Which Muscle Groups Are Not Addressed By The Big 4 Lifts?

Updated June 30th 2021

With the big 4 lifts, the squat, bench press, overhead press, and deadlifts, your rear delts, calves, biceps, mid back, and upper back are not worked on exclusively. Adding pullups and bent-over rows will help address many of your big back muscles.

When people begin their journey of strength training, they are tasked to pick programs and understand which exercise is best for them.

When you are first starting off, picking a linear progression program is one of the best ways you can start off your lifting adventure.

Just picture it as a crash course for lifting, which will last for years!

Typical linear progression programs, like Greyskull LP and Starting Strength, are recommended for beginners due to their simplicity in exercise selection.

That makes sense, who wants a complicated workout that they cannot remember anyway?

What are the big 4 lifts?

The big 4 lifts are the—

  1. squat
  2. bench press
  3. deadlift
  4. overhead press

Together with these four exercises, you will always have a killer program that targets nearly all of your muscle groups.

What are the big 3 lifts?

The big 3 lifts are the—

  1. squat
  2. bench press
  3. deadlift

This was the original trio that is the basis of all strength training programs.

This is commonly referred to as the powerlifting movements since powerlifting competitions will test your 1 rep maxes for these three lifts.

By knowing the competition format, you are getting closer to becoming an elite powerlifter.

What are the 5 basic strength training exercises?

  1. Squats
  2. Bench Press
  3. Overhead Press
  4. Deadlift
  5. Barbell Row

The squat, the bench press, the overhead press, the deadlift, and the barbell row are the 5 fundamental strength training exercises found in every effective program.

There are many great exercises to help athletes achieve their goals.

With the right education, they can learn and discover what works well for them to carry them into their next stage in life.  

How often should I work a muscle group?

Depending on your training experience, lifters can expect to work on big muscle groups, like the quadriceps and hamstrings, anywhere between once a week to every day.

Lifters can expect to work on smaller muscle groups, like your triceps, biceps, deltoid, and pectoral, anywhere between once a week to five times a week.

For example, beginners in strength training can do a full body workout (FBW), which trains all their muscle groups, three times a week.

Squats and deadlifts are usually done three times a week.

Bench press and overhead press are usually alternating between once or twice a week.

As you become an advanced beginner, your program may vary slightly but you will still be within the same framework.

  • Squats are usually trained three times a week.
  • Deadlifts are done once or twice a week.
  • Bench press and overhead press are usually done once or twice a week.
  • Barbell rows are done between once and three times a week.

If you get strong enough where you cannot recover and make weight progressions every workout, you will need to adjust your programming to accommodate for your advancement in strength.

As you get stronger and stronger, you will face many different programming options and strategies that will be revealed to you.

One strategy is that there are special programs available to dedicate to one specific lift, which focuses on several muscle groups.

For example, squat programs will only focus on increasing your squat max and are generally not recommended for beginner or intermediate lifters to do.

With a squat program, you can be expected to squat as little as five times a week to as frequently as twice a day, every day.

However, if you are doing a bro split, beginners in bodybuilding usually start off by hitting every muscle group once a week.

They will go to the gym three times a week.

Soon, you can work your way to strength training 6 days a week if your goal aligns with this training frequency.

Big 3 workout program

Lifters can start to bench press 2-3x a week, squat 2-3x a week, and deadlift 1-2x a week.

For beginners, they are usually pointed in a direction to increase their big 4 1 rep maxes.

One reason for this is because they are not trained yet and need to be stronger overall.

There is no reason why they should not only train the big 3 lifts since this is their programming.

Strength coaches and fitness enthusiasts all strongly recommend that you build a big athletic base and specialize later once you identify a goal you want to achieve.

For intermediates or advanced lifters, they can begin more specialized programming, which only involves the bench press, squat, and deadlift.

Lifters can decide whether or not they only want to train the big 3 movements— if they do, they will improve on the big 3 lifts the most.

This would be a sample schedule for a beginner lifter:

Monday Wednesday Friday
  • Squat - 75% of 1 RM, 5x5
  • Bench Press - 75% of 1 RM, 5x5
  • Deadlift - 85% of 1RM, 5x5
  • Squat - 65% of 1 RM, 2x5
  • Bench Press - 65% of 1RM, 3x5
  • Squat - 77.5% of 1 RM, 5x5
  • Bench Press - 77.5% of 1 RM, 5x5
  • Deadlift - 60% of 1 RM, 3x5

The goal of this sample schedule is to show that you should be improving your work capacity somehow, whether every session, every week, etc.

You should also be mindful of learning how to autoregulate your training volume, where you do not burn out from lifting weights.

