Often when creating exercise programs, we include major muscle groups like chest, back, legs and shoulders.  In doing so, we often forget about smaller groups that are important for balance and postural alignment.

Although it is important to exercise the large muscle groups, it is also vital that we balance the larger muscle groups with the smaller ones.

Importance of smaller muscles

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Smaller and often neglected muscles in our body often provide stabilization in our joints.

Stabilization is so important to our bodies and our ability to move.  

Without stable joints, the risk of injury rises significantly. Many of the muscles commonly neglected in traditional exercise programs would fit into this stabilization category.  Therefore, when we neglect some of these muscles, we may be putting ourselves at risk of injury.

In addition to reduced injury risk, many of the muscles commonly neglected in exercise programs help to provide postural alignment and balance.

Without these muscles, our posture and structural alignment may be off, thus leading to muscle imbalances and, potentially, injury once more.

Posterior deltoid

The posterior deltoid is located at the back side of the shoulder and helps to bring the arm behind the body.

Think about your typical day: you likely drive your car, type on a computer, cook and clean, and perform a multitude of other duties with your arms in front of your body.  When our arms are placed in front of our bodies, we are in essence working the anterior deltoid and chest muscles.

In order to balance out all the forward movement, we should include posterior deltoid work in our exercise programs.

How to do it:

Reverse flys with a machine, dumbbells or cables will all work the posterior deltoid. Complete 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions when beginning.

Transverse abdominis

Your transverse abdominis is your “inner girdle” muscle.

muscles exercisers ignore_2This is the muscle that you contract when you pull your belly button toward your spine when completing abdominal exercises.

Often, we forget about this muscle when completing ab exercises.

Have you ever felt your lower back lift off the floor or mat when you are doing a reverse crunch or leg lift?  

This happens because your transverse abdominis is not braced or engaged during the movement.  When your low back lifts off the floor, it can put you at increased risk for low back injury.

How to do it:

When completing any abdominal exercise, pull your navel in toward your spine and hold that deep contraction.  Then continue with your normal abdominal exercise.  In addition, planks of all kinds are an excellent way to train this muscle in particular.

Gluteus medius and minimus

Not only do these muscles help to abduct the hip (the thigh moving away from the midline of the body), but they also help to stabilize the hip and pelvis.

Training this muscle will help to provide additional stability to not only your hips, but also your knees, since week abductors and hip extensors can lead to knee valgus (knees going in) with functional movement.

How to do it:

Hip abduction machines are OK, however I prefer to train these muscles using tubing (tube walking), cables (cable abduction), or simply body weight.  Complete 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps on each side for best results.

I hope that you were able to pick up a few new exercises to include in your exercise routine so you don’t forget some important, yet commonly neglected muscles!

You don’t have to devote an entire day to these muscles, just incorporate them into your current routine where they fit best.  Keeping this balance in your program will help you to achieve the results you want, while minimizing the risks of the activity!

Connect with Expert Sarah Walentynowicz.

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