Encouraging Health and Happiness

Neglected muscles can hurt you

As the muscles you work on get stronger, the neglected ones get weaker.

By Wina Sturgeon

Every athlete has a favorite muscle group. Whether it’s one you like because it functions well, such as strong quads that get you up the hill ahead of everyone else; or well-developed shoulders that put a ball exactly where you want it to go; or a group of muscles that look good, such as biceps or nice calves — you tend to be more consistent about training a muscle group that you like.

At the same time, there are muscles that you pay a lot less attention to; often without even realizing it. You may work those great quads, but neglect the hamstrings. You may pay a lot of attention to building your deltoids, but ignore the more tedious exercises required to strengthen your rotator cuffs.

Unfortunately, the neglected muscles will eventually have their revenge. As the ones that you work on training get stronger, the neglected ones get weaker. At some point, the well conditioned muscles will generate a force that the weaker parts can’t handle. You’ll go down. If you’re very, very lucky, you’ll be able to get up without help. But in far too many cases, the imbalance between strong and weak muscles usually ends up in an orthopedic surgeon’s office.

You can prevent this from happening. All you have to do is learn which muscles in your body have been neglected. There are two main ways to do this: one is free, and the other costs money but is a lot easier. The free way: go online or to a library and look up a human anatomy chart. Examine the muscles in the drawing and locate them in your own body; then figure out what movements or exercises YOU do that actually work each muscle. If it seems that one particular group doesn’t get much training, start working with it. Find exercises that will build strength and endurance in that part of your body.

The second method is to hire a personal trainer for an analysis session. This should only take about an hour. Ask the trainer to locate which muscles in your body are weak, and need work to eliminate that weakness. The advantage of a trainer is that he or she can also recommend specific exercises to build up the weak parts.

Every athlete has reasons — conscious or subconscious — for neglecting certain muscle groups. Sometimes it’s as simple as forgetting about a certain area when training; such as the neck. Yet it’s important to build up a strong neck, especially if you do a contact sport. Your head weighs about 12 pounds, and that weight can affect your balance if you get in an awkward position.

Sometimes neglect happens because there isn’t an easy method of building a muscle group. For example, lat pulldown machines make working the lats — large muscles in the middle of the back — easy. But it’s not as easy to work the spinal erectors; thick columns of muscle on each side of the spine in the lower back. Yet these muscles, an important part of the core, help support the upper body and are used in almost every athletic movement. If your upper back and abs are strong, but your spinal erectors are weak, you’re vulnerable to getting off balance and falling because you don’t have full support for the heavy mass of your upper body.

Make sure that you pay attention to all your muscle groups, especially the ones used in your sport. Learn which muscles you neglect and start training them regularly. You’ll help prevent injury, and you’ll also become a much more capable athlete.

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