T Nation

Weak/Dominant Muscles?


Ok, before I ask this question, I know im over-analyzing this, and I know at my level, every muscle is weak. But im interested in this anyways. So if you dont have anything to offer, please hit the back button, otherwise please share your opinions.

So, in a given lift, there is generally a muscle group that you prefer to be dominant. This may be debatable, but lets say for bench, that you want the triceps to be dominant, then the shoulders, and then chest. This may or may not be optimal, but in theory, it is safer, because the triceps are more resilient than the shoulders, than the chest. And order in which these muscles contribute to the lift is in part related to biomechanics (form/technique) and partially due to neurology.

Ok, so lets say you are benching, with a fairly narrow grip, elbows tucked, and bar in a somewhat straight path over the lower chest. This should put bar/joints in positions in which the triceps>shoulders>chest contribution would occur. But the factor of weak/strong muscles may play a part as well.

1)So say im benching, and my shoulders are always fatiguing first. This could mean two things IMO.

a- my shoulders are being recruited too much and are becoming the prime mover
b- my shoulders are weak or have low work capacity and thus are fatiguing.

Which one is it likely? Or how do you figure out which one it is?

2) If your muscles are not recruiting how it is theorized optimal triceps>shoulders>chest, and you just continue to train the main movement BENCH and strengthen everything. Wouldn't it be likely that this flawed pattern will continue, and only hold you back in the long run?

3)Or do you think it will correct itself over time?

4) Lastly, ive seen that in recently Dave Tate switched from training more just focusing on movements, to more of a mind-muscle connection type thing.

Is this just completely bb'ing related or useful at all to a powerlifter.

My last part to this isn't actually a question, but just some random thoughts.

If you are deadlifting or squatting, and your back is always fattiguing and getting sore, then often people will asume they have a muscle imbalance or are doing something wrong. They may just strengthen their back, but often times will focus on strengthening their legs and activating their glutes more by focusing on completing the lift with their glutes. It could be that the back is over-active, or it could just be that its weak. But with "lazy" glutes strengthening your back will only take you so far in strength before you stall or worse get hurt.

Another example, is pulling movements. Some people will do pullups and will feel it almost entirely in their biceps, while others will feel it almost entirely in their back. I have found that going very wide on rows or pullups and focusing on my back allows me to shift the emphasis to my back. But ideally it seems that you'd get as much from both muscle groups as possible. If you are mainly getting just biceps or back on pulling movements, it seems as if this recruitment pattern will only get more ingrained as you train, and your progress will halt.

Lastly, people often say, just bench more. But it seems that when you are more of a beginner you would likely want to correct these recruitment patterns early. Then when you become more advanced you can really focus on your main lifts like bench and this will strengthen all the muscles in the desired order.

Just some random thoughts.


Uh..? They're all going to contract at the same time.. not in an order.

If your form is good a muscle won't get recruited to little or too much. If you're weak off the chest, train your shoulders and chest. If you're weak at the lockout, work on the triceps.

Where did this muscle hierarchy from?

I would say this is more bodybuilding related, but it has it's use in training for powerlifters for sure. When you're shooting for a PR on a main lift you would think you would want to think about the movement.

I would say agree mostly, movement patterns are of primary importance when it comes to producing lots of strength. however, for people with more physique oriented goals, mind-muscle connection is important. If you can't feel your lats doing work on an exercise, they're probably not going to Grow!


What a colossal waste of internet.


..which could be an interesting discussion, but if you have nothing to contribute, fuck off?


You should check the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research through the NSCA.


I would be looking at pattern overload if your worried about weaknesses. Example, your ratio of scapular(the shoulder) retraction to protraction work, elevation to depression work, and internal to external work. Im using the shoulder as an example in this, not including the hips which 90% of the time get neglected as well.

Doing too much of one pattern without balance in the opposing group opens the body up for injury. Especially with all the prehab stuff on shoulders, hips, and knees on this site, one is foolish to neglect programming it in their routine in some way. If your posture sucks, start fixing it. That way you can still continue to lift with conventional compound exercises and not develop imbalances.


