If you don’t pay attention to every muscle you’ll end up with an unbalanced body. Here’s how to fix your weak spots.
This muscle doesn’t need to be big but it does need to be strong, so you neglect it at your peril. A weak rotator
cuff can lead to injury and put you out of action for months.
But if you improve your shoulder stability by working this critical shoulder stabiliser you’ll ward off injury and increase your power output in lifts, such as the shoulder press, and in sports such as volleyball, tennis and baseball.
Include a set of internal rotation exercises before every training or sports session to both warm up and strengthen the rotator cuff.
Try This: Cuban Press
Do this at the start of your shoulder workout with a light weight to thoroughly warm up this delicate muscle group.
- Hold a light barbell with an overhand grip at thigh height.
- Raise the bar until it’s at shoulder height.
- Rotate your arms so that your hands point up, keeping your biceps horizontal.
- Reverse the movement with control.
Guaranteed to help with your grip, strong forearms can also help the overall development of your arms and assist with many heavy compound lifts, such as pull-ups and deadlifts.
Without a strong grip, not only will you severely limit your ability to lift heavy, but you’ll also increase your risk of injury to your shoulders.
Try This: Collar Grip
Do this after your heavy sessions when your grip is already fatigued to work the forearm muscles even harder.
- Hold a barbell collar in one hand and squeeze it for two seconds.
- Release and repeat 10-12 times before swapping hands.
Ask any gym-goer if they train their legs and they’ll probably answer ‘Of course!’ with an offended look. Ask them how much of that time is spent on their calves, however, and the look is more likely to be one of embarrassment.
The calves are the engine of the body, working tirelessly no matter what you’re doing. Because of this they’re classed as an endurance muscle and building them takes a two-pronged attack.
Aim for some straight-leg calf raises for the calf, and a bent-knee version to hit the soleus, which is the deep-lying calf muscle that connects your knee to your foot. Go heavy – these muscles need stimulating.
Try This: Seated Calf Raise
Do this at the end of your leg session and aim for 3 sets of at least 12 reps.
- Sit on a seated calf raise machine.
- Place the top of your toes on the platform.
- Push your toes away to raise the weight.
- Pause briefly before returning to the start.
Your trapezius muscles, or traps – either side of your spine below your neck – are responsible for neck and shoulder strength, and working them can give you an impressively wide physique. They’re activated by the shrugging motion and move your scapulae (shoulder blades) up, down and back.
Exercises that mimic a shrug will strengthen your upper traps, while your lower traps work in conjunction with your lats to perform pull-ups and lat pull-downs. Traps are important to assist in developing other muscles, such as lats and rear deltoids.
Include either dumbbell or barbell shrugs in your back or shoulder workouts to develop these muscles.
Try This: Dumbbell Shrug
At the end of your session perform 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps with a heavy weight to target this powerful muscle.
- Stand tall holding a heavy dumbbell in each hand, with core braced and gaze ahead.
- Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, keeping your arms passive and the dumbbells close to your sides.
- Pause at the top, then return to the start.
Rear Deltoids (delts)
This muscle – the back part of your shoulders – is key to achieving wide, strong and impressive upper body because big rear deltoids give width and mass to your upper back.
Benches and other pressing exercises often place too much emphasis on the front deltoid so ignoring the rear part of this muscle group can cause imbalance and injury.
Try This: Bent-Over Lat Raise
Do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps at the end of a shoulder workout.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand.
- Bend forwards from the hips, with the weights at arm’s length, palms facing each other, then raise the weights until they’re in line with your shoulders.
- Slowly lower to the start.
Underdeveloped hamstrings leave your legs weak and prone to injury but regular hamstring exercises and stretches will make these muscles strong and flexible, which in turn will prevent you pulling them when you’re performing intense exercise such as sprinting.
As your hamstrings are the muscles that help propel you forward, building bigger hamstrings will also help to increase your running speed.
Try This: Gym Ball Leg Curl
Aim for 3 sets of 8 reps after lunges to isolate your hamstrings.
- Lie with head, shoulders and upper back on a gym mat with your feet together on top of a gym ball. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels.
- With your back straight, raise your hips and use your heels to drag the ball toward you.
- Pause briefly at the top of the move before slowly returning to the start.
Building your glutes has far more than cosmetic benefits. When working properly, your glutes are one of the most powerful group of muscles in the body. They’re so crucial to movement that other muscle groups are equipped to assist in or even take over some of their roles if they’re not up to the job.
This substitution of movement often leads to loss of muscle mass, pain and ultimately injury, so it’s vital to train them. Do so by including squats, lunges and step-ups.
Try This: Single-Leg Glute Raise
Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps on each leg.
- Lie on your back with arms by your side.
- Keep one leg straight and bend the other so its foot is flat on floor.
- Push down on this foot to raise your glutes. Keep your core braced.
- Hold, then lower to the start.