Anyone who has attempted a muscle-building workout routine will have discovered that not all muscle groups are built equally; some are harder to grow than others.
Particularly challenging muscles when it comes to muscle building are ones like your calf muscles, your abdominal muscles, and your forearms. Easier muscles to build include your quads and lats.
Here, we’re going to list in more detail the easiest and hardest muscles to build, as well as give examples of exercises for each muscle.
Easiest muscles to build
Your quads (thighs) are one of the larger muscles in the body and are involved in almost all pushing exercises that focus on your lower body. This means that muscle activation of your quads happens across a range of exercises, so they are regularly worked.
There are plenty of dedicated exercises for the quads as well, from compound exercises like squats to more focused ones like the leg press machine. Your quads are activated as stabilizing muscles for upper body exercises that require standing up, as well, such as the military press.
Given their size, the quadriceps also has excellent potential for muscle gain and size. Exercises to target them include:
- Leg press machine
- Box jumps
2. Latissimus dorsi
Your lats are a large muscle group that spans across your lower back and they are activated through pulling movements, which are often very popular exercises. When trained and built, they are quite distinct muscles that add a side to your back.
They are also an excellent muscle for hypertrophy, as they are particularly responsive to regular resistance training, especially in comparison to other major muscles. Of course, this only happens if the correct form is maintained.
These powerful back muscles are activated through many different upper body exercises and compound back exercises, but can also be more specifically targeted through a range of lat exercises:
- Bent over row
- Lat pull-downs
- One-arm dumbbell row
3. Gluteus maximus
The glutes – your buttocks – are the largest muscle in the entire body and can be an area of serious muscle growth. Not only are the glutes involved in almost every lower body exercise, but they also are not a particularly difficult muscle to isolate, either.
Many compound exercises activate the glutes, as they are powerful muscles that provide stability in the hip joints but also strength in the lower body. Movements that target the glutes usually involve bending at the knee joint and have a deep range of motion. Examples include:
- Back squats
- Donkey kicks
- Hip thrusts
- Romanian deadlift
The tricep is the biggest muscle in the arm and is surprisingly easy to target. As a prominent muscle on the outside of the arm, the tricep can be effectively isolated through a number of exercises, plus works as a stabilizer during other movements.
As the largest arm muscle, your triceps have plenty of potential for growth and are also recruited in things like a chest workout and compound back exercises. Here are some examples:
- Overhead tricep extension
- Close-grip bench press
Hardest muscles to build
1. Calf muscles
Your calves are one of the most challenging muscles to build because they are used so much in daily activities such as walking. The gastrocnemius muscle, which makes up the bulk of the calf, is activated during most of the day and so most people already have a decent degree of strength there, making it difficult to build further through dedicated exercises.
Given their role in everyday movements, the calves are also made up of a lot of slow-twitch muscle fibers, meaning they’re less responsive to resistance exercises. Lastly, there aren’t many calf exercises to choose from; a lot of the activation will come from compound exercises:
- Calf raises
- Tip-toe squats
- Dumbbell calf raise
Most of your arm muscles are quite easy to build and target, however, forearms are the outlier. Your forearm muscles will sometimes be involved in compound movements, but there are very few isolation exercises for them. Even experienced bodybuilders struggle to target these muscles.
The engagement of muscle in your forearms largely comes from grip training, and even then it’s not guaranteed that the entire muscle is being worked. Compound exercises and other forms of movement to train your forearms include the following:
- Bent-over row
- Close-grip push-ups
- Wrist flexion
3. Abdominal muscles
The abs are a huge part of your core muscles and are often a favorite muscle when it comes to training and aesthetics. However, muscle synthesis in this area is difficult. Bracing your core is one of the most common exercise tips, and any heavy workout will involve some activation of the abdominal muscles.
This means, like the calves, they are already somewhat developed and require advanced workouts to really build them. Plus, it’s easy to slip out of proper form and perform core exercises with poor form. Movements you can try are:
- Russian twists
- Bicycle crunches
Located at the backs of your upper legs, on the opposite side to your quads, your hamstrings are large muscles that often get overlooked. Given their size, they require heavy loads and plenty of training, however many people tend to undertrain them and focus on other areas.
Exercises that activate the hamstrings include:
- Romanian deadlift
- Leg curl
- Low-bar back squat
Some muscles are easier to build than others, though, with a thorough workout plan and enough consistency and commitment, there’s no reason you can’t effectively strengthen almost every muscle in your body.
Certain muscles, like the forearms, are difficult to isolate but they can be targeted through grip training and proper form. Others, such as the quads, are involved in a wide variety of exercises and can also more easily be singled out through certain movements.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are biceps hard to grow?
They can be deceptively difficult to grow. This is partly because you need to regularly perform various curl variations to ensure you’re activating the entire bicep muscle, but your biceps are also prone to overtraining as they are involved in many upper body compound movements.