This is where you feel preemptively tired during a workout.

What are the 4 major muscle groups?

According to studies, the 4 biggest muscle groups are the quadriceps, the gluteus maximus, the deltoid, and your triceps.

Runner ups are the iliopsoas (makes up most of your hip) and your pectoralis major (your pec major).

The size of these muscle groups was measured according to their total volume.

Quads vs Glutes, which is bigger?

The quadriceps are the largest muscle group, which consists of 4 muscles.

The gluteus maximus, one of the three muscles that make up your glutes, is the largest muscle in the body.

So, when people ask which muscles are bigger, they are not really defining the context of the question correctly.

As a result, the internet is piled with loads of indirect questions that can have various answers that do not really make sense sometimes (or a lot of the time).

Check your facts!

What are the most important muscle groups?

Everyone wants to have good size arms but do we have to pick the more important muscle groups to train?

All muscle groups are important in everyday function.

If certain muscle groups were not needed, our biology would have eliminated their function.

However, when people are training at the gym, they want to know what muscles they should focus on.

I get it.

So, here is a list of big muscle groups that would be beneficial to grow:

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Traps
  • Glutes

Here is a list of smaller muscle groups that lifters may find harder to stimulate growth with.

  • Biceps
  • Abs
  • Calves
  • Forearms

I found that many lifters tend to focus on muscles they can show.

Lifters are more focused on the visual appeal of their labor.

This is great;

It is what bodybuilding competitions are known for.

Under the right program, you will know your strength and weaknesses and will figure out the newer ways to achieve your results.

For instance, you need to know how to pick the best exercise for your goals.

Do you know which is better for you, Romanian deadlifts vs good mornings for your posterior chain?

Which muscle groups to work out together?

The typical bro split will have you train chest and triceps together, back and biceps together, and legs alone.

A strength training focused split, like powerlifting training, will focus on full body compound exercises each workout day.

Depending on your training style and preference, you will see drastic changes in training theory.

Which way is right and which way is wrong?

While our brains want to rationalize the “best” way of training, training to get results is not always so black and white.

The best way to train?

The one you will be consistent with for a long period of time.

This means you will go to the gym whether you want to or not.

Of course, if you are motivated to go to the gym, this makes training easier.

Let us consider this example: you want to compete in a bodybuilding show.

Everyone who trains for a bodybuilding show usually uses a variation of a body-part split, where each day is designated to one or two body parts.

There is only one problem though, you hate training that way.

You would prefer to train full body lifts most of the time.

What would you do?

Will you choose what everyone is doing so you can achieve similar results?

Or will you be a pioneer and try to do something that you enjoy and try to make it work?

Or will you do a hybrid program with the two lifting styles?

There are more possibilities than these but these will be the three general schools of thought.

You would probably need to go with the last option, to create a hybrid program.

Even if it is not fully optimized, you will find a way to make it work.

This is how new inventions and champions are born; they do not let obstacles and negativity stall them.

Can there be a muscle imbalance with your 4 major muscle groups?

Overuse, training repetition, posture issues, and not fitted shoes are some ways that muscular imbalances can occur in your four biggest muscle groups.

As a result, muscles can tighten, restrict movement, and decrease in functionality in response to the stressors.

But what is broken can be fixed!

This holds especially true for the human body. Your body is powerfully efficient and it will take many inconveniences to derail this machine.

Get proper fitted shoes

Did you know that 95% of consumers do not wear shoes that fit them properly?

This is an astonishingly high percentage of people that can potentially develop lower leg and foot issues.

And in the medical profession, some health professionals may wonder why so many people develop certain types of foot and leg issues all at the same time?

It seems too correlated and obvious to point out.

So, make sure your shoes fit you.

Buying shoes too small will restrict your feet and will not be optimal for performance.

Buying shoes too large will not provide your feet any stability or durability, which is also a detriment to performance.

Begin to do more unilateral exercises

Ever noticed how your right side is smaller or larger than your left side?

If you have, you may want to incorporate some more isolation exercises in your program.

Doing compound exercises is the most efficient way to build muscle and gain strength.

With the addition of unilateral exercises, you can fill in the gaps of your compound exercise program.

Imagine this story:

A CEO of a huge company will be your compound exercises and his assistants are the isolation exercises.

The boss can function by himself but his assistants can allow him to do even more work.

Wrapping it up

If you are looking for a big 3 workout program, you should have all the tools necessary to start working out.

Linear progression is the best way to go about progressing your strength.

Just be aware of linear progression limits so that you can train for a long time without any severe setbacks.

Otherwise, a 405lbs deadlift and a 225lbs bench are already in your future, if not already conquered. 

Tags training

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