Many of us focus on our more prominent and more obvious muscle groups when working out. Over time, these well-known and well-worked muscles have become familiar to even the most casual fitness enthusiasts: biceps, triceps, delts, quads, etc., are all classics.
However, several smaller muscles throughout our bodies play a vital role in all things movement-related, including daily activities and competitive sports.
When these muscles become weak from a lack of regular resistance training, our performance suffers. Worse, the failure of smaller muscles may lead to a failure to perform optimally at all. Think of that missed basket; a puck shot wide of the net or the inability to kick it to the finish line.
Even more devastating, these weak ‘supporting actor’ muscles may lead to an injury, perhaps a catastrophic tear to the knee’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), or an injury to the shoulder’s rotator cuff. Injuries such as these take a considerable amount of time to heal. Any damage can prove costly in terms of lost work and medical treatments.
What’s more, recovering from joint and muscular injuries may require time-consuming and expensive therapies and perhaps even corrective surgery. Surgery means even more time away from the activities you love and a loss of fitness abilities such as cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength.
Being proactive and spending some energy on training these lesser-known but essential muscles is time and effort well spent. If you have neglected these muscles or have never trained them at all, it’s a great time to begin including them in your workout.
Often, isolation exercises where you are targeting just that one muscle are highly effective. While not necessarily ‘showy,’ strengthening these essential muscles will improve your sports performance and reduce your risk of a sidelining injury.
1. The other Glutes:
No doubt you are familiar with the large cheek muscles called gluteus maximus, located on your bottom.
- Just above those, however, are two others called the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.
- These muscles are needed for stabilizing the pelvis, rotating the hips, and when well-conditioned, they can ward of knee and back pain.
2. Inner Thighs:
- The adductors are often neglected, resulting in a poor ability to move the thighs laterally or side to side.
- If you participate in sports like basketball, football, and soccer, strong adductors are key.
3) Rhomboids:Imagine you have an itch right there between your shoulder blades where its impossible to reach.
- This is the location of your rhomboids, two muscles on either side of your spine that are essential for posture; weak rhomboids allow the shoulders to round forward in a slump.
4) Rotator Cuff:
- Located at your shoulders, this group of four muscles works hard to stabilize the highly mobile shoulder joint.
- Too often, training is focused on the deltoids and biceps, but without a strong rotator cuff, the shoulder joint is at risk of tears, impingement, and strains.
5) Serratus Anterior:
- The serratus anterior muscles are located just below your shoulder blades and wrap down and around your upper ribs.
- Think of Olympic-level swimmers; these athletes have highly defined serratus anterior muscles.
- Occurring on both sides of the body, these muscles are crucial to stabilizing our shoulder blades, and aid in posture and breathing.
- When not given the attention they deserve, shoulder blades can protrude out like wings.
The five muscles included in this list are certainly not exhaustive; consider all the body’s supportive muscles when designing your workouts. Again, while the names and locations of these muscles may not be familiar to you, it’s worthwhile taking the time to educate yourself about where you can improve your training.
Address issues of pain and lack of mobility by seeking advice from your health care team. A proper relief and recovery plan following an injury will have you back to your regular activities. Now is the perfect time to begin to train areas of neglect!