Once you have developed the necessary mass, you must then begin to concentrate on quality. To do this, you need to study your body in the mirror or in photos and try to discover your weak points (although your friends at the gym will probably be all too happy to tell you exactly what they are).
For Schwarzenegger, his initial weak points were the thighs and calves, so Schwarzenegger adjusted his training to put more emphasis on the legs, to bring them up and improve his lower body in proportion to my upper body.
A year later when Schwarzenegger was ready to compete in the Mr. Europe and the NABBA Mr. Universe contests, his thighs and calves had improved, they weren't perfect, but they certainly were a lot better.
Now the criticism was that Schwarzenegger's muscle separation and definition weren't as good as they could be. So Schwarzenegger had to add more exercises to his routine. For example, Schwarzenegger started doing a lot of Front Lateral Raises to separate the pectoral muscles from the deltoids, and a lot of Pullovers to separate the serratus from the lats.
But even this wasn't enough. People told Schwarzenegger, "The center of your back isn't cut enough," so Schwarzenegger started doing more Bent-Over and Cable Rows. "Your leg biceps aren't as good as your quadriceps," "You could use some more rear deltoid development," and so on, and each time, when Schwarzenegger realized where he needed improvement, Schwarzenegger changed his program to try to overcome the deficiency.
Too many bodybuilders train to improve their strong points at the expense of their weak points. One bodybuilder who is famous for his tremendous arm development and equally infamous for his lack of leg development comes into the gym day after day and trains, arms!
Endless repetitions of biceps and triceps work, set after set, yet anyone looking at him can tell that he should do nothing but basic maintenance training on his arms for the next year while he bombs and blasts his thighs and calves to bring them up to championship level.
But he seems to lack that "sense of perfection," and it is doubtful he will ever learn to balance his physique.
Many bodybuilders do not start out with a sense of perfection, but acquire it later on. The truth is, it is possible to go quite far in competition winning the Mr. Universe title, for example, with glaring weaknesses in your physique.
But all too often a Mr. Universe winner will go straight from the amateur championship to a professional contest and finish very poorly or even dead last!
Stepping up from one level of competition to another, from state contests to the National Championship, from the Nationals to the Universe, from amateur bodybuilding to the pros and on to the Mr. Olympia, you will find that weak points in your physique become increasingly detrimental.
Bodybuilders often find themselves unable to make the effort needed to correct them because it means, in a sense, starting over. After years of successful competition, you have to admit that you have a weakness that might take one or two years to totally correct.
Making the decision to overcome a weak point, once you are advanced in a bodybuilding career, can take a great deal of moral courage.
When Schwarzenegger came to the United States Schwarzenegger was criticized for his poor calf development, so I cut off the bottoms of my sweatpants to make sure my calves were visible at all times.
That not only reminded me to train them harder, but let everyone else see how they looked, which doubly motivated Schwarzenegger to train them even harder.
As another example, Schwarzenegger's left arm used to be slightly smaller than his right arm. Schwarzenegger noticed that whenever he was asked to show his biceps, Schwarzenegger would automatically flex the right arm. So Schwarzenegger consciously made an effort to flex his left arm as much or more than his right, to work on that weak point instead of simply ignoring it, and eventually Schwarzenegger was able to make his left biceps equal to his right.
Actually, this stage of training, this pursuit of perfection, never really ends because there is no such things as a perfect body and you can always improve your physique. Every year, as you train and compete, you learn more about your body and what kinds of diet and exercise programs benefit it the most. You never really stop doing the basic, you just add new ways of doing things.
Bodybuilder is as much an art as a science, so you can't always be governed by a rigid and unchanging program. From the first day you walk into a gym it may be apparent to you that one body part or another is much weaker than all the rest.
One basic method of correcting such imbalances is by using the Priority Principle, work your weak areas first, when you are fresh and capable of generating the greatest amount of intensity. Or arrange your Double-Split schedule so that you are training only the weak body part in one of the sessions.
Another remedy is to increase the number of sets you do for the weaker area from 5 to 7 sets. Continue doing this for as long as necessary, until you see an improvement, then go back to a more balanced routine.
This is a good time to use the Staggered System. Every third or fourth set, thrown in one set of an exercise for the weak area in addition to the normal sets you do for that body part.
There will also be times when a body part lags behind because you are overtraining it, hitting it so hard, so often, and so intensely that it never has a chance to rest, recuperate, and grow. The answer to this problem is simply to give the muscles involved a chance to rest and recover, and then to adjust your training schedule so that you don't overtrain it again.
Remember, too much can be as bad as too little when it comes to bodybuilding training. But how do you tell the difference between slow growth due to not enough training and lack of development because of overtraining?
To a degree, this is something you need to learn to tell instinctively as you get more experience, but here is a good rule of thumb:
1. The remedy for under-stimulatione is most often learning to train harder, more intensity, using additional intensity techniques, than it is increasing sets to any great degree.
2. Overtraining is almost always the result of training with too many sets, too often, with too little time to rest for a body part between workout sessions (one sign of possible overtraining is a lack of a pump during your workouts.)
Remember, one of the reasons there are so many good bodybuilders nowadays is that they have learned to train extremely intensely in short bursts, while giving their muscles plenty of time to rest and recuperate between workouts. Always keep in mind that training stimulates growth, but that actual growth takes place while you are resting.
Of course, sometimes your weakness is in just one area of a body part, your biceps may have a great peak, but not enough width; your lats may be wide and sweeping enough, but you might lack density and mass in the middle back. The answer is to choose the particular exercises that work that specific area and arrange your training program to give those exercises special priority.