Primary-Secondary Time-Volume Training

By Nick Nilsson
Author of Mad Scientist Muscle

If you have a weak or undeveloped muscle(s) that you want to improve but don't want to sacrifice development in your OTHER muscles to bring it up, I've got just what you need...

This Primary/Secondary exercise version of my Time-Volume Training protocol is an excellent way to specialize on a particular muscle...without really specializing on it.

Sounds weird, I know, but essentially you'll be putting some very targeted training volume onto one target muscle group without having to reduce training volume for everything you'll specialize without compromising workload on any other bodypart.

How to Specialize Without Specializing...Primary/Secondary Time-Volume Training for Traps and Shoulders

Time-Volume Training is one of my favorite muscle-building and/or fat-loss training techniques. It allows you to get a great training effect while using a very moderate weight, due to the sheer amount of volume you're putting on the target muscles in a short period of time.

Here's a full rundown on how Time-Volume Training works.

Essentially, you take a set block of time (e.g. 15 minutes), take a weight you can do 10 to 15 reps with, then start by performing 3 rep sets. Take 10 seconds rest between sets. When you can no longer get 3 good reps, increase the rest to 20 seconds and continue with 3 rep sets.

If you again get to the point where you can't do 3 reps, then increase rest to 20 seconds...then 30 seconds...etc.

THIS form of Time-Volume Training is actually going to use TWO exercises...and these exercises share one muscle group (in this case, the focus will be on the trapezius muscles).



The first exercise is the Standing or Seated Military Press or Dumbbell Shoulder Press. This works the deltoids as the primary movers with the traps being activated as stabilizers/secondary muscles.

Start by doing 3 reps of the press.

Standing or Seated Military PressStanding or Seated Military Press

Rest 10 seconds then go to Barbell or Dumbbell Shrugs. This exercise works the traps as PRIMARY movers.

Perform 3 reps of this (and be sure to use a powerful, explosive movement...the traps respond best to this type of movement as they primarily consist of fast-twitch fibers).

Barbell or Dumbbell ShrugsBarbell or Dumbbell Shrugs

Rest 10 seconds then go back to shoulder press for 3 reps...then back to to shrugs for 3 reps...and repeat.

Keep going in this alternating pattern until the time is up. I used a 10 minute block of time when I did this training for the video demo, but you can use whatever you want...shorter or longer.

Most likely the exercise you'll hit the wall on the 3 reps will be the shoulder press. When you get to this point, I would suggest taking 20 seconds rest between the shrugs and the shoulder press but keeping to the 10 seconds rest between the shoulder press and the shrugs.

Now, if you're not interested in focusing on traps, you can also use this type of pattern with other bodyparts. Here are some combinations for other bodyparts.


  • Back/Lats - Chin-Ups and Deadlifts
  • Chest - Bench Press and Pullovers
  • Quads - Barbell Front Squats and Dumbbell Lunges (use a long stride to shift the focus to the glutes and hams, making the quads a "secondary-ish" mover of the exercise)
  • Hamstrings - Stiff-Legged Deadlifts and Dumbbell Lunges (use a closer stance to shift the focus to the quads, making the hamstrings more "secondary-ish movers)
  • Glutes - Barbell Hip Thrust and Squats/Leg Press
  • Deltoids - Shoulder Press and Bench Press (front delt focus), Shoulder Press and Wide-Grip Pull-Ups (rear delt focus), and side delts would be best worked as a Compound/Isolation pattern doing Shoulder Press and Lateral Raises
  • Biceps - Barbell Curls and Chin-Ups/Pulldowns
  • Triceps - Pushdowns and Bench Press (not close grip, as that makes the triceps primary movers)
  • Calves - Standing Calf Raises and DEEP Squats (coming out of the bottom of a deep squat puts very effective workload on the calves due to the stretch). You can also alternate Standing and Seated Calf Raises if deep squats aren't going to work for you).


Put this style of training to work on your weak bodyparts and you'll see big jumps in development and size without setting yourself back on any other area of your body.



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