Specialization

Any thoughts on specific protocols for bringing up lagging parts?

It depends on what is the cause of the weakness. For example, a lifter can have a lagging chest because his shoulders and triceps are so strong that the chest barely gets any stimulation when using pressing movements.

On the other hand a body part might simply be undertrained (e.g. chest is undertrained by olympic lifters who do no direct chest movements).

A lagging body part might also be due to fiber ratios: if your biceps has a disproportionaly high amount of slow twitch fibers compared to the rest of your body its potential for growth will be much lower.

Finally, a lagging bodypart can be due to poor neural activation of a muscle (often seen with the VMO).

In the first case the trick is to select exercises in which the strongest muscles are placed in a mechanically weak position OR (my favorite) using an isometric pause during the movement (works especially well for chest and back).

If a body part is undertrained simply increase the training volume for that part (but this is rarely the cause).

If the problem is due to fiber ratio (perform the 80% for reps test is you suspect that a body part is highly slow twitch: find out your maximum for an isolation exercise for the test muscle, rep out with 80% of that maximum. If you can perform more than 14 reps with 80% that muscle is slow-twitch dominant) you should increase the volume for that muscle, using long time under tension for each set (sets lasting around 60 seconds) at a slowereccentric tempo.

Finally if the problem is a bad activation of the muscle you might want to use EMS for a few sessions on this muscle. EMS can decrease the activation threshold of a muscle. If you don’t have access to such a machine you can try touch training: have a partner slide his finger down the targeted muscle (in the direction of the muscle fibers) as you perform the exercise.

Your comment about oly lifters having undertrained chest because no specific work is done specifically for them, but dont they also normally post pretty high max bench presses because of shoulder, upper back, and tricep development? And if true, would working the chest once a week take care of the lagging pectorals(from a strength standpoint)?

It depends. Some olympic lifters do bench press in their training (Kolecki with 200kg comes to mind). But most modern lifters don’t bench press at all. Some do have strong shoulders and can thus bench press acceptable poundages, but these are really the exceptions. Denis Garon, a former memebr of the Canadian team who cleaned 222kg once bench pressed 220kg, but he trained quite extensively on that lift.

Lifters of the press era (up to 1972), and those who tained in the press era and competed afterwards (up to 1980) had a lot of pressing strength because the bench press and inclune press was part of their regimen. However now, most lifters will specialize on the competition lifts and cannot bench press that much. I know of an elite Canadian lifter who can jerk 200kg but who can only bench press 120-130kg.

Great response, thanks.