LOOK GREAT: The Most Important Muscles to Look Jacked

Dr. Mike from Renaissance Periodization has put together the definitive list of which exercises are the most important if you want to look jacked.

In his hilarious and highly informative style, he has grouped the list into 4 muscle groups, plus an additional 4 bonus muscle groups that will augment any overall physique.  

Scroll down to watch the full video.

1. Shoulders

His number 1 choice is the shoulders, specifically the side delts.

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The side delts make you look wider and they also help the waist to look smaller in comparison. This creates the traditional V-taper took.

Source: Photos courtesy of CrossFit Inc

You can improve these muscles with upright rows, lateral raises and cable raises.

2. Arms

As Dr Mike hilariously explains, “big arms are never the wrong answer to anything in this world” and are an important aspect of looking jacked.

Dan Bailey bicepsSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

You will need to train both the biceps and triceps muscle groups if you want to develop truly big arms.

3. Chest

In third place on the list is the chest. A big chest creates that armour plated look that fills out a great deal of size for the upper body.

4. Back

The combination of jacked shoulders and a strong, well developed back complete the v-taper upper body aesthetic.

Bonus Muscles

So if you want to look jacked and you have the first 4 muscle groups locked down, here are Dr Mike’s suggestions for the next phase of development.

1. Traps

Traps are for that Tom Hardy brick physique. They complement an already great physique, but they won’t make the physique.

2. Forearms

Forearms are a sign of strength. They also complement big arms.

2. Legs

Cool but “looking big” is really an upper body thing. If you are any kind of athlete then training legs and the lower body is an absolute necessity. However, it is not the first part of the human body people think of when it comes to looking jacked.

3. Neck

This is a part of the body that will be developed as an ancillary benefit to working the chest, arms, back and shoulders, as well as from deadlifting and pull ups

Video – The Most Important Muscles to Look Jacked

Watch the full video below.

Why are the Best Sets and Reps for Muscle Growth?

The optimal sets and reps for muscle growth, also known as hypertrophy, can vary based on individual factors, such as your training experience, genetics, and overall fitness goals. However, there are general guidelines that can help you design an effective resistance training program for muscle growth.

Repetition Range

For muscle hypertrophy, a moderate rep range is typically recommended. This falls in the range of 6 to 12 repetitions per set. This range allows for a balance between muscle tension and metabolic stress, both of which contribute to muscle growth.

Higher rep ranges (12+) can also be effective, especially for certain muscle groups or as part of a varied training program.


The number of sets you perform depends on your overall workout volume and training frequency. Generally, 3 to 5 sets per exercise are common for hypertrophy-focused training.

Total weekly volume (sets x reps x weight) is an important factor, so you can distribute your sets throughout the week.

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Progressive Overload

To stimulate muscle growth, it’s essential to progressively increase the resistance over time. This can be achieved by gradually increasing the weight you lift, the number of reps, or the overall training volume.

Consistent progression is key to challenging your muscles and promoting adaptation.

Rest Periods

Shorter rest periods (30 seconds to 1 minute) between sets are often recommended for hypertrophy training. This can increase metabolic stress and contribute to muscle growth.

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However, individual preferences and specific workout goals may influence rest periods.

Exercise Selection

Compound exercises that involve multiple muscle groups, such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, are effective for overall muscle development.

Isolation exercises targeting specific muscle groups can also be included to address individual weaknesses or imbalances.


Training each muscle group 2 to 3 times per week is generally recommended for hypertrophy. This frequency allows for sufficient stimulus and recovery.


It’s crucial to listen to your body and adapt your training based on individual responses. Factors like recovery capacity, age, and injury history should be considered.

Remember that these guidelines are general recommendations, and individual variations exist. It’s advisable to consult with a fitness professional or healthcare provider to create a personalized training program based on your specific needs and goals. Additionally, incorporating variety into your training program and periodically reassessing your approach can help prevent plateaus and promote continued progress.

Why is Protein Important for Muscle Growth?

Protein is crucial for muscle growth because it provides the essential building blocks that the body needs to repair and build new muscle tissue. Muscles are made up of protein, and when you engage in activities that cause muscle breakdown, such as resistance training or intense physical activity, adequate protein intake becomes essential for several reasons:

Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS): Protein contains amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. When you consume protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids, and these amino acids are used to synthesize new proteins, including the proteins that make up muscle tissue. This process is known as Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS).

