When it comes to strength training, it’s important that all muscles are treated equally. Committing time to focus on different areas improves flexibility and endurance, makes joints and ligaments more resistant to injury and boosts your heart rate, all of which help you feel better and more at ease doing cardiovascular activity. “Everything works as a big computer and it’s synergistic, so if one thing breaks down, something else breaks down,” says Aaron Clark, chief happiness officer at CTown Fitness. “The human body is so complex. It’s almost like a painting, and whatever you choose to do, you’re literally painting your own picture as far as what kind of development you want.” Here’s the five spots you should make sure you workout on a regular basis.
Pecs: The pectoral muscles in the chest support the shoulders. Not keeping this muscle in shape can make simple tasks like lifting yourself from the ground difficult. To improve, try pushups. You can also modify the pushup to an elevated surface, like a couch or countertop. It’s ideal to touch down with your chest, hands beneath shoulders and elbows tucked at your sides. “Your pecs stretch when you come down and then they contract, or shorten as you push away,” he says.
Abs: There’s more to abs than a defined six-pack. A healthy core focuses on the muscles wrapped around and beneath the abdominal wall to the lower back. “Core muscles as a whole act as a platform for you to move,” Clark says. “If you have a stable platform you can move and function at a higher level.” Try planks, which force your front to lock up as the elbows are pulled into the floor and both glutes and abs are engaged.
Legs: Working leg muscles lowers blood pressure, spikes heart rate, and boosts testosterone levels in men. Try lunges, hinges or squats to get the hamstrings and quads of your workout dreams. “You should squat, hinge, lunge twice a week,” Clark says. Hinging is when the back flexes to lift something, like a dead lift. “When you hinge, you’re going to work your hamstrings and your butt, and lower back,” Clark says.
Biceps and Triceps: Shoulder and arm strength is crucial for everyday activities. Biceps and triceps pull and push objects respectively, and healthy ones reduce shoulder injuries and aid elbow extention. Pushups enhance triceps, while biceps strengthen with pulling exercises like bicep curls. For this, use a weight, pull it to the shoulders and back down. Keep your core tight to avoid the back from bending. “[Biceps and triceps] are going to play a part in how [a person] looks, feels and operates on a daily basis,” says Clark.
Glutes: In Western society, our glutes are less activated than they once were because we’ve become more sedentary. To tighten your glutes, try some hip thrusts or bridges — where you lay on your back with your feet flat and push your butt into the air— or squats, Clark’s exercise of choice. “[Squats are] probably the one movement that provides the most for a person’s body,” he says. “Not just from a feel-good standpoint, but you’re talking about increasing someone’s metabolism.”