Does Emphasizing Bigger Muscles Help Them Develop Faster?

Is there any benefit to concentrating on your targeted muscles when lifting weights?  If you answered yes, you are correct. When you are trying to build muscle mass (hypertrophy), it will definitely accelerate your growth.  This approach will only benefit certain muscles, however.

How could concentrating on muscles work?

The European Journal of Sport Science took 30 untrained college aged men and randomly broke them into two groups.   The first group focused on contracting the targeted muscles while the second group just focused on lifting the load.   The targeted muscles were biceps and quadriceps. The workout consisted of training 3x per week with a 48 hour recovery before the next lift.  The groups performed 4 sets of 8-12 repetitions for each exercise. After 8 weeks, the targeted muscles were measured by an ultrasound. The researchers also tested strength gains by testing the bicep curl on a six repetition maximum and an isometric (non-moving) maximal contraction on the leg extension.  

  • Muscle Mass Measurements

The first group, which concentrated on their bicep contraction, resulted in an average growth of 12.4%.  The second group only increased growth by 6.9%. The quadriceps measurement resulted to nearly identical numbers (12% growth for the first group vs. 6% growth for the second group) between the both groups.  

  • Strength Measurements

What they found out was interesting.   When testing the strength, they discovered that the concentrated bicep curl resulted in more strength on the 6 rep max test in the first group than the second group.   When testing the quadriceps on the leg extension, there was no statistical difference in strength.

What does this mean?  

If your goal for working out is building muscle mass, you should concentrate on the working muscles.   Not only will see gains, you will see double the gains by concentrating on the muscles (upper AND lower body) vs. just trying to lift heavy weights.  If your goal is strictly strength training, the research suggests that concentrating on the upper body will also develop more strength. While muscle mass increased in the lower body, strength training did not show any benefit to concentrating vs. not concentrating.   

What are you to do?

Instead of just focusing on lifting heavy weights, concentrate on the muscles that you are performing with while you lift those heavy weights.   You will not only be able to lift heavier weights, you will see double the muscle mass gains!

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Steven Zahn

ACE Certified Personal Trainer

NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Pre and Post Partum Certified

Dragondoor Publications: HKC

For information on 1on1 Personal Training or Nutrition Coaching, feel feel free to contact me at