Specialization is a system of training which is usually employed when the muscles refuse to respond to ordinary training methods and require more thorough concentration to stimulate them. Specialization is often the answer and may be the only system of training that will induce additional growth when other methods fail.
It is a system of training whereby intense physical emphasis is placed on certain slow reacting muscles with the purpose of jolting them out of their lethargic state and thus encourage great size.
However, before anyone undertakes this type of training he should first thoroughly exploit the regular system of training and give it a chance to prove its worth. Moreover, a complete conditioning system for several months will prepare the muscles for the vigorous work that is necessary in specialization.
So often a novice, one who has been training only a few weeks, decides that he needs specialized training to hasten the results that he wants. Under the circumstances it would be unwise for any novice, who lacks sufficient training experience, to plunge into specialized exercise on the basis that his "immature muscles" may not be able to cope with the rigors of such training and in the long run, he is apt to do himself more harm than good.
For that matter, no one should attempt to specialize until he has thoroughly conditioned his muscles and is satisfied with that nothing less than specialization will work for him. Then and only then should specialization be attempted.
Frequently in the past some writers have stressed the point that specialization is the only method whereby muscles can be fully developed. While this is true up to a point, there are many other training principles that are equally effective and have brought excellent results to those who have employed them. Only when other methods fail to bring the desired results should the specialization principle be tried as a means of inducing growth in stubborn muscles.
Muscle obstinacy develops because the muscles grow tougher from daily use and require concentrated effort that will jar them into responding. Another thing we must consider is that certain muscles have greater density and need harder work to break them down. Specialization under these conditions is often successful and usually overcomes any muscle stubbornness that stems from dense, tough tissue.
Specialized training holds many advantages for the veteran bodybuilder who knows how to employ this old but useful principle. But I repeat, the novice who doesn't have enough training experience has little or nothing to gain by employing this method. He is likely to overwork his muscles without realizing it and, instead of his muscles increasing in size, they are apt to get smaller, something that could discourage even the most enthusiastic bodybuilder. But most beginners, as a rule, do not have any trouble making physical gains when they first commence training. There may be a few who experience some difficulty at first but they usually overcome this by adhering to sensible training principles and eventually show the fruits of their efforts. Much of this depends on what kind of physical condition they're in before they started weight training. The majority who start exercising are rather weak and somewhat flabby so that any kind of systematic training proves beneficial. The seasoned bodybuilder, on the other hand, has over the years acquired tougher tissue that only a varied and well-planned training program combined with intense concentration can further stimulate into increased muscular size. Specialization, under these circumstances, is ideal and is sure to result in added improvement . . . but only when this training principle is correctly employed.
It is obvious by the above statement that there is a right and wrong way of employing the specialization principle for best results. Most experienced men will agree there is. And this proves why so many fellows who have tried some kind of specialized training failed to achieve their goal. Once can well imagine how frustrating it is to any fellow who aspires to attain a certain physical goal only to find it escapes him in spite of all his efforts. And, it's mighty discouraging to all those who struggle and sweat over a long period of time and still find their muscles refuse to respond to any kind of exercise or system they try. No wonder such fellows are willing, in desperation, to try any training system just so they can get out of the rut and develop bigger muscles at any cost. But in such cases one is tempted to ask:
Hasn't the aim been set a little too high by this fellow?
So many fellows of only average bone structure seek to obtain heavy, massive development which is beyond their potential no matter which system of training they follow. They could, of course, overbulk or get fat but this kind of massiveness is not generally attractive . . . so why cultivate it?
Most fellows in their zealous desire to increase their muscular size have overworked their muscles while specializing. This is a mistake.
One should never overtrain except when there is an overweight condition, and even then it shouldn't be done too often. Overworking creates greater physical fatigue and any fatigue seems to lessen the process of reconstruction. While specialized training demands vigorous training it does not imply overworking the muscles. Overtraining can deplete nervous force and may cause one to lose the desire to continue training through enervation and fatigue.
As a matter of fact, all of us should exercise our muscles thoroughly without overworking them. In all concentrated training, which is specialization, more blood is forced toward the center of activity (the muscles being exercised) and, for best results, enough rest must follow this activity if reconstruction and increased size are to be expected. During this time the blood circulates in larger volume throughout the stimulated area and reconstruction or building up of the muscles begins through the nutrients that are in the blood.
