Don't Skip These Important Muscles

| Fitness

Most workouts are centered around women’s thighs, backside and core. Honestly, those are the most targeted areas because they are the most likely places for fat storage to occur, but those aren’t the only parts of your body! In order to maintain strong supporting muscles, you’ve got to isolate them during a workout. You’ll find that having an a well rounded musculoskeletal system will make those core and booty exercises a lot more effective. 

hip flexor stretch

HIP FLEXORS

Strengthening and stretching your hip flexors will put you into a better position, literally. If the flexors are too tight, it will force your posture to shift by tilting the pelvis forward so it kind of looks like you're sticking out your backside. This puts a lot of pressure on the lower back. The flexors include two muscles that run diagonally and deeply from the top of the femur to the bottom of the spine. You contract these muscles when you pull your leg toward your belly like in a sit-up or a forward stride when walking. Go ahead and stretch those flexors and extensors by clicking here.

Heel slides: Lie on your back and flex one foot. Bend the same knee as you slowly slide the heel closer to the glutes, then reverse. It might be easier with a glider, towel or paper plate under your heel.

Leg raises: On your back, lift your feet up together so they're above your hips. Lower them as far as you can with control and raise them to complete one rep.

(Photo: leg raises
Photo Credit: Fit Dad Chris)

Windshield wiper: On your back, bring the legs together up over the hips again and brace yourself with your arms at your sides, palms down. Keep the legs straight as you swing them side to side, however far you want. Modification: Bend your knees.

SPINAL EXTENSORS

The muscles along the spine are broken up into two groups: extensors and flexors. The extensors help us stand up, lift things and maintain an upright stance. By properly strengthening and stretching these muscles, you can perfect your body’s alignment and reduce your risk of aches and pains as well as injury.

Bird dog: On all fours, raise the opposite arm and leg to full length, then switch sides. Try it here.

Chair pose: A yoga pose that begins with the feet and knees together. Bend the knees as the arms stretch overhead in line with your spine. Gaze toward the floor.

chair pose

Kettlebell swings: Stand with feet outside of the shoulders, knees slightly bent with the kettlebell between the knees. Thrust your hips forward as you let the bell swing upward. 

kettlebell swing

ROTATOR CUFF

The rotator is made up of four muscles all supporting a ball-and-socket joint. Tears and tendinitis are more common in women, especially between ages 30 to 50 years old. Sometimes, the muscles might be too tight, but the issue is usually in lack of strength. (via eMedicineHealth)

Powell raise: Lie on your side with your head in one hand, knees together and bent. Have a dumbbell in the top hand and lift the arm up, stacking over the shoulder, and back to the floor. Thumbs point down.

Standing row (resistance band): Loop a resistance band around a secured pole or beam. Pull the band in toward the chest with elbows flaring back and return to the starting point.

(Photo: band row
Photo Courtesy of Philly)

Cuff rotations (resistance band): Keep the band around the pole and glue your elbow to your ribs at a 90-degree angle. Open your forearm to the outside and back to center for a few reps, then close the forearm into the belly for a few more.

>> Read more: 6 Advanced Exercises for the Shoulders and Upper Back

UPPER BACK

As mentioned before, weak or tight muscles will affect your body alignment. Weaker upper back muscles, like the rhomboid between the shoulder blades, will cause the shoulder to round over to the front. This leaves you with a hunchback appearance and a shifted pelvis. Strengthening the traps, which reach from the side of the neck to the top of the shoulder blade, will give you improved neck support as well. 

Upright rows: With dumbbells, kettlebells, a barbell or resistance band, get your feet hip-width apart with a slight bend in the knees. Lean forward about 35 to 40 degrees with a small arch in the lower back. Look about five feet in front of you. Row from your knees to your belly button with elbows going straight back, sliding past the ribs.

rows

Swimmer: On your belly with your nose pointing toward the ground, reach your arms out in front of you. Bring the legs and chest off the ground and move the opposite arm and leg up then down. Try the swimming slide extension here.

Superman rows: On your belly with your feet on the floor, raise the arms out overhead. Keep your face on the mat as you bend the elbows back to the rib cage and extend again overhead. Complete your skinny minute with this superman variation!