More often than not, targeted training is associated with using machines rather than free weights or body weight.
Since machines isolate certain parts of the body or only function in uniplanar movements, it’s easy to specifically target the intended muscles or muscle groups when exercising.
That’s exactly what targeted training is, specifically strengthening certain muscles or muscle groups. But separately exercising is time-consuming if you aren’t the type of exerciser that repeats a routine over and over again.
Machines do have their merits. But lack of time and lack of enjoyment have been two of the leading barriers for people to exercise.
How to focus on Targeted Training (without the same routine and machines)
Free weight and bodyweight training is always my go-to recommendation for healthy individuals. They often require the activation of multiple muscles or muscle groups and offer an endless variety of exercise modalities; which can increase the efficiency and enjoyment of a workout.
Time is precious as many of us have countless obligations in life, so being able to cover an intense full-body workout in the same amount of time as a leg day or arm day using machines is highly valuable.
Enjoyment can be considered equally important because the likelihood of us exercising decreases the less we enjoy doing something; with more training options there are more possibilities of finding exercises that we enjoy doing. Another important aspect of free weight and bodyweight training is that they mimic natural functional movements such as carrying a suitcase or lifting a box off the ground.
There are very few movements in life that only require the activation of single muscle groups. In terms of functional movement, it doesn’t make sense to only train single muscle group movements. But that doesn’t mean targeted training is pointless.
Benefits of Targeted Training
Targeted training is great for correcting strength imbalances, rehabilitating from an injury, and improving specific aspects of fitness.
Many athletes use targeted it for certain sports and people use it to shape/tone specific areas of their bodies. And you can still focus on targeted training with free weights or body weights by utilizing slow contractions.
Step by step
By slow contractions, I mean decreasing the movement speed of the exercise you are performing. By slowing down the movement you can more specifically focus on the proper activation and intensity of the muscle contractions. For example, with a squat, you’d want to focus on the contraction of your entire lower body. When slowing down the contraction in the glutes and quads as they are slowly fighting the weight of gravity on the way down. On the way up you want to feel the same thing, BUT while shortening the muscle.
Slowing down changes the movement from a more dynamic and explosive movement to a more slower and controlled one. Instead of contracting your muscles as quickly as possible, you’ll be contracting at a consistent intensity for a longer time.
What do we get?
It will also strengthen the muscles both eccentrically and concentrically by having a more isokinetic exercise it requires stabilization of all muscle groups surrounding a joint. For example, during a squat, we think about quads and the glutes eccentrically when we are descending but concentrically the quads and the glutes standing up.
More importantly is that when you focus on squeezing the targeted muscle, the added stress will fatigue and strengthen the targeted muscle in a similar manner to isolating the working muscles and doing multiple working sets. However, doing slow contractions requires far fewer reps and sets, therefore, saves precious time while still getting the same benefits.
This is a holistic view for targeted training because the surrounding muscles will be strengthened as well, but the proportions will still greatly favor the focus on muscle. So if you do try out this type of targeted training, be mindful that you will be doing a full-body workout and may see improvement in other muscles surrounding the targeted area.