Let's imagine that you only hit the gym a few times a week...and... let's say...during these few days you're exercising the same muscle groups every week (i.e., legs, chest, arms, and abs). What do you think happens to the other muscles not being exercised? Have you ever thought about that?
You may be shocked that only 23 percent of Americans meet the National Exercise Guidelines! If this is the case, there's a high probability that the 23 percent of fitness enthusiasts are focused on exercising the basic core muscles while overlooking the smaller muscle groups.
So... what's the Importance of Hitting All of Your Body's Muscles?
Working all of your body's muscles not only helps you feel better and look fabulous, but it can also improve your overall fitness and alleviate soreness. If one muscle is neglected and lacking in strength, other muscles must work double-time to make up for the one that is falling behind -- and this is when muscles strain and you wind up getting hurt. Your body is smart, and it won't let your muscles grow because it knows you can't handle the extra strength just yet -- even if your nutrition is perfect and your workout is amazing.
So, what body parts are you forgetting? How can you thwart your body’s survival mechanisms and make progress during your exercise routine? Here are some of the most forgotten body parts commonly overlooked and why you should add them to your routine for better overall health.
Back & Shoulder Blades
Your back and shoulders are more than just about looking good in a tank top. Texting, typing, and sitting for extended periods often force your back to hunch over or bend into poor positions -- which ultimately impacts your overall body strength and balance. Toning the rhomboids, or the muscles that connect your shoulder blades and upper spine, not only helps you to look slimmer and younger but also protects you from back pain and helps your posture.
How-to exercises: Strengthen your back by trying a cobra back extension and seated cable row. Or try working your postural muscles by rolling your shoulders back and down, then squeezing them together for a count of three. Pull your chest up and your navel in towards your back, and repeat 10 times.
Under & Below Shoulder Blades
The serratus anterior, or the length of muscle that wraps around your upper ribs, is important for breathing, posture, and shoulder blade mobility since it’s attached to your shoulder blades (scapula).
How-to exercises: To keep your shoulder blades fit, try tapping opposite shoulders while holding a plank position or breathe in while arching your back and tucking your tailbone -- also known as the cat-cow yoga pose. Keep in mind that the more you practice tightening these muscles, the more you’ll be able to do it without even thinking about it.
Face & Facial Muscles
With more than 40 muscles in the face, it’s important not to overlook facial fitness when building a solid workout routine. Facial fitness may also help to prolong getting fillers, injections, and expensive skin creams; exercising your face is the best anti-aging weapon in your arsenal! After all, facial exercises boost blood flow and bring oxygen to your skin, helping with everything from overall mental health and well-being to anti-aging and wrinkle management.
How-to exercises: Work your mouth muscles by sitting down and tilting your head backward. Pucker your lips, push them forward, and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat five times for toned lips. Looking to lift your cheeks? Close your lips and gently smile. Suck your cheeks as far in as you can, and hold this position for 10 seconds. Release and repeat five times. Want more, check out our popular article: Facial Exercises for Gorgeous Glowing Skin
There are many muscles within the system known as the “pelvic floor” that are crucial for preventing bowel dysfunction, pelvic pain, incontinence, and much more. These muscles support the organs in the pelvis, and some form a sling around the rectum and vagina. While some people may need to learn how to relax and lengthen their pelvic floor, others might need to strengthen these muscles through Kegel exercises.
Fun fact: Both men and women have a pelvic floor! While the female pelvic floor supports the bladder, uterus, and vagina, the male pelvic floor both supports the bladder and bowel and provides a pathway for the urine tube and rectum.
How-to exercises: Slowly, but firmly, squeeze the muscle you’d use if you were trying to stop yourself from urinating. Try not to clench your thighs or buttocks. Hold for a count of three, then relax for another count of three.
Inner Thigh Muscles
Inner thigh muscles, also known as adductors, are considered one of the absolute hardest parts of the female body to tone. Strengthening these muscles can help your thighs move laterally and perform leg movements like squatting, climbing the stairs, running, and playing sports. If you’ve noticed that your lower-body strength isn’t quite up to par, weak adductors could be to blame.
How-to exercises: Exercise-band movements, single-leg squats, adductor squeezes (squeezing a ball between your knees), and lateral lunges are best to target the inner thigh muscles and power up those adductors. Check out our calendar of online exercise routines for two fantastic inner-thigh workouts: a three-minute inner-thigh burn and a 10-minute routine.
Hip & Thigh Rotation Muscles
Few muscles get as much attention as the gluteus maximus -- the butt! -- but it wouldn’t be everything it is without the gluteus medius and minimus. Not only do these two muscles stabilize the pelvis when the opposite leg is lifted, but they’re also necessary for walking, rotating your hips, climbing stairs, preventing back and knee pain -- as well as keeping that gluteus maximus at its perkiest!
How-to exercises: To activate the gluteus medius and minimus, which are located more on the sides of the hip, try doing squats with a band around your knees, lie on your side as you lift and lower your bent knee, or try lunges or side-plank raises.
Did you know that your throat muscle is one of the most frequently used muscles in your body? Believe it or not, there are several tiny muscles within the voice box that we use more than any other muscle. These muscles are responsible for preventing aspiration and opening and closing the vocal folds that allow us to breathe and speak. They can also contribute to snoring and swallowing difficulties.
How-to exercises: To keep your throat muscles in tip-top shape, experts suggest avoiding alcohol abuse and smoking, following a low-acid diet, drinking plenty of water, and opting for noisemakers instead of shrieking at concerts and sporting events. An example exercise is the throat crunch which is done by lowering your chin to try to touch your chest, repeating at least 10 times.
Contrary to all the other muscles on this list, the jaw muscles are the only ones typically overworked rather than underworked. Gum chewing, nail-biting, and teeth grinding can all put undue stress on the jaw muscles and, if frequent enough, can cause severe muscle pain, trouble fully opening your jaw, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), and headaches.
How-to exercises: Try to consciously relax these muscles by keeping your teeth apart, your lips together, and your tongue resting against your palate. If you’re already sore, a softer diet, heat compresses, soft tissue massage, and possibly physical therapy, if necessary, can help.
Shoulder Rotation Muscles
Since many women struggle with building upper-body strength compared to men, it’s even more important to make sure that you connect your growing strength with your core. Enter the rotator cuff. This muscle connects your arms to your trunk, and strengthening your rotator cuff will not only help to limit shoulder injuries such as tears but also help keep your body agile.
How-to exercises: Some fantastic exercises for these muscles include high-to-low rows, side-lying external rotations, doorway stretches, lawnmower pulls, and the reverse fly.
Whether it’s the legs, chest, arms, or abs, chances are that your exercise routine focuses on one or more of these better-known muscle groups. While they’re certainly important for staying healthy -- and looking fit -- they’re not the only muscles you need to include in your workouts. At the end of the day, not only will an equally toned body appear healthier on the outside, but it will also offer greater balance and be able to better support itself during strenuous workouts.