Last updated on October 30th, 2022 at 04:52 pm
Who else wants to know, “What Muscle Takes the Longest to Build?”
I’ll openly admit that we all typically have different struggles in the gym.
What I mean by this is that some people will see fantastic growth in certain muscle groups, whereas others will may find the same muscles extremely difficult to build.
So, there certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all for which muscles are easy or hard to grow.
That being said, there is one muscle group that seems to elude the vast majority of people when it comes to substantial muscle growth.
So, I shall now reveal the muscle which takes the longest to build, as well as a few other stubborn muscle groups too.
Table of Contents
What Muscle Takes the Longest to Build?
The muscle that takes the longest to build will typically differ from person-to-person. That being said, there is one muscle group that most people will agree seems to be the hardest to grow, namely the calves. It is estimated that the calves have reached 70-80% of their full growth potential simply from walking around. However, achieving the remaining 20-30% of muscular growth is extremely difficult, mainly because we use our calves in everyday life. Plus, calves are slow-twitch muscles and maximum size is usually based on genetics.
What is the Hardest Muscle to Grow?
So, as I’ve mentioned, what may be a difficult muscle to build for one person could be extremely easy for another.
Therefore, it’s difficult to give an exact answer to the “hardest muscle to grow” conundrum.
However, there is one muscle group that practically everyone struggles with.
I am of course talking about the calves.
In fact, I know for a fact that many people get so frustrated with their lack of calf growth that they eventually give up trying entirely.
That being said, there are quite a few people who appear to have blown up calves without making an effort.
If I’m being honest, I personally believe that a lot of calf growth comes down to genetics.
In other words, you may well be limited in the size of your calves by your genetic potential.
I remember seeing my father’s and uncle’s calves when I was younger and always thinking they were quite skinny.
And just to prove a point, many years later, no matter how hard I try, my calves still haven’t developed as I would hope.
Why Are Calves So Hard to Grow?
Unfortunately, it’s not just genetics that potentially slows down your calf growth.
Firstly, the calves are primarily composed of slow-twitch muscles.
This means that they react better to long endurance activities.
If you think about it, this actually makes a lot of sense, as we’re on our feet for most of the day, whether standing or walking.
So, the calves are being constantly activated throughout the day.
In fact, it is estimated that your calves should have reached 70-80% of their growth potential simply by walking around.
So, in effect, when you train your calves you are literally only looking for an additional 20-30% of growth.
However, you know as well as me, just how frustrating it is to achieve this fraction of muscle growth.
Now, the fact that the calves are a slow-twitch muscle group, more suited to endurance, should give you a clue as to how to train them.
Realistically, it’s not so much about the weight, but rather the reps and overall time-under-tension.
In other words, your calves will potentially experience better growth with slow and long sets.
So, this could mean performing 6-8 sets of approximately 20-25 reps per set, for a complete calf workout.
Additionally, you could actually group a number of exercises together circuit-style in order to really feel that burn.
However, no matter how you choose to train your calves, remember to concentrate on time-under-tension, high reps and high volume.
Other Muscles That Are Difficult to Grow
Okay, I think most of us can agree (apart from all those genetic freaks that I’m extremely jealous of) that the calves are the hardest muscle group to grow.
However, there also happens to be a fair few other muscles that can be just as stubborn.
I can just see you nodding in agreement now, LOL.
Let’s face facts, those pesky lower abs can be just as frustrating, if not more, than waiting for your calves to grow.
In fact, you could be extremely muscular, well-conditioned, have a great set of upper abs, but those lower abs are nothing more than fat.
In truth, your abs are always going to be about your body fat levels.
Okay, for some guys you may start to see your abs at around 15% body fat.
However, the closer you get to 10% body fat, the more defined your abs will appear.
That being said, for the vast majority of us, we will need to get under 10% body fat to finally reveal a defined set of lower abs.
Once more, I’d class the triceps as a muscle that some people may find nearly impossible to build, whereas others do so with ease.
To be honest, there are various reasons that your triceps don’t seem to grow.
However, I would say that there are probably two major reasons why you’re not experiencing growth.
Firstly, you’re not hitting the long head of the triceps enough.
Secondly, you’re focusing more on the smaller muscle group of the arms.
So, when it comes to hitting the long head, there are quite a few great exercises, but I personally prefer anything that involves bringing a load overhead.
Therefore, this could be lying tricep extensions, skullcrushers, overhead rope extensions.
Now, don’t get me wrong, some of the tricep-building exercise staples are great too, e.g. close-grip bench press, diamond push ups, tricep pushdowns, etc.
However, for me, I’ve found that performing heavy compound pressing movements, e.g. bench press, overhead press, etc. and then adding a few “overhead” tricep exercises works a treat.
And as for focusing too much on the smaller muscles of the arms, well this is something that you’ll see in gyms worldwide.
Let’s face facts, the biceps get all the glory when it comes to arm-specific training.
However, the triceps are actually made up of three muscles, whereas the biceps are made up of two.
Furthermore, the triceps take up approximately 60% of the upper arm.
I don’t think I need to explain any further for you to determine which muscle should be trained more.
It Doesn’t End There
There are many other muscle groups that individuals will claim are pretty much impossible to grow.
I know for a fact that the same has been said about biceps, quads, and shoulders.
But, once more, this is more likely an individual thing.
That being said, I think it’s important to note that muscle growth is obviously not just about how you train a particular muscle, but also your calorie consumption, rest and recovery.
So, if you are struggling to see growth in general, or if you feel as though a certain muscle is lagging behind, you should look at these other factors too.
So, I hope you understand that which muscle takes the longest to build will vary from person-to-person.
That being said, if there is one muscle group that the vast majority of people seem to struggle with, it’s the calves.
In truth, your calves will have reached approximately 70-80% of their growth potential simply from walking around.
So, in effect, you’re only looking to add that final 20-30% of size.
However, adding this 20-30% is typically one of the hardest things that most of us have to go through.
Furthermore, the fact that the calves have slow-twitch muscle fibres mean that your training should focus on slow and long sets.
Therefore, you probably won’t experience the growth you would hope for by going extremely heavy and only performing a few reps.
Finally, your calf size is also largely dependent on genetics.
So unfortunately, if your family tree has a history of small calves, you may well be fighting a losing battle.
Now, here’s something a little “out there”, but if you know, you know. So, take this opportunity to read my article about needing to pee whenever you do calf raises.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.