Look at her massive glute med!
He’s got lower traps for days!
I’d pay to have her serratus anterior.
Ok, maybe these aren’t the sexiest muscles that you hear people talking about in the gym, but working more on the often-neglected muscles help to give you a more well-rounded physique while encouraging symmetry and proper movement throughout your body.
It may not be fun, and you won’t necessarily “feel the burn” while learning to properly recruit these areas, but with proper cueing, and by staying focused, it won’t be long until your lifts feel stronger, and you start to resemble a young Jay Cutler. .. But like really young.. like 14 years old. Seriously. Kid was a beast at like 16.
First, let’s talk about your gluteus medius.
Essentially your side butt. You may know it to be responsible for things like hip abduction, or moving your leg to the side, away from your body. But to me, it’s much more. It assists in proper walking gait, helps to stabilize your pelvis while running, and makes sure that you don’t fall down while standing on one leg. It’s also usually more neglected than that one
There are many different exercises to strengthen this muscle. The ones I tend to recommend are x-band walks to start, then we progress to single leg step downs from a small box with a very neutral and stable pelvis, and you can even toss in some squats or hack squats with a band around your knees, forcing them out while you go through the entire movement.
How does this transfer over to your other lifts, you ask? Try a few weeks of these during your warm ups on leg day, and then let me know how your single-leg deadlifts, pistol squats, front and back squats, sprints, and most other leg exercises feel.
Next, let’s talk about your back.
If you want your back to look like a bag of angry boa constrictors, you need to stop hiking your rows up to your neck and figure out where your lower fibre (and also middle fibre) traps are. Take a look in your closest anatomy textbook, then get ready to feel back DOMS like you’ve never felt before. Building a rock-solid back is good for many reasons. First being shoulder health. Proper scapular movement
promotes healthy shoulders. And recruiting these muscles means that you won’t be so reliant on your upper traps and rhomboids to complete your pulling motions.
Now, it’s time for the hard part. Different exercises work for different clients when it comes to getting these muscles back in the game. Two of my favourites are prone incline W’s on a bench with some external rotation at the shoulder, and light cable reverse flies with a supinated grip. With both of these exercises, you are going to have to really focus on where the contraction is happening. Try to encourage proper scapular retraction, while eliminating elevation; so don’t lift your shoulders, brah. Even attempt some small isometric holds to feel the muscles working. Now, go to your heavier lifts (but not too heavy) and try to get these muscles to be more involved. You’ll feel the difference immediately.
What’s a serratus anterior?
It sounds like a Decepticon. Well, when you see lifters who are really lean, lift one arm up overhead and then those cool-looking finger-like muscles that sort of wrap around their rib cage start having a staring contest with your soft, pale, malleable obliques, you’ll understand why these next movements are key. Having strong serratus will make your pressing and pulling movements stronger and more stable, and will also keep the shoulders moving properly through your lifting career by keeping your scapula protracting and retracting like a boss.
My favourite exercise for these muscles is called a pushup plus. Set your squat rack up so that the bar is at hip height. Now, keep your hands close together on the bar and get into a pushup position. The goal here is to do a pushup only with your scapula. No bending of the elbow. Retraction, protraction. Small motions. That’s it. Practice this until it becomes second nature, and incorporate this into your more
complex pushing exercises.
Taking some time away from the heavy game is something we should all do from time to time. Consider it a tune-up. Learning to incorporate some of the smaller muscle groups into your main lifts will help you stay healthy and strong for many years to come. Also, when you finally get rid of that winter insulation… from 2012… you are going to be rocking a killer physique at the beach.