However, when this tearing down process (catabolism) is overdone, beyond the point of fast recovery, reconstruction of tissue is much slower because the vast amounts of acids within the tissue slows up the rebuilding process.
So one must be sure to exercise the muscles well, but it is not necessary to overwork them.
All this is sure to bring up the question of which is the correct way of specializing and how can it be used to advantage.
First, anyone who has been training for several months will certainly realize that not everyone responds identically to the same system. After one gets some training experience he begins to show preference for certain training methods which he reels are best for him.
So many fellows, when they first start to specialize, add only three to five extra exercises to their regular training and succeed in increasing their muscular girths without training too hard. They found that these few extra exercises were just what the muscles needed to make them grow and get stronger.
On the other hand, there are those who spend almost all their training in doing only specialized work, and this usually includes more exercises, additional sets and even higher repetitions. Truly, the amount of work these fellows do during a workout is far to much for the average trainee who undertakes to specialize. Yet these fellows seem to thrive on this type of training schedule and show amazing improvement.
So this only proves that everyone must determine just what degree of specialization his muscles require to respond effectively and, once this is evaluated, better results can be expected when the proper amount of exercise is done.
It is generally conceded that whenever any specialization is needed it is usually in certain areas that have not kept up in development with the other parts. The most effective results are realized when an all-round training program is followed and then specialization is included at the end of the workout for the parts that require this special attention. This type of an approach is certain to overcome even the most stubborn muscles because they are partially stimulated during the course of the regular training and it requires less effort to flush them.
However, as I mentioned previously, not all individuals respond alike no matter which system of training is employed. One must determine for himself which manner of training he finds most effective and then continue it.
So much for specialization that is required in certain areas. But what about the specialization needed when most of the body requires improvement, how should this be tackled?
In this type of specialization there are two choices. One is to select two or more parts of the body to be exercised and specialized training is confined only to those parts on that training day. On the next training day other areas are exercised. One continues in this way until all the muscles have been covered, which may take three or four days.
The other choice is to use what is known as the Split Routine, in which specialization is concentrated on the upper body for one training session, and the lower half of the body on the following day. In this plan it is best to exercise on two consecutive days, for example: Monday upper body, Tuesday lower area. Wednesday rest, Thursday upper body, Friday lower half. On Saturday you should either rest completely or you can do a few exercises for those parts that appear a little slow in responding. Or you can rest completely on Saturday and do the few exercises on Sunday.
Do what you feel is best for you. But bear in mind that you must take a good workout on Monday and should not do so much as to tire you. On Monday you continue your specializing as you've done the previous week, but you can include different exercises or alter your repetition scheme if you like.
Speaking of different ways to include specialized training, I included a rather different method in my training at the time I was preparing for the Mr. USA contest. The purpose of this specialization was not to give any particular part special attention, but primarily to keep my muscularity at its peak. At the time I weighed slightly more than usual and knew that extra bodyweight could smooth out my muscularity unless I trained hard. I hit upon this plan of specialization because I felt it would offer me advantages . . . and did I think.
Here's how I included this specialized training.
After my regular workout I would select one part of the body and specialize on it until I felt it was enough. The next training period I would include another area and continued in this way until all the various parts of the body were covered, then starting over again. This type of specialization kept my measurements big and my muscularity sharp, much more than I expected.
However, it must be remembered that I was accustomed to hard and heavy training and could train very vigorously and still improve in spite of it.
But others may find this system too depleting and would not find it suitable in their own case.
So it's obvious that some logical reasoning must be done to determine the proper amount of exercise that will bring results.
There are any number of ways in which specialization training can be employed by the experienced enthusiast to advantage if he uses a little common sense in his approach.
What's more, it isn't necessary to exercise too strenuously or beyond your faculty of quick recovery.
In fact, it is always better to work within the limits of your strength and recuperative ability instead of overworking your muscles. Overworking, as mentioned before, tends to encourage physical fatigue and discouragement especially if the muscles fail to respond in spite of the effort you expend. At such times you'll find yourself forcing every repetition, and training in this way is certainly no pleasure. Sooner or later you're bound to get disgusted and give up.
This article, then, is meant to help those who have this problem, that of overcoming obstinate muscles. This condition can be corrected when proper training methods are adopted, such as advocated within these pages and as is outlined here.
There isn't any doubt that if you tackle the problem right you won't have any trouble in overcoming it. Be prepared to meet it through the methods described here . . . those of specialized training.
Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed.