When you first start lifting weights you are weak everywhere.
There is no point in trying to address weakness or imbalances. You just need to get stronger.
Then you need to improve your conditioning.
If you are new to lifting weights, start with the basics. Do a program that emphasizes progressive overload with a few compound exercises. (squat, bench, deadlift, press)
For those of you with more experience you have likely hit a plateau or three.
What should you do?
Some say you should improve your weaknesses. Others say go all-in on your strengths. Some say fix your imbalances.
What is the best way to proceed?
I have tried everything and my answer is, it depends.
Let's take a closer look at each option and see which one will help you break your current plateau.
1. Improve Your Weak Areas
Let's say you have been training consistently for a year. You have made good progress. Now you are at a plateau with your lifts and your physique.
Maybe you want to improve one area of your body, say your shoulders. You feel that if you do so, it will enhance your body and/or upper body strength.
For the next 8 weeks you follow a specialization program. This will focus much of your efforts and energy, recovery on building up your shoulders (or whatever area you choose)
Everything else will be put on maintenance mode. You will reduce the amount of work you do for your legs, arms etc..
These specialization programs are usually short (6-12 weeks) and require sufficient caloric intake to build that one area.
2. Embrace Your Strength
Let's say your best lift is the bench press. It's also your favorite. (they often go hand-in-hand) You don't really care about your legs or abs but you know you need to do them so you include some half-hearted sets in your program.
You just want to embrace your strength and forget the rest, but you've hit a plateau.
What you can do is add some variety into your routine. Not 12 different exercises for the chest and arms but just some slight variation.
Change up the rep ranges. Use an incline instead of a flat bench. Try some dumbbells instead of the barbell.
Do an extra day of bench pressing but with a different variation.
Part of staying consistent with training is enjoying it. If you love to do one certain exercise or movement then it may be valuable to include it more often.
3. Fix Your Imbalances
We all have a stronger side and a weaker side. Dominant, non-dominant. This is just the way it is.
You have the functional training fanatics that will tell you that you need to be balancing on bosu balls and trying to do whatever possible to fix these imbalances.
This is overkill.
There is some benefit to working on your imbalances though.
For example, it's common for the front of your body to be stronger than the rear. Addressing this can help you get stronger, and reduce the risk of common injuries.
Exercises like 1 arm presses, 1 arm dumbbell rows, lunges, step-ups, sled dragging have plenty of benefit and can be included in any program.
If you're stuck in a plateau try to mix in a single arm/ single leg exercise for a month-6 weeks and you may be surprised how much it improves your overall strength.
Often the answer is what will get you to the gym. What routine gets you fired up? Which exercises do you LOVE to perform?
That might just be your answer, because whatever gets you into the gym, helps you make progress, and gets you excited, is what you need to focus on most.
If you are stuck with your training and can't figure out WHY, check out my online programming. It's personalized for your goals and your lifestyle.