Targeting Specific Muscle Groups
Whether you are trying to drop a few pounds, run a 5k, compete in a bodybuilding competition, or anything training-related, the strategy is going to be the “X” factor in getting you there. A huge part of training smart is knowing what muscle groups to target and how to do so optimally. For example, my client Shane wants to run a 5k in less than 20 minutes, so we train accordingly! Not only are we considering the many, many variables involved in training him correctly for his specific goal, but we are taking an in-depth look at what muscle groups are going to help Shane excel in his goal. These include but are not limited to the seven hip flexors, the quadriceps, the seven knee flexors, and the list goes on. The goal here is not to memorize, but to understand the muscles and their designated groups, origins, insertions, primary functions, and integrated functions in order to have a complete comprehension of the sequence of training necessary to reach a goal.
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Before we dive into the lovely intricate details that help you squeeze every drop out of your workout, let’s discuss the big picture. The first thing that we must understand is the importance of compound movements. Compound movements are movements that work more than one joint, such as pull-ups, lunges, and so forth. Compounds are important because they work multiple muscle groups at one time, thus burning more calories than isolation movements (movements that work one joint only like a bicep curl or leg extension); they give you more “bang for your buck” due to their efficiency. They are also your “meat and potatoes” of building strength and help you get adequate volume (reps x sets x weight) for each muscle group throughout the week. Now with this being said, it does not mean isolation movements are ineffective or unnecessary! Isolation movements are very good at developing a certain part of your musculature you may wish to bring up, fixing a weak link in a big compound lift, or even improving your individual mind-muscle connection. As a general rule of thumb, it is ideal to have about 80% of your training with compound movements and about 20% isolation movements, but this of course is a very grey area that is easily altered for the individual’s needs.
It is best to take it case by case by either studying for countless hours yourself or just hiring a trainer at Braxton Gilbert Fitness. 😉
Now, let’s get scientific. I will be discussing specific muscle groups in regions of the body, so get your pen and paper ready! Starting with your upper back region we have a couple of notable muscles—the levator scapulae, upper trapezius, some of our rhomboids minor and major, and posterior deltoids. When it comes to the upper back, some great ways to target individual muscles include movements that practice elevation (bringing your shoulder blades closer to your head), upward rotation (turning your shoulder blades upward), and horizontal abduction (having your arms move from extended in front of you to your sides still extended). The mid-back is comprised of the middle trapezius, the other rhomboids minor and major, teres major, Latissimus dorsi, infraspinatus, and more. We can target this array of muscles by engaging in adduction (bringing your arms extended from your sides to your hips), extension (bringing your arms extended in front of you down to your hips), retraction (pinching your shoulder blades together), and external rotation.
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Are you still with me here? Let’s keep going. Throughout the whole back with a focus on the lumbar area (lower back), trunk extension (extending your torso upwards) is a great way to tax the lower back by working your erector spinae and multifidus. The front of the upper body includes the pectorals major and deltoids. The pec major (chest) is the most versatile muscle in the body with five separate functions. The most prominent of them is horizontal adduction (bringing your arms extended out to your sides to directly in front of your shoulders still extended). The deltoids (shoulders) are divided into three compartments: anterior (toward the front), lateral (away from the midline of the body), and posterior (toward the back). They all work together as synergists to abduct the arm (bringing your arms resting at the side of hips all the way out to your sides). The front part can be targeted by horizontal adduction as well and the back part can be trained through horizontal abduction.
And that’s only the back and chest! That doesn’t include the abdomen, arms, and large and complex legs. I know this is complicated, wordy stuff. But the point is that utilizing a trainer who knows these specific muscle groups and how to target each one to make it stronger can totally change your fitness game. We’ve spent hours, days, weeks, and months studying this information so that you don’t have to. It is our passion to help you reach your goal! Through training sessions, we can pass on our knowledge to you and help you achieve any fitness goal. Each muscle is its own little world, packed with so much potential. Let us help you unpack it!