A Simple Guide to Muscle Group Training
At REFYNE USA we understand that not everyone is on the same fitness level. That is why we are taking the time to help you understand the basics of fitness and nutrition so that you can get a jumpstart. Many people step into a fitness routine without knowing the basic muscle groups and how to train them. Don't worry, we’ve got you covered. For the simplicity of this article, we will discuss 10 muscle groups (even though some of them could be broken down even further).
Here is a list of the 10 muscle groups. Let's review the basic function and common exercises for each group.
The chest, also known as the pectoralis, is responsible for bringing the arm closer to the body (adduction) as well as pushing our arms forward. The chest can be informally broken down into the “upper”, “middle”, and “lower” portions. The most common exercises for the chest are presses and flies. Bench press, dumbbell bench press, machine chest press, pec flies, and push- ups are all great exercises to place emphasis on the pec muscles. To change the emphasis of the exercise, the body can be put in a neutral horizontal position for the middle/overall involvement, elevated into an incline position for upper emphasis, or put into a declined position for lower emphasis.
The back is comprised of many muscles working together, for the sake of simplicity we will focus on the upper and lower latissimus dorsi, or “Lats” for short. Yes, there are other muscles involved such as the teres major, infraspinatus, trapezius, and rhomboids that assist in all pulling motions with the arms. These muscles are all responsible for pulling the arm closer to the body (adduction), whether that be from front to back or from the top down. Some of the most common exercises include rows (barbell, dumbbell, machine, cable), pulldowns (wide-grip, narrow-grip, reverse-grip, straight-arm, etc.) and pull-ups/chin-ups.
The shoulders, also known as the deltoids (delts), are responsible for bringing the arm away from the body (abduction). The deltoids can be divided into the front (anterior), middle (lateral), and rear (posterior). Depending on which part you want to place emphasis on depends on where to bring the weight up during shoulder raises. For the best overall involvement, shoulder presses and shoulder-width upright rows have been shown to work great. Although it is good to incorporate more isolated exercises like front raises, lateral raises, and rear-delt flies to work the different heads.
The trapezius muscle, also known as the “traps” are most noticed as the muscles that “pop” off the neck of bodybuilders. While the upper traps are visible from the front, the trapezius also has a “middle” and “lower” part that continues almost halfway down the back. These muscle fibers are responsible for pulling your shoulder blades up, in, and down. The most common exercise for the traps are shrugs, whether they be done with barbells, dumbbells, machines, or kettlebells. They also are used as an accessory muscles in many different back/pulling exercises. To focus on the middle traps, shrugs can be done prone on an incline bench. To focus on the lower traps, straight arm push-downs or reverse dips pull the scapula down.
The Biceps (biceps brachii) are one of the most well-known muscles, located on the front part of our upper arm. They are responsible for “flexion” or pulling our lower arm closer to the body. The biceps have two (bi) heads; the short head and the long head. Depending on the arm position turned in or turned out, more emphasis can be placed on either head. Turning the arm out, or having a wider grip, places more emphasis on the short (inner) head, and turning the arm in, or having a closer grip, places more emphasis on the long (outer) head. Bicep curls with dumbbells, barbells, machines, bands, etc. can be done in various positions (high, low, behind the back, in front of the body) working many different muscle fibers.
The Triceps (triceps brachii) make up the biggest portion of the upper arm when we flex. Located on the back of the arm, the triceps are responsible for the “extension” or pushing motion of the lower arm. The tricep is divided into three heads; lateral, medial, and long heads. Much like the biceps, depending on arm position, more emphasis can be placed on the different heads. Turning the arm in and extending places more emphasis on the lateral head while turning the arm out and extending places more emphasis on the medial and long heads. Close grip presses, triceps pulldowns, triceps extensions, kickbacks, and dips are all great options to strengthen the triceps.
There are MANY different muscles located in the forearms, multiple extensors, multiple flexors, and the larger brachioradialis make up the bulk of the lower arm. Any motion of the hand and wrist work the forearm muscles; flexors pull the hands and fingers closer, extensors push the fingers and hands away, pronators rotate the hand in toward the body, supinators rotate the hand away from the body, and the brachioradialis pulls the forearm closer to the upper arm. Wrist curls and wrist extensions, along with hammer curls will help strengthen the forearms.
The abdominal muscles consist of more than just the prominent 6 or 8-pack. The rectus abdominis is the most popular and sought after for that reason, responsible for bringing the ribcage closer to the pelvis by flexing the spine in a “crunch” motion, it makes those “upper” abs work. But in order to balance out the “lower” portion, the spine must be flexed in the opposite direction by bringing the pelvis up towards the ribcage in a “reverse crunch” (leg raises are also great). The internal and external obliques “obliques” are responsible for the twisting motions of the upper body, so Russian Twists and oblique crunches work great to target this area. Doing planks can strengthen our “core” which is a combination of abdominal, back, and pelvic floor muscles. The transversus abdominis simply is the muscle that allows us to “suck in” our “gut”.
The legs could be broken up and made into many separate articles, so we will just hit the basics. The front of the leg is known as the “quads” because it is mainly made up of four quadriceps muscles, rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, and vastus medialis. There are many other smaller muscles, but these main ones are mainly responsible for the extension of the leg. Leg extensions and most squatting motions involve the majority of these muscles. The back of the leg is known as the “posterior chain” and is made up mostly of the hamstrings (3 different muscles) and the glutes (3 different muscles). These muscles are responsible for the flexion of the leg, extending and rotating the hips. Leg curls and many variations of squats, lunges, and hip thrusts work these muscles greatly.
The calves are made up of two muscles; the gastrocnemius and the soleus. They are responsible for plantar flexion, or simply put, pushing your foot down. They are worked by doing many different versions of “calf raises”. On the front part of the leg, by the “Shinbone” there is a muscle called the tibialis anterior which is responsible for flexing or pulling the foot up, it can be worked by securing weight to the toes and pulling up toward the shin.
This is a very broad overview of the major muscle groups we can target on a daily basis. So, if you’re new to the gym or if you are looking to get more benefits by incorporating resistance training, then these are all muscle groups you should become familiar with. There are no rules, you can train one group per day, combine a few of them, or you could train all of them each day. Programming can be as complex as you want to make it. But the important thing is that you find a style that you can incorporate into your daily schedule. Stay tuned for more in-depth blogs related to this one.
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