You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong

The lesser known is often the more neglected.

Most of us understand the major muscles of our body. Quadriceps, chest, biceps, calfs, back, shoulders, abs are the muscles that I believe most people can recognize and identify on their body. Obviously we have many more. Actually, we have over 650 muscles in our body. Unbelievable, isn’t it. I’m not going to spend time on all of our muscles, but I do want to talk about common neglected muscles that we have that can benefit from regular resistance training.

Why

I have mentioned in some of my previous posts that we all have muscle imbalances. This is common as we tend to use specific muscles more often than the muscles that are opposite the dominant ones. A common example of a muscle imbalance is the front of our shoulders (anterior deltoid). The anterior muscle in most of us is much stronger than the posterior deltoid (back of the shoulder) and somewhat stronger than the lateral deltoid (the one to the outside) because a lot of the activity we do, such as carrying heavy things in front of us such as groceries, cans of paint, etc. work the anterior deltoid. There just aren’t common tasks we do day to day that focus on using the posterior deltoids. So over time this leads to our imbalance in our shoulders. This can then be extended from things we do daily, to the type of exercises we do that exaggerate the imbalance.

The reality is unless you have a personal trainer, we probably aren’t aware of these imbalances, and what exercises we should be doing to address and strengthen the weaker muscles. How many of us know what exercises should be done to strengthen and build the posterior deltoids? Anyone? Hey, don’t feel bad that you don’t know. Feel great about yourself that you are here reading this post trying to educate yourself and do something about it. Feel good that you are actually exercising and trying to lead a healthier life. That is so much more than what a lot of people are doing, or aren’t doing.

What I want to do now is spend some time identifying muscle that most of us are weaker in, and can benefit from some training.

Get it going

I have already mentioned the shoulder muscles, but I will review again. Most of us can benefit from working on our posterior deltoids, the muscles at the rear of our shoulder. You can do the following exercises to strengthen this muscle:

  • Bent over lateral raises
  • Lying side laterials
  • Cable cross laterals

Try these exercises and I think you will be surprised how your shoulders feel afterwards, and the results you will also see. If you are someone trying to build your shoulders, you will love this as it will really help to frame out your upper body.

Sticking with the general shoulder area, let’s look at the upper back. Again, with activities we do throughout the day, most of us have strong upper trapezius muscles as these muscles get worked when carrying objects. The upper trapezius muscles are the ones that go from the shoulder to the neck. So, strong traps (a common term used to refer to the upper trapezius muscles) makes for weak mid and lower traps.  It makes perfect sense. To strengthen the mid and lower traps you need to move the body a certain way. You will see with the following exercises why these muscles are weak in relation to our upper traps. We just don’t do the movements that would strengthen these muscles. Let’s look at what we can do to strengthen them:

  • Sitting cable row
  • Dumbbell lat row
  • Cable lat pull down

In a couple of the exercises above you see the word lat. That’s because these exercises are also working the Latissimus Dorsi muscles. These are the muscles on the outer side of your back, the ones that can give you that V shape on your upper body. The fact that these muscles also get worked is a bonus since having strong lats help counter act having strong chest muscles.

So, let’s get into the mid to lower back, since we have already included it somewhat in the exercises above. If you are someone who does a lot of bench pressing, pushups, then you probably have chest muscles that are stronger than your back muscles, or more specifically the lat muscles. As mentioned above, these are the muscles that give your back the V shape. Let’s look at what can be done to strengthen the lat muscles:

  • Cable Lat Pull downs
  • Dumbbell lat row
  • Chin ups

As you can see, there is some overlap with the mid to lower trap exercises and the lat exercises. That’s ok as long as you understand that when training either muscle group you will be hitting both.

Let’s move onto our arms. Again, most daily activity tends to work our biceps and forearm muscles. The motion we use when carrying heavy objects engages our biceps and forearm muscles. Our triceps, which only become engaged when we use a motion of pushing something down when our arms are bent don’t get used that often. Makes sense doesn’t it. When was the last time you had your arms bent at the elbows, and had to push downward? It really doesn’t happen that often does it. So what can we do? Here are some exercises that you can do to strengthen the triceps, and bring your arms back to being straight.

  • Cable triceps extension
  • Close hand pushups
  • Dumbbell triceps extension

Let’s move down our body to our abs. If you are exercising your abs, great! I think we might be alright here since I think a lot of us have moved away from doing sit ups to doing exercises such as planking as more information is coming out on potential back problems due to stress on the back because of the impact from sit ups. That’s great because unlike sit ups that work the rectus abdominis, planks will aslo engage the less used transverse abdominus and the erector spinae, muscles that provide our core with stability when we stand. The other muscles, the obliques, also provide this stability when standing. Here are some exercises that will strengthen these muscles and help to provide that stability.

  • Ab Bike
  • Shoulder to knee curl up
  • Dumbbell Oblique lateral flexion
  • Stability ball Oblique lateral flexion (semi-prone)
  • Plank
  • Semi Prone Plan

Shoulders – done. Back – done. Arms – done. Let’s move onto the legs. If you are working your legs, way to go! You are in an elite group of people who aren’t wearing extra-long shorts when working out in the gym. You’re doing squats, leg presses and maybe leg curls. But what tends to get ignored are our adductor and abductor muscles. Again it comes down to the things we do every day and the muscles these movements work. Our abductor muscles get worked by moving our leg away from our body to the side, and our adductor muscles get worked by bringing that leg back to centre, all under load of course. I can’t think of anything I do from day to day that includes those movements. Makes sense that these muscles tend to be weak. So let’s look at what we can do to address this.

  • Cable hip adduction
  • Cable hip abduction
  • Tubing hip abduction
  • Semi prone hip abduction
  • Semi prone hip adduction

I’ll leave you with that

Have I hit all of them? No. But I have listed the common ones that once we strengthen these muscles our posture will change for the better, and hopefully we will have less injuries. That’s the reality of it. It may not be easy to do some of these exercises. It will probably be defeating since these muscles will be weak compared to their counter parts.  But you’re not one to get hung up on that, and you won’t let that discourage you.

Final note though, I have listed exercises but did not feel it worthy to describe how to do them. I fear that if I describe an exercise and don’t do a good enough job that you may end up not performing the exercise properly, and not realize the benefit. I’ll take this moment to recommend you engage a personal trainer if you would like to know how to perform these exercises. You can’t beat the value of a personal trainer to better understand how to execute certain exercises, or to help you understand what you should focus on. Of course Youtube will have lots of videos showing these exercises too.

Try these things out. Take charge of your body and you will be the one who benefits, short term and long term.

It’s with you now.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

 

 

Author: darryl bennett

A certified Canfitpro personal trainer specialist, and a Yondan (4th Degree) black belt in Shorin Ryu Shorin Kan karate, training at Ferraro Karate under Sensei Stephen Ferraro. Also holding a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from ECornell University. Fitness and health have been a big part of my life, and always will be.

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