Hardest Muscles To Build

How To Increase The Time Under Tension To Maximise Your Gains

The hardest muscles to isolate and build mass.

Everyone has that specific set of muscles that infuriates them. That one spot where no matter how hard you train, no matter how often you are hitting this muscle group, no matter how hard you push yourself, you just don’t see the results you want. It is one of the most infuriating things for any lifter, seeing a spot where you cannot pack on muscle mass.

But if you ask around the gym you’d probably find that there are some muscles most people agree to have a problem with (one of the biggest muscle groups is the calves). Those universal complaints that most bodybuilders have even after years of hitting the gym. As always, we are happy to help by breaking down these tricky muscles and hopefully providing you with a better way to deal with them – leading you on a more pleasant path towards maximizing your over all muscle gain.

First thing’s first though, there is something to be said about genetics. As in, some people just have a harder time with certain muscles because of the DNA coursing through their body. It can’t be helped and sometimes that just means you have to work harder than the person next to you.

Also, proper form is key for all of these muscle groups. It’s key for any workout really – but part of what makes these specific ones so hard is because most people do not use correct form. So keep that in mind as you move forward with isolating these muscles. Whatever you are doing, you always want your spine to be properly aligned and make sure that you perform the full range of motion for the muscles you are working out.

The Hardest Muscles to Grow

That being said, let’s take a look at the hardest muscles to grow. These are the muscles that you cannot pack on size, no matter what you do.


hardest muscles to grow

As stated above, these are big ones when it comes to the hardest muscles to build. Calves are often either the most complained about muscle to build mass or the most overlooked. You can train them every day, and they still remain the same size. Either way they often pose more of a problem compared to other muscle sets. And there’s an actually a reason behind why they are so challenging. The anatomical configuration of the calf muscles resists the act of hypertrophy. Aka – by nature they literally resist muscle synthesis.

What is often the problem is that most people treat calves as an extra at the end of a workout – but because the calves are so much harder to develop they actually need to be focused on intensely. They key is to not make your calves an afterthought.

Here’s a breakdown on the three major muscles that make up the calves:

1. The gastrocnemius muscle (this is what gives the calf its curved shape).
2. The soleus (the long flat muscle underneath).
3. The Tibialis Anterior (this is the large frontal muscle).

That third one, the Tibialis Anterior might have surprised you. That’s because it is often overlooked when it comes to building those calves – which in turn makes the calves such a challenge for most people.

You must create a well structured workout routine that focuses on all three of these muscles in order to actually see growth. If you can focus on those then you will start to see some changes coming your way.

big calves

Here are a few examples of exercises you can do to pinpoint those calf muscles.

  • Barbell Seated Calf Raises
  • Reverse Calf Raises (These will hit those oft overlooked Tibialis Anteriors!)
  • Standing Barbell Calf Raises



The Latissimus Dorsi is another muscle that can be a real stinger in your workout routine if you don’t know the best ways to isolate and use correct technique. The lats are responsible for giving you that wide back, making you look like a cobra. The main problem is that it is almost impossible to truly isolate the lats, making them one of the hardest muscles to build. What’s most important is to cut back on the amount of weight in order to perform the reps at a full range of motion (remember?). This will build the foundation for your lats leading to building actual mass in that area.

Surprisingly chin ups and pull ups are very effective in building your lats. Often experienced bodybuilders will be able to perform these with such ease that they use a dip belt with extra weight to push themselves even further. Elbow position is one of the most important aspects behind this. If your elbows are out wide you’ll trigger your upper lats. If your elbows are in tight you’ll be hitting up those lower muscles. Keep this in mind when performing your workout routine.

Also make sure to keep your hands facing away or down in order to maximize the amount of lat involvement.

Here are a few other suggestions to help build those back muscles.

  • Straight-Arm Pulldown
  • Close-grip front lat pull downs
  • Kneeling high pully rows
  • One-arm standing cable rows


hardest muscles to build

These are the calves of the arms, meaning no matter what you do they just don’t seem to grow. They are easily one of the hardest muscles to build. Skinny forearms make your arms look ten times smaller than they actually are, so no matter how big your biceps and triceps are, skinny forearms can ruin your physique. It may sound silly, but you need to train forearms. Forearms also help with grip strength, which can transfer over to those heavy compound lifts like the barbell row and deadlifts.

Here are some exercises to build those forearms:

  • Hammer curls
  • Forearm curls

Hardest Muscles to Grow Wrap Up

There you have it, there is our list of the hardest muscles to build. Everyone may be different – but hopefully you now have a better understanding on how to handle two of the more challenging muscles over all.

What is your most challenging muscle to build? Let us know in the comments or shout it out to us on Facebook and Twitter!

Dylan Wolf
I work mainly in content writing, focusing my free time on bodybuilding and strength sports. I was introduced to fitness in high school and after watching Generation Iron movies. I love to train. I have competed multiple times, even winning a junior title in classic physique. I have a bachelor's in criminal justice and business obtained through Alvernia University. When I am not focused on work or training, I enjoy watching films or reading about anything and everything.