Repair and Recovery: Intense exercise, especially resistance training, causes micro-tears in muscle fibers. Protein is necessary for the repair of these micro-tears and the overall recovery process. Consuming an adequate amount of protein supports the body in rebuilding and strengthening muscle tissue.

Amino Acid Profile: Different proteins contain different combinations of amino acids. Some amino acids are essential, meaning the body cannot produce them and must obtain them through diet. A variety of amino acids is needed to support optimal muscle protein synthesis, and protein-rich foods often provide a well-rounded amino acid profile.

Protein Turnover: The body is in a constant state of protein turnover, where old proteins are broken down and replaced with new ones. Adequate protein intake helps maintain a positive protein balance, where protein synthesis exceeds protein breakdown, promoting muscle growth.

Leucine and Anabolic Signaling: Leucine, an essential amino acid found in protein, plays a crucial role in stimulating muscle protein synthesis. It activates the mTOR pathway, a key signaling pathway that regulates cell growth and protein synthesis, contributing to muscle hypertrophy.

Satiety and Weight Management: Protein is more satiating than carbohydrates or fats, and including an adequate amount of protein in your diet can help with weight management and body composition. Maintaining a healthy body weight is important for overall fitness and can indirectly support muscle growth.

It’s important to note that individual protein needs can vary based on factors such as age, weight, activity level, and fitness goals. Athletes and individuals engaging in regular resistance training may have higher protein requirements to support muscle growth and recovery. Including a variety of protein sources in your diet, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, legumes, and plant-based protein sources, can help ensure that you get a well-rounded intake of essential amino acids.

Why is Periodization Vital for Muscle Growth?

Periodization is vital for muscle growth because it involves systematically varying different aspects of your training program over time to optimize gains, prevent plateaus, and reduce the risk of overtraining. This structured approach to training can be applied to various fitness goals, including muscle hypertrophy. Here are several reasons why periodization is important for muscle growth:

Prevention of Plateaus: The body is adaptable and can quickly adjust to a consistent training routine. Over time, if you stick to the same sets, reps, and intensity, your progress may plateau. Periodization introduces planned variations, such as changes in volume, intensity, and exercise selection, preventing the body from adapting too quickly and allowing for continued progress.

Optimal Stimulus for Muscle Growth: Different phases of periodization focus on specific aspects of training, such as hypertrophy, strength, or power. By cycling through these phases, you can provide the optimal stimulus for muscle growth. For example, a hypertrophy-focused phase may involve higher volume and moderate intensity, while a strength-focused phase may involve lower volume and higher intensity.

Reduced Risk of Overtraining: Constantly training at a high intensity without adequate recovery can lead to overtraining and increased risk of injury. Periodization includes planned periods of lower intensity or active recovery, allowing your body to recover and reducing the risk of burnout and overtraining.

Adaptation to Individual Needs: Periodization can be tailored to individual needs and responses to training. Some individuals may respond better to higher volume, while others may benefit from more frequent changes in intensity. Periodization allows for adjustments based on individual factors such as recovery capacity, training experience, and lifestyle.

Long-Term Planning: Muscle growth is a long-term process, and periodization provides a framework for long-term planning. By breaking down your training into distinct phases, you can set specific goals for each phase and work towards them progressively.

Improved Performance: Periodization is not only about muscle growth but also about improving overall performance. By addressing different aspects of fitness, such as strength, power, and endurance, you can enhance your overall athletic abilities, contributing to more effective and well-rounded training.

Injury Prevention: Introducing variety in your training can help prevent overuse injuries that may occur with repetitive movements. Different exercises and training modalities engage muscles in different ways, promoting balanced development and reducing the risk of imbalances and injuries.

Common types of periodization include linear periodization, where intensity increases gradually over time, and undulating periodization, where there are frequent changes in intensity within a training cycle. Both approaches can be effective, and the choice may depend on individual preferences, training experience, and goals.

In summary, periodization is a strategic approach to training that optimizes muscle growth by preventing plateaus, promoting recovery, and addressing different aspects of fitness over time. It allows for flexibility, adaptation, and long-term planning, contributing to sustained progress in muscle development.

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