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Blown Out of Proportion: Bodacious Bodyparts

7204-train1Most of us are so worried about getting bigger or bringing up weak bodyparts that we sometimes fail to realize we are wrecking our overall balance and proportion by letting a strong bodypart or bodyparts become overdeveloped. The following are a few key areas to keep a watch on if they happen to grow very easily for you.

Shoulders and arms. We all want big melon delts that fill doorways, and arms? My goodness gracious, I have been asking Santa for a pair of monster guns every Christmas since the early 1980s (apparently I was never a good enough boy). In particular, we often hear that shoulders can never be too big. Normally, that’s accurate, but if your chest or back isn’t keeping up, continuing to build your shoulders and arms will only highlight your lack of development in the other areas. Paul Dillett was a star of the ’90s who had some of the biggest, freakiest shoulders and arms a human being ever built. From the front he was Mr. Olympia. When he turned to the rear and hit his back poses, the effect was underwhelming—his back needed a lot of work. Evan Centopani is a great example of someone who recognized that issue and caught it before things got out of hand. His chest doesn’t respond anywhere near as well or as quickly as his shoulders and arms, but rather than allow his delts, bi’s and tri’s to grow out of control, he wisely keeps the reins on them as he busts his ass to bring up his pecs.

Traps. Who has the best traps in bodybuilding today (and in my opinion of all time)? That honor goes to Johnnie Jackson, who also happens to be known as the world’s strongest bodybuilder. I have seen some thick, ear-scraping traps in my time, but his are on a whole other level. Yet Johnnie will be the first to admit that if he could have done it all over again, he wouldn’t have allowed them to get that immense. It took him many years to make his shoulders thick, wide and round enough that he didn’t appear narrow. He succeeded, but it took a whole lot of growth in his delts. Since traps do seem to grow faster than side delts for many guys, be mindful of their balance.

Legs. Johnnie’s training partner is Branch Warren, considered by many to have the best leg development in the sport today. Branch’s legs were always very responsive, and in his amateur years they overpowered his upper body. It took him two separate periods of not training legs for nearly a year to get his upper body to catch up. There have been and continue to be top-level amateur bodybuilders who have better genetics for leg growth than they have for everything above the waist. Their more-average upper bodies only make them look completely bottom heavy. A lot of guys wish that their legs responded better, but if you’re one of those guys (or girls) whose legs blow up when they just walk past a squat rack, it may be time to lay off them and work on the upstairs.

Abs. One unfortunate eyesore that the era of mass monsters ushered in was big guts. To be fair, some guys just have wide waists and big hips. You can’t change your bone structure, but you do need to keep that already large midsection from getting any larger. If the abs and obliques are overly developed in a man who already has a thick waist, it’s only going to make the midsection more of a barrel shape. If your Creator didn’t bless you with a particularly small midsection, don’t make matters worse by using heavy weights for abdominal exercises and performing exercises that cause your obliques to thicken—as deadlifts seem to do in many cases. —Ron Harris


Editor’s note: Ron Harris is the author of Real Bodybuilding—Muscle Truth From 25 Years in the Trenches, available at


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