In our quest to build copious amounts of muscle, we often focus on the
primary groupings such as chest, shoulders, arms, legs and back, without
paying a lot of attention to the smaller, more obscure, muscles, which
essentially underpin these larger groupings.
It is important to note that to
effectively target all muscle groups, it is helpful to have at least a
rudimentary understanding of the least auspicious, but often most
impressively sounding, so called, smaller groups.
Knowing the composition of
a large muscle complex will allow one to specifically zero in on it, without
digressing to other, less specific, areas. This simply takes the stress of
the targeted area.
For example, the supraspinatus, related to the rotator
cuff complex of the subscapularis, infraspinatus and teres minor, is an
important muscle for both shoulder stabilisation and abduction.
However, it is also the most often injured of the rotator cuff muscles, and it is
therefore important to target it with specific exercises to strengthen it.
Thus, knowing of this muscles existence, and its purpose, will assist one in
terms of both injury prevention and muscular development.
In this article, I will endeavour to identify, and explain, the various functions of some of
the lesser known, but equally important, muscles. Exercises to directly
target these muscles will also be provided. Get ready to impress your
friends with your new-found knowledge.
1: The Brachioradialis
The brachioradialis is essential for elbow flexion. So much so that it is
even stronger than the forearm (radioulnar joint) in this department. Its
origin is the lateral condyle of the humerus and its insertion is the
styloid process of the radius.
Click To Enlarge.
The muscles most closely related to the
brachioradialis are the brachialis and the biceps brachii. Given that the
function of the brachioradialis is elbow flexion, its importance for
bodybuilders lies in its biceps and forearms strengthening action.
To specifically strengthen the brachioradialis, focus on the following
2: Erector Spinae
The erector spinae runs from the base of the spine to the base of the skull,
is comprised of three heads (the iliocostalis, longissimus and spinalis),
and assists with spinal and neck extension, lateral flexion and rotation.
It originates at six points: the sacrum, ribs, lumbar vertebrae, thoracic
vertebrae, cervical vertebrae and ligamentum nuchae, and has, as its
insertion, the ribs, cervical vertebrae, thoracic vertebrae and skull. Its
most closely related muscle is the splenius, which runs from the base of the
skull to the cervical and thoracic vertebrae.
All back training movements,
and many others, rely, to some degree, on the flexion, rotation and
extension of the neck and spine, and thus, it is essential to strengthen the
Specific exercises to accomplish this are:
3: The Gracilis
The gracilis, also know as the inner thigh or hip adductor, has just one
head (the gracilis itself) and is involved in hip adduction and knee
flexion. Its origins and attachments are the pubis and tibia superior
respectively. Related muscles are the adductors and hamstrings.
Click To Enlarge.
relative obscurity, the gracilis plays a significant role in hip and knee
movement. Thus, any form of leg training relies on the interplay of the
major leg and hip muscles and the smaller gracilis.
Specific exercises to target the gracilis are:
4: The Rhomboids
The rhomboids are situated in the mid-back area and assist with the
adduction and downward rotation of the scapula. They have two heads (the
rhomboids major and minor) and have as their origins and insertions the
cervical and thoracic regions of the spine, and the inferior and superior
Muscles related to the rhomboids are the middle and
lower fibres of the trapezius, the levator scapulae and the serratus
anterior. In addition to adduction and downward rotation of the scapula, the
rhomboids hold the scapula against the thoracic wall, thus assisting
postural stability - all essential when aiming to increase overall back
strength. The rhomboids can be targeted with the following:
The sartorius is the longest muscle in the body and is commonly referred to
as the inner thigh muscle due to its positioning. It has one head (the
sartorius), and assists in hip flexion, abduction and external rotation, and
Click To Enlarge.
The sartorius has its origin at the iliac spine of the ilium,
and its insertion at the medial condyle of the tibia. Related muscles are
the iliopsoas, pectineus, rectus femoris, tensor fascia latae and
hamstrings. The sartorius assists with all lower body movements to some
degree, and thus should be targeted with specific exercises. These follow:
* Regular sit-up shown. Use medicine ball or plates for weight. Use a decline bench for resistance.
6: Tensor Fascia Latae
Sounding more like a type of coffee, the tensor fascia latae is, in actual
fact, instrumental as far as flexion, abduction, internal rotation and
transverse adduction of the hip is concerned.
Click To Enlarge.
Indeed, the tensor fascia
latae is often referred to as the hip muscle. It has one head: the tensor
fascia latae itself, and it originates at the iliac spine of the ilium and
inserts at the lateral condyle of the tibia. Muscles related to the tensor
fascia latae are the gluteus medius and minimus, iliopsoas, pectineus,
sartorius (see elsewhere in article) and rectus femoris.
A strong tensor
fascia latae will enhance squatting and leg-press strength, and,
resultantly, enhance leg growth.
Specific exercises for the tensor fascia latae are:
7: Teres Major & Minor
The teres major and minor both assist with different aspects of shoulder
movement; teres major with extension, internal rotation and adduction, and
teres minor with external rotation, transverse abduction and transverse
Click To Enlarge.
The teres major has, as its origin and insertion, the inferior
angle of the scapular and the intertubercular groove of the humerus,
respectively. The teres minor has as its origin and insertion the lateral
border of the scapular (posterior on upper middle part) and the greater
tubercle of the humerus respectively. Muscles related to the teres major and
minor are the latissimus dorsi and the infraspinatus/supraspinatus/subscapularis respectively.
To specifically train the teres major focus on:
To target the teres minor, focus on:
The muscle groups expanded upon in this article contribute significantly to
the various functions of the, so called, major muscle groups. Through
becoming aware of the existence of these groups, and by targeting them
specifically, the likelihood of injury occurrence will be reduced, and a
greater level of development will occur due to the attention to detail given
to all muscle groups.
Indeed, the muscular system is exceedingly complex in
its composition and to become knowledgeable in all of its aspects can only
enhance ones training experience.
Still need more? Check out:
Learn the names of each muscle and find out what exercises work best! The smarter you are, the bigger you'll get!
[ Click here to learn more. ]
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