Situational Training


Vince Del Monte, WBFF Pro Fitness Model, Certified Fitness Trainer
and Nutritionist and author of No Nonsense Muscle

Success Leaves Clues – What We Can Learn From The Champs!


On the night of February 1st, 2015, Malcolm Butler went from being an unknown, undrafted defensive back, from a school no one had ever really heard of (West Alabama), to Super Bowl hero in the blink of an eye, by making one of the most unbelievable plays in NFL history.

With 26 seconds to go, and the New England Patriots backed up to their own 1 yard line, the Seattle Seahawks called a play that will forever be remembered as one of the most questionable decisions ever made. They had 3 chances to score, and on the first of those 3 chances they opted to go right at the undrafted rookie, expecting to either score, and win the game, or have the play broken up – which would enable them to go back to the drawing board and call another play to try to win the game. The last thing on their mind was that an undrafted rookie, who was the first to ever even make it to the Super Bowl coming from the University of West Alabama, would intercept the pass, and cost them the biggest game in their lives – but that’s exactly what happened.

When asked after the game how he was able to “jump the route,” Malcolm Butler explained that he was prepared for that situation because of the coaching he received during the week of preparation that preceded the game. He was prepared for that situation because of his coaching, because his coaches had him practice that specific situation far before he ever had to face it.

Bill Belichick is the coach of the New England Patriots, and has been for the last decade and a half. In his time there he’s appeared in 6 Super Bowls, won 4, and won the division (resulting in an automatic spot in the playoffs) 12 times, and has more playoff victories than any coach in the history of the NFL. During this time, Bill has established himself as a coach known for practicing “situational football.”

In this case, situational football consists of preparing for specific situations – those most likely to present themselves during the most critical moments, so that his players are as prepared as can be when such situations arise. The underlying purpose of this strategy is to ensure that there is no situation that his players are not ready for. It’s this “situational” approach that allows us to draw the greatest parallel from the “Malcolm Butler story,” to building muscle.

If you think about it, bodybuilding is all about situations – it’s all about creating an aesthetically appealing combination of size and symmetry, and the strategies used to turn a glaring weakness into an afterthought. The glaring weakness in most cases is a lagging body part, and that lagging body part IS the situation – what you do in the gym to correct it is a bodybuilder’s version of “situational football.”

Every bodybuilder has had to deal with situations specific to themselves – Ronnie Coleman came into the 2002 Mr. Olympia contest in the low 240’s and was criticized for being “too small.” In this case his situation was that he needed to come in bigger without sacrificing his shape, and what did he do? Came in at 287 lbs. and displayed arguably the most dominant physique the world had ever seen!

Phil Heath was originally criticized for being too “narrow,” and not having a good enough back to win the Olympia. What did he do? He devised a strategy based on his situation, and now has 4 Mr. Olympia titles to his name, and arguably one of the best backs on the pro circuit (if not the best back).


The list goes on and on of bodybuilders who each have their own very specific situations with which they have to deal with to move up in their respective rankings. If Kai Greene is to ever win the Olympia, it will largely be dependent on his ability to reduce his waist size, while maintaining his incredible mass, without sacrificing his conditioning.
Even if you never plan to compete on a bodybuilding stage, or enter a physique competition, we all have our own situations that shape the way we do things in the gym. Some of the more common situations that I hear about are:


  • Shallow, underdeveloped upper chest
  • Underdeveloped lower lat (although there is no such thing as a “lower lat,” it is universally talked about as a common problem amongst bodybuilders)
  • Biceps that lack a “peak”
  • Underdeveloped, deflated looking calves
  • Underdeveloped “side” triceps (basically an inability to recruit and develop the “lateral head” of the triceps)
  • Narrow clavicles/shoulders


The list goes on and on, and what I want to do here, and now, is open up a discussion board and get people talking about their specific situations. What situations are you facing with your training that are causing you the most headaches? What strategies have helped you overcome your specific situations, and what would you do differently if confronted with that same situation again?

Over the coming weeks I’m going to be presenting specific situations, and strategies to overcome them. As it relates to developing a specific body part, or even a specific compartment of a certain body part, the principles I use to create a solution are:


  1. Train the muscle first – when it’s fresh, you can direct maximum attention and effort into recruiting and fatiguing it. That way it is fully exhausted as the workout progresses.


  1. Train the muscle last – sometimes a muscle is weak, or underdeveloped, because another nearby muscle group dominates certain movements that are intended for another area. In this “situation,” it may be a better idea to fatigue the dominant muscle first, so the targeted muscle is the only one that can really produce any force at the end of the workout. By selecting exercises that mechanically place the targeted muscle under tension when the dominant nearby muscle groups are already exhausted, the targeted muscle group has no choice but to perform the work.


  1. Train the muscle first, AND last – this will sometimes be the best strategy, but it can also be counterproductive because if the targeted area is too exhausted by the end of the workout, you’ll likely compensate by using other areas of the body to perform the work, and this could exaggerate the imbalance further.


For more strategies on fixing weak muscles and imbalances watch this:

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