Thx for the opinions guys. Its a little confusing topic, and I think thats why some of your responses were very off-topic (at least from what I was intending)

Challer1, you mentioned that all the muscles are going to fire at the same time, but im not sure how correct this is. In some of the westside articles, Louie Simmons suggests that "you want the triceps to be strongest so that they fire first". Like I said, this may or may not be correct. Also, though, what I was more concerned about with the triceps>shoulders>chest is the amount of force each muscle is contributing.

I think the example with a deadlift is easier to understand. If you are deadlifting, and doing a 5rm and are limited because your lower back tightens up/fattigues, there are two options. A)Your lower back is not strong enough to do more weight for 5 reps, >5reps with the same weight, and everything else is more than strong enough. B)Your lower back is not strong enough, AND everything else is not strong enough.

These seem like the same thing kinda, but in option A your strength will be best increased by working on lower back strength OR changing technique/ muscle control to allow the other muscles to do more work. While in option B, you need to sttrengthen everything and possibly change your technique.

so I dont think theres an easy answer to this. I can imagine that it takes a combination of looking at technique AND feeling.

The pulling example mentioned also brings up an interesting scenario. If im doing horizontal rowing movement and just focusing on lifting heavy, I pretty much only feel it in my biceps, and they seem to be what is limmiting me from lifting more weight and more reps. This may not be a problem. Although my lats aren't getting much work at the moment, as my biceps get stronger, then my back will be required to lift heavier and heavier weights. But at the same time, I can see that possibly going lighter for a while, and focusing on squeezing my back, and (feeling it in my back) might allow my recruitment pattern to change, and thus allow me to get bigger and stronger faster. Im not too sure about all of this.

As of now, im just doing what I know will work.

For bench, I have an ME day, and a DE day (sometimes RE day). I also tend to alternate full range, with mid/lockout training. And one of my days is more triceps dominant, while the other is more shoulder/chest dominant.

For back training, I work mainly horizontal rowing, but occasionally throw in some lat pulldowns. I dont train my biceps directly because it seems as if they are getting worked a lot in my pulling. But if I just need to have stronger biceps to be able to row more weight and have a bigger back, then it seems that direct bicep work would be more optimal than pulling movements, for the time being.


Agreed. Stfu conorh.


I'm not even convinced the OP actually lifts weights. If he would wander into a weight room from time to time I think some of these novelizations on training he posts would evaporate.

If you close grip and you fail off the chest, is your chest weak or are you overrecruiting it and fatiguing? Same question, but wide grip? It just depends. You would "just know" this by the way it feels and by reasoning it through if you actually thoughtfully trained.

No, it will not fix itself if you ignore it. You have to bring up weak muscles or change technique.


I'll expand on this even more, so maybe the internet strangers won't tell me to fuck off:

You will know what is weak by where you fail. If your chest is weak, you'll fail off the chest. You'll know what is "overrecruited" by the way it feels, if your shoulders get super sore from benching, it means you're recruiting them the most.


Haha, I agree.

This seems like intellectual masturbation with a very small penis.


Speaking as a phys ed / sp med nerd, conorh makes a good point. I appreciate a good discussion on exercise physiology and biomechanics, but when people over complicate it, it just shuts my brain off.


Well this is the type of answer I was looking for. What you are saying makes sense, except I'd still question the last part.

"...if your shoulders get super sore from benching, it means you're recruiting them the most"

I see your point here, but couldn't it also mean that your shoulders are weak, or do not have the work capacity that your triceps do?

Im not sure as to this, but what kinda makes sense is to train your weak points (sticking points) for strength, and train the muscles that get sore or feel like they are taking the brunt of things with higher rep "bodybuilding" type training.

I guess this doesn't really change things. I'll continue to train my sticking point (mid) with heavier weights in the 1-5 range, and hit my shoulders with isolation movement like shoulder raises in the 15-40 rep range.

And as for, the rowing problems. I'll continue to row heavy, and add some higher rep bicep training.

So I guess the summary of this would be strengthen your sticking points AND the muscles that dont feel they are being worked much AND do higher rep work for the muscles that seem to tire out first and get sore the most.

Now that I read that, it kinda seems obvious. Thanks guys for pointing this out.


But... there's soo much internet!