Many of the guys (and women) hitting the gym day after day, week after week, are working HARD to build muscle, but have little knowledge of how their muscles actually work. As a result, they are doing exercises that they've seen other people do, or that they read about in a magazine, or watched a video of online... and even though what they are doing LOOKS like what they've seen/learned... its' NOT working the muscle it's designed to work.
The first step in getting the RIGHT muscle(s) working, is to understand how EVERY muscle in the body works.
100% of our muscles work through PULLING. NONE of our muscles work through PUSHING. Understating this concept, and applying it to your workouts, will immediately make 50% of your lifts more effective!
Doing back and bicep exercises are pretty intuitive. You grab the bar, dumbbell, cable, machine, whatever, and PULL. It works! But once you understand that even your chest and shoulder exercises are PULLING actions... they become more effective.
Every muscle in the body has an "origin" and an "insertion". The origin of the muscle is (usually) where it connects to your skeleton closest to the center-line of your body. The insertion is where the muscle reconnects somewhere to your skeleton farther away from the center-line. Let's use your pectoral (chest) muscle as a great example. Most people see a chest PRESS as a pushing movement. Technically... it's not! The origin of your pectoral muscle is along your sternum/breast bone, and the insertion is in your upper arm (humerus). When the pectoral is contracted, it PULLS the upper arm inward toward the sternum. It does not push anything...
If you FOCUS on PULLING the upper arm inward toward your center-line, you WILL FEEL your pectoral contract more strongly. MANY people doing a barbell of dumbbell press exhaust their arm (triceps) muscles, and shoulder muscles MUCH sooner than their pectoral. As a result, the pectoral doesn't get optimal activation... and doesn't GROW! Dumbbells are far more effective for growing your chest than barbells, because your hands can actually come together over your shoulders, and the pectoral muscles can work through a longer, more complete range of motion... thereby getting more stimulus to grow. And yet people bench-press, and bench-press, and bench-press some more... and complain that they can't get their chest to grow.
Similarly... the triceps muscle, on the back of your arm, is trained through "PRESS-downs", and other exercises with PRESS (push) right in the name. The originS of the triceps (three muscles) are in the shoulder and upper arm. The insertion is past the elbow on the lower arm. Effectively, the triceps PULLS the lower arm "to the rear", moving the back of the lower arm closer to the back of the shoulder and upper arm. Similarly, the quadriceps (4 muscles) in the front of your thigh PULL upward on your patellar tendon, which inserts below the knee, pulling your shin "upward" over the knee cap.
Here's the kicker.... MANY PERSONAL TRAINERS DON'T EVEN KNOW THIS! They don't understand mechanically how the body works, and they cannot explain it to their clients... so their clients work for months and months, doing half the exercises they do wrong. They fail to EXPLAIN to their clients how the exercise should FEEL, where they should be feeling the work, and how to adjust the body into the correct position to feel the muscle actually work. If you come listen to Lisa and I work with clients, you will constantly hear us positioning our clients, and explaining to them where they should be feeling the movement... and if they're not feeling it where they should be... WE FIX IT.
Beyond general mechanics... EVERY body is different. Mechanics vary from person to person. Joint depths, limb lengths, even the position on the bone where the muscles insert varies from person to person! If you (or your Trainer) doesn't understand the effects of different body geometry has on every exercise you do... you'll never get the most out of the exercises you do! Your muscle growth will always "look funny" as a result, or WORSE, you'll develop bad movement patterns, and muscle imbalances, that can damage your joints in thew long term. The description your read, or heard for "perfect form" in an exercise... MAY be wrong for YOU.
It's fun to talk about going to the gym and "picking heavy shit up and putting it back down"... But in reality... How you move the weight, how the muscle FEELS when you're moving it, and understanding the BASIC functions of how muscle works will grow a LOT more muscle, using a LOT less weight.
If you train and train... but seem to never feel the "burn" where you are supposed to... Come see us, or give us a call, at BURN. Lisa and I have over 20 years experience EACH... getting people growing!