Your body really is a fine machine. Did you know that you have over 600 skeletal muscles in your body? I bet you can’t name them all – that’s okay! The majority of men are focused on their pecs, abs, and guns, while most women are focused on their abs (belly), butt, and arms.
It’s really too bad this happens, because those muscles that you are missing out on can lower your injury risk, improve your overall performance, improve your posture, and even relieve pain.
When you ignore these muscles you actually reduce your benefits from exercise and you hold yourself back. A weak link in the muscle chain is created, so while these might not be the ‘show off’ muscle they can help you improve your overall outcome. You find yourself getting stronger faster and you will train longer and pain-free.
So now is the perfect time to no longer ignore these muscles. Use the following guideline to ensure you hit all five in your next workout. Your body will love you for it.
#1 Train your hamstrings
Who doesn’t love their quads? One reason is that they are pretty easy to work!
Your quads are activated with normal things throughout your day. When you squat down, when you walk up the stairs, your quad use goes over the top. But your glute usage does not reach that same level, so your glutes tend to stay week.
We often compensate in our complex movements – those movements using both your quads and hamstrings—it results in your quads working harder, and your hamstrings and glutes become even weaker. This causes there it be more load on your knee than it does your hip joint, so the hips don’t get used.
What does this mean? It means that you need to do exercises that are glute specific and lighten the load so that you are able to perform these exercise in way that is more hip-dominant.
#2 Train your trapezius
Are you working your trapezius with shrugs? Perhaps not as much as you might think. The infamous “I don’t know” shrug actually targets your upper trapezius, which is the region by your neck you can see — but it does not completely engage lower traps.
The trouble is if your upper traps are worked more than your lower traps, you can find yourself with shoulders that roll forward, which leads to poor posture, as well as a couple of other problems –rotator cuff injuries and cervical (neck) tension or pain. Both of these can cause a great deal of discomfort, pain, and a restrict movement in your day-to-day life. For example, if you try to reach behind you, it’s going to restrict you, it will cause you pain when you are putting on your shirt or jacket, and/or if you are reaching up high to the cupboard to grab something it will cause you discomfort or pain.
How and why does this occur? When your lower traps fire better, it puts your shoulder in position to be able to push more. When you have an imbalance between your upper and lower trap, your shoulder blade lifts off the spine, wreaking havoc on the shoulder, and causing space that can create rotator cuff impingement. Fixing the balance “undoes the traffic jam.”
In addition, underdeveloped lower traps can affect the performance of your lats, pecs, and biceps. In this instance where working as a team isn’t a good thing – which is why these muscles work as if you have under-conditioned lower traps. These muscles correctly work as antagonists to each other, and when they are unable to do that, you are unable to train them correctly.
#3 Train your glutes
Your butt has more than the cheeks. Hitting the gluteus maximus is pretty common, but your gluteus medius is almost always ignored, and that wrecks your knees.
The glute medius stops your knees from caving in when you do a squat, lunch or dead lift. This can result in knee pain and worse ACL injuries along with injuries to other areas of the lower body. When your knees collapse inward, your femur will rotate internally and that strains the inside of your knee, which in turn can lead to your foot arch collapsing.
When you fix it, you help to protect yourself from ACL injuries and you can life more weight. Runners can run farther with no pain.
#4 Train your hips
Your hips are not just the sides of your waist. These muscles flex your legs at the pelvis and wrap from your spine around your back through the body’s core to your femur. Together your two hips are called the iliopsoas, will become tight, weak, and shorter when not properly exercised or used.
As with other muscles we have talked about, these problems are created by how much time you spend slouching or sitting. There’s a direct association between the psoas tightness (part of the iliopsoas) and lower back pain.
To reduce any shortness and tightness, along with the pain associated with it, begin by moving more. You need to walk around as much as you can. When you are sitting try to do this exercise at least twice during the day. Sit up tall so your pelvis tilts properly and you are actually on your sit bones. Remain in this position, lifting one foot off the floor, and keeping your knee bent. Then return it to the floor, repeat 10 times, and switch to your other leg.
#5 Train your entire back
Everyone including those people, who are very involved in fitness, still sit more than previous generations ever did. This causes muscles to shorten up. Conditioning these muscles ensures they do not shorten, especially under load, keeping them active and keeping them strong. These mid-back muscles are used when you do a rowing exercise; however, many times they are not used to their full capacity.
To ensure you are working this part of the back, slow down your horizontal rowing movements to reduce the bounce, and use the wide-grip overhand barbell bent-over row. Pick up your bars like you were performing a normal barbell row, but place your hands wider – the same width you would use if you were doing a wide-grip pushup.
Bend at your hips and then lower the same way you do with a stiff leg deadlift. Keep your back flat at all times. While in this position, bend your elbows so that you can pull the bar up until it touches your chest. Do a controlled lowering of the bar. Repeat for 10 reps.