There is nothing wrong with training your major muscle groups, and then loving the results looking back at you when you stand in front of the mirror. But are you neglecting the smaller assisting muscles and stabilizers? If you are guilty of that, you might be exposing yourself to injury. Major muscle groups need the minor muscles to support and stabilize them. So if you train only your big muscles, the smaller ones might get overwhelmed in time due to muscular imbalances, and that could cause a lot of damage.
Multi-joint exercises like deadlifts, squats, and planks recruit more muscle groups simultaneously, so that is an effective way of training your entire core and upper body. However, just going through the motion of the exercise is not enough for it to be efficient. You have to pay attention to your form and posture and mindfully perform the exercise, in order to improve bio-mechanics and strengthen your core. Focus on stabilizing your spine and maintaining it neutral throughout the exercise.
1. ROTATOR CUFF
The Rotator Cuff is a group of four muscles that originate on your shoulder blade, and form a 'cuff' to stabilize your shoulder joint. They are responsible for your posture and mobility. If you have big delts and weak rotator cuffs, you risk injuring them. That will restrict your range of motion and disable your from performing overhead movements. So, in order to prevent impingement and tears, you need to frequently train them. At least, include rotator cuffs exercises in your warm-up before working out.
- Stand in an open doorway and spread your arms out to the side. You can use a resistance band with this exercise or perform it with just your bodyweight.
- Grip the sides of the door with each hand at shoulder height, or slightly lower.
- Keep your spine neutral and lean forward on one of your legs. Lean forward until you feel a slight stretch.
- Return and repeat!
- Stand with you feet shoulder width apart and keep your back straight, holding a dumbbell in your right hand. You can also use a resistance that you hold down with your left foot and up with your right hand, instead of a dumbbell.
- Squat, rotate your torso, and slightly bend at the waist to the left, bringing the dumbbell or band towards your left foot.
- Stand up, rotate your torso slightly to the right and raise the weight close to your right shoulder.
- Return, repeat and switch sides!
Lying Lateral Rotation
- Lay on a bench in a prone position and hold a dumbbell in one of your hands.
- Rotate your shoulder to lift the dumbbell as high as you can.
- Control the movement and do it slowly with a large range of motion.
- Lower your arm, repeat and switch sides!
2. SERRATUS ANTERIOR
This muscle lies atop the outer sides of the highest ribs. It's responsible for assisting your scapula in rotating upwards and stabilizing it against your rib cage. The serratus anterior should be strong in order to promote shoulder health and mobility. It's a little bit harder to see, unless you've trained it before and have a very low percentage of body-fat. Pull-downs and pull-overs only stretch the muscle, so in order to strengthen it and make it more visible, you should train it twice a week.
- Lie prone on the floor with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
- Raise your body up off the floor and fully extend your arms.
- Lower your body without bending your elbows.
- Spread your shoulder and come back up.
- Keep your spine neutral and your core tight throughout the exercise and repeat!
Supine Shoulder Protraction
- Lie on your back, holding two dumbbells and keeping your hands in front of your chest.
- Raise the weights above your chest with a controlled movement.
- Keep your elbows straight as you bring the outsides of your shoulder blades up.
- Hold it for as long as you can.
- Return and repeat!
Hanging Serratus Crunch
- From a standing straight position, grasp a pull-up bar with an overhand grip.
- Move your legs upwards from side to side with a slow and controlled movement.
- Hold your legs together and move them to the left, return to the center, and then to the right without swinging.
- Repeat for as many times as you can!
3. TIBIALIS ANTERIOR
You can see this muscle on the lateral side of your tibia bone or on the lateral side of your lower leg. It runs above the foot and below the knee. It is responsible for ankle flexion and inversion, stabilizing, and balancing your ankle and entire leg. Training your tibialis anterior 2-3 a week will help you achieve a full range of motion, help strengthen your lower body in order to support your upper body, and prevent lower leg injuries caused by strength imbalances.
Kneeling Shin Stretch
- Kneel on both of your knees with your buttocks over your extended heels and feet.
- Sit down on your heels or toward your heels until you feel a slight stretch.
- Hold it for 30 seconds.
- Return and repeat!
- Sit on a bench or stand upright and slightly lift your toes off the ground. You can use a platform to support one quarter of your heels if you want to.
- Raise your toes as high as you without lifting your heels off the ground.
- Lower your toes with a slow and controlled movement.
- Repeat! If the exercise becomes too easy to perform, add weights on your toes next time.
- Sit in a leg press machine and place your feet on top of the foot plate.
- Extend your toes past the edge of the plate and keep your legs straight.
- Push your heels and pull the front of your feet towards your body.
- Return and repeat with a slow and controlled motion!
If these muscles are too weak or tight, it might be quite challenging to perform these exercises that sound simple. Consider wearing upper body compression for your rotator cuff and serratus anterior exercises. That will distribute adequate pressure on your muscles and keep them warm in order for you to perform the exercise easier. You can do the same for your tibialis anterior exercises: wear a pair of calf sleeves to relieve pain during and after workout.
Reduce the risk of injury and start developing these 3 stabilizing muscles! Not only is the Serratus Anterior nicknamed ‘the sexiest muscle in men’, but it actually helps and supports your shoulder’s mobility and promotes proper linkage between your scapula and rib cage. And the same goes for your rotator cuffs and tibialis anterior; they have critical and vital roles in decreasing the risk of injury and ensuring overall strength and balance.
You will not only have a pleasant and symmetric physique, but you will improve your overall athletic performance. Small muscles make a big difference! So, remember: you are training for yourself, not for your mirror. Which other small muscles do you think we should’ve mentioned in our list? Let us know!