with seated rows, corner reverse pushups, reverse pec dec flyes, rope rows to the face, and the like, which all target the weaker postural muscles in the upper back. Do a set or two of pullups afterwards to maintain your lat strength. This is probably the opposite order of what you'd normally do, working the larger lat muscles earlier on, and progressing toward the smaller muscles.

Example II) For most cyclists, climbers, and everyday people whose quadriceps are much, much stronger than hamstrings, try doing stiff-legged deadlifts, 1-leg hamstring curls, good mornings, deadlifts, step-ups, or any other hamstring-dominant exercises for the first 2/3 of your workout, then balance out with a set or two of narrow squats, lunges, some calf raises and lower back work. Keep hamstring work (for the most part) in the 6-8 (i.e. lower) rep range with suitably heavy weight to optimally recruit the most of the muscle fibers possible.


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