When working towards a ripped physique it’s tempting to focus on ‘showoff’ muscles such as the abs, biceps, and quads. But with more than 600 skeletal muscles in the human body (yes, there are that many) there are a number of them that can easily get ignored during a session in the gym.
To get a truly symmetric form, prevent injury and gain the most out of your workouts, these often-neglected muscles need to be exercised.
PTPfit Pilates Expert Brad Leeon said we need to think about working out all our muscles and not just the prominent ones as they collectively aid in our movement and functionality.
“The body works in a synergetic way and muscle imbalances can often lead to strain and potential injuries,” he said.
“This is because when some muscles become weak or tight, other muscles are forced to pick up the slack and overwork.”
In addition, Leeon mentioned that with more people sitting at their desks all day at work, trying to achieve muscle balance is crucial, especially when it comes to preventing lower back pains.
To avoid the negative effects, Leeon identified six muscle groups that often get missed in the average workout:
- Glutes and hips
Often under-worked, these muscle groups need to be strengthened as tight hips and glutes are big contributors to lower back (erector spinae) pain.
Leeon suggested the use of a MicroBand to strengthen glutes and hips through a glute activation and hip abduction exercise.
Method: Perform a single leg lift, lying on your side and wearing the MicroBand around your ankles. Lift your leg up without compromising your hip or back position and then, bring it back down again.
- Rotator cuff muscles
The rotator cuff muscles (located around your shoulders and connecting to your triceps) help stabilise your shoulder joints. As such, Leeon said neglecting these muscles could possibly lead to serious shoulder injuries during other workouts or strenuous activities.
Leeon said to use a MediBand or anchored PowerTube to strengthen rotator cuff muscles.
Method: Perform the stop sign rotator cuff; position your arms to the side of you with your elbow bent at 90 degrees, holding the anchored PowerTube. Alternate your pull of the anchored PowerTube, moving just the lower half of your arms upward. Hold that position all the way through and you’ll feel a squeeze on the back of your shoulder.
- Wrist flexors and extensors
According to Leeon, wrist flexors and extensors are important for grip strength, which is essential to everyday activities and numerous sports.
Method: Hold down your forearm on a massage ball and roll it up and down by starting at the top of the elbow. Alternatively, thread two MicroBands together and place one end of the loop under your foot. Rest your forearm on that knee and hold on to the other end of the MicroBand. Flex your wrist, opening and closing the flexors.
Leeon said tight or weak calves can impact on one’s stride as they are essential to walking, jumping and climbing stairs, in addition to supporting the Achilles Tendon and helping shift body weight toward the balls of the feet.
To improve calf muscles, he recommended using a PowerTube+ to perform calf raises.
Method: Have your hands in the overhand position stretching the PowerTube+ behind you. Lean tightly into it, roll up your heels and come up to your calves before bringing it slowly back down.
- Inner core abdominals
Leeon mentioned that it’s important to exercise the inner core abdominals (made up of your abdominis and obliques and located in your abdomen) as they are essential to maintaining a healthy posture and balance.
He recommended to use a CoreBall and perform and alternate arm and leg reach.
Method: Lie on the ground with the bottom of your feet resting on a CoreBall. Your knees should be bent, with your hands resting on them. Then curl up through the upper back, keeping your abdominals strong. Bring your arms above your head and lengthen your legs out on the CoreBall. Then, come back to the lifted position.
- Mid-back muscles
Addressing the mid-back muscles with appropriate stretching can also contribute to better posture awareness and reduced back pain, according to Leeon. Exercises such as deadlifts and pull-ups often leave the mid-back muscles unexercised.
He recommended the use of a Fascial Release Roller to perform thoracic extension and release exercises for the mid-back muscles.
Method: Sit at a lifted position with the foam roller horizontally, right between your shoulder blades. With your hands behind your head, start to recline backwards slowly. Hold that pose for a few seconds, breathing in and out, before coming back up.