Four Frequently Neglected Muscles and How to Train Them

December 4, 2017

It’s easy to remember to work large, easily visible muscle groups like the biceps, chest, and back. However, neglecting smaller muscle groups can cause serious imbalances and lead to injuries that can take you out of the gym completely.

Listed below are four muscle groups that avid gym-goers tend to neglect during their training.

Forearms

People often tend to neglect their forearms, despite the fact that forearm strength is necessary for gripping heavy weights.

Strengthening the muscles in the forearms is especially important for athletes like rock climbers, tennis players, and gymnasts, who often are required to rely on their grip strength to support their own body weight.

Forearm strengthening exercises also help improve mobility in the hands and wrists, which helps prevent repetitive motion injuries and conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Best Forearm Exercises

Whether you use a forearm strengthening tool or just items like rubber bands that you have lying around the house, these exercises can help you build your forearm muscles to reap all the benefits discussed above.

  • Grip-Strengthening Exercises

There are lots of gripping tools out there that allow you to adjust the tension and work on increasing your forearm and hand strength. They’re similar to a binder clip or clothespin and are easy to use throughout the day. You can even build your forearms while you’re watching TV!

Gripping tools can be used for isometric exercises (holding a contracted position for a period of time) and repetitive movements. When you’re first getting started, try holding the tool in a closed position for 30 seconds or doing 2-4 sets of 8-10 repetitions on the lightest resistance level. You can always increase the duration of your holds or the resistance from there to give yourself more of a challenge.  

  • Barbell Holds

You can also work on building forearm strength in the gym with barbell holds.

To perform this exercise, grab a barbell using a double overhand grip. Position your hands so they’re about should width apart and then lift the barbell like you’re doing a deadlift. Start by holding the barbell for 5-10 seconds. Aim for 3-5 sets at the beginning.

You can also do this exercise with dumbbells if you don’t have a barbell handy.

 

Tibialis Anterior

The tibialis anterior is a muscle located on the front of your shin. It’s one of the most frequently neglected muscle, but it plays an important role in walking, running, and sprinting.

Everyone should be paying more attention to the tibialis anterior, not just runners and endurance athletes, to improve their range of motion, correct improper gait patterns, and prevent injuries like shin splints.

Best Tibialis Anterior Exercises

  • Dorsiflexion

One of the easiest ways to strengthen the tibialis anterior is to work on dorsiflexing the feet.

When you’re first getting started, you can simply work with your own bodyweight. Sit on a chair with your feet planted flat on the floor. Flex your feet, with your heels on the floor, so that your toes are lifted. Aim for 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

If this is comfortable for you and you’d like an added challenge, you can balance a small dumbbell on top of your feet, or wrap an ankle weight around them.  

  • Incline Walking/Running

Incline walking and running help you strengthen your tibialis anterior better than running or walking of a flat surface. This is because, when you’re on an incline, your toes are higher than your heels and your tibialis anterior is flexed.

When you’re just getting started, it’s best to stick to walking to decrease the risk of injury.

You can run or walk on a treadmill set to an incline, or find a hilly place in your neighborhood if you prefer to exercise outside.

Obliques

When most people think of core work, they focus solely on crunches and situps, exercises that only work the front of their body. However, the internal and external obliques, which run diagonally from the bottom of the rib cage to the pubic bone, are incredibly important for stability and preventing injury.

Whenever you have to twist or bend to the side, your obliques are working. If these muscles are weak, you’ll likely end up compensating with muscles like your lower back, which can result in back pain and stiffness.

Best Oblique Strengthening Exercises

  • Bicycle Crunches

Start by lying on your back with legs extended. Your feet should hover about 10 inches off the ground. Press the low back down into the floor (lift your feet higher if you’re not able to do this) and place your hands behind your head. Rotate your torso and bend your left knee so that your right elbow can touch it. Keep your right leg straight and your left elbow close to the ground.

Aim for three sets of 8-10 reps on each side at the beginning.  

  • Bird dog crunches

Start on your hands and knees with knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Slowly lift your right arm and left leg so that they are parallel with the floor. Your back should be flat with your core muscles engaged. Hold this position for a second, then lower back down and repeat with the left arm and right leg.

Should for three or four sets of 10 reps on each side. Rest for about 30 seconds in between sets.

If it is too challenging to lift the leg and arm at the same time, you can start by lifting the arms and legs separately. First, you’ll lift your right arm, then set it back down and lift your left arm. Repeat with the legs, lifting the right leg first, then the left.

Rear Deltoids

The rear deltoids, located on the back of the shoulder, often get neglected. Gym-goers tend to focus more on the anterior (front) and lateral (side) deltoids, as well as the chest and larger muscles in the back.

Working the rear deltoids helps balance out chest development and prevent tightness there. Defined rear deltoids also create a balanced appearance in the shoulders and improves posture by naturally drawing the shoulders up.

Best Rear Deltoid Exercises

  • Face Pulls

Start by hooking a rope attachment to a cable machine. Adjust the height so that the attachment is at eye-level.

Pull the weight toward your face, keeping your upper arms parallel to the ground and separating your hands so that the rope attachments end up on either side of the head. Aim for 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

  • Reverse Pec Deck Machine

Many people only use the pec deck machine for working their chest, but it’s also a fantastic option for working the rear deltoids.

Start by sitting the opposite way on the seat, so you’re facing the machine. Then adjust the handles so that they are as far away from you as possible (while still being able to reach them.) Make sure the handles are at shoulder level, then grasp them with your hands facing inward.

Pull your hands out to the side and toward the back of the room so that your rear deltoids are contract. Keep your arms slightly bent and make sure that all the motion is coming from the shoulder joint (you’ll probably have to lower the weight quite a bit to avoid other muscles taking over).

Pause at the end of the movement, then return to the starting position. Shoot for 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Wrapping Up

If you want to increase your overall strength and prevent injuries, make sure you’re incorporating these exercises into your routine. Smaller muscles need attention, too, and they can make all the difference when you’re trying to take your fitness game to the next level!

 

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