If you work out regularly, you might feel great about the exercise routine you do every week—until you head up the stairs to your apartment, only to find that you can’t make it up without huffing and puffing. Or perhaps you just beat your best friend in a 5k, but now you have to ask him to open a stubborn jar for you because you’re lacking grip strength. Naturally, when you work out certain parts of the body regularly on a bike or on a treadmill, other muscles suffer—which means something as simple as adding a few easy exercises to strengthen those weak muscles can make a huge difference. Here are three important muscles that exercisers tend to ignore.
Runners. Since the gluteus medius tends to be the weakest link, it’s easy for the body to then tilt the pelvis forward, strain the hip flexors and tighten the IT bands. According to mobility doctor Vonda Wright, orthopedic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, “unless you’re running uphill all the time, running builds endurance but not strength.”
Three times a week, try doing monster walks in a square shape with resistance bands around the ankles. Stay in a wide half-squat as you go forward 20 steps, to the left 20 steps, back 20 steps, and to the right 20 steps. Don’t let the band go slack as you keep your chest up and your knees in line with your toes.
Strength Trainers. The thoracic spine may be your weakest link, and according to Beret Kirkeby, an orthopedic massage therapist, your neck and lower back might try to compensate for scar tissue and lack of flexibility building in the mid-back and thoracic spine.
To avoid injuring your lower back, try this lunge matrix exercise: Lunge forward to 12 o’clock with your right leg and lift your arms up to the sky, and go back to the starting position. Do the lunge again, this time reaching your arms to your left side as you rotate, and return to the start. This time when you lunge, reach your arms to the right, and return to the start. You’ll do this exercise sequence two more times lunging to three o’clock and six o’clock, repeating everything on the left leg for 18 lunges total.
Yogis. The biceps tendon is your weakest link, and according to Kirkeby, “when moving from plank into the lower version of the posture during a vinyasa flow, your arms must be aligned properly with your shoulders directly above the elbows and wrists, otherwise the specific anatomy of that joint causes friction on the tendons.” She also says that repeated sun salutations can create biceps tendonitis at the front of the shoulder.
Here’s how to strengthen the biceps tendon: Narrow wall pushups. Face a wall and reach your arms out in front of you so that your wrists and shoulders are in line. Place your palms on the wall with your elbows pulled into the sides of the body. Lower your body until your nose almost brushes the wall, and lift back up. Keep your elbows pulled in the entire time.
See a physician or other health care professional before doing any strengthening exercises on an injured muscle.