3 Commonly Neglected Muscle Groups — and How to Strengthen Them
Reviewed & Approved by Dr. Larry
Muscle imbalance can be a visual problem for veteran bodybuilders like Steve Lombardi, but it can also cause performance problems in your active life and make you more vulnerable to injuries — making neglected muscle groups a potential health risk.
What are the most neglected muscle groups of the body, and how can you work to strengthen, tone, and build them up for better visual appearance, physical performance, and an all-around stronger body?
1. Calves and Lower Leg
According to Steve, this is one of the most common concerns for bodybuilders because of the jarring visual impact that ignored muscles in the lower leg can have when the thigh muscles are more developed.
But having a strong lower leg is also important for balance, improved joint strength, and to prevent injuries from running, hiking and sports that involve quick bursts of speed or agility.
One of the simplest calf exercises can be done with a set of dumbbells and a stair step. One of the best free weight calf exercises is the standing calf raise:
- Stand on the edge of a platform or step, with your heels hanging over the edge and your weight centered evenly on the balls of your feet. Keep your legs slightly bent throughout the entire exercise.
- Hold a set of heavy weights in your hands. Raise your heels as high as you can, hold it for a beat, then slowly lower yourself to your starting position.
- Repeat for about four sets of 15–20 reps
Perform this calf exercise two to three times a week to strengthen the most neglected muscles in your leg.
2. Adductor Muscles
Adductor muscles contract in a pulling motion to bring your limbs toward the trunk of your body. Your most neglected adductor muscles are the ones in your inner thighs. While you probably do plenty of squats and lunges, you’re probably neglecting leg workouts that really work these muscles, which control your body’s side-to-side motions and provide much of your lower body strength and stability.
This is particularly concerning if you heavily work your thighs and glutes, but don’t have strong adductor muscles in the inside and outside of your thighs to support the front and back leg muscles. To build and strengthen your adductor’s neglected muscles, try simple lateral lunges:
- Start from a straight standing position with heavy free weights in each hand.
- Lean into a side lunge, with your weight over your ankle and your knee bent to a 90-degree angle, squeezing your glutes and inner thigh.
- Hold it for a beat then lean back to your standing position. Repeat on the other side.
Perform this workout on your thigh’s often neglected muscles twice a week — with heavy weights for three or four sets of five reps once per week, then two or three sets of 10–12 reps with medium weights once per week.
3. Forearms and Lower Arm
Forearms and the small neglected muscles of your lower arm (especially the ones that surround your wrist and elbow) are critical to your grip strength, joint stability and your pulling-power in exercises like deadlifts or pull-ups. These smaller components are neglected muscles in bodybuilding, and it shows in bodybuilders who have bulky upper arms and biceps, but relatively small lower arms.
A good basic exercise for the neglected muscle groups in your lower arms are wrist curls:
- Sit on the edge of a bench with light to medium free weights in your hand. Have your forearms rest on your thighs with your palms up and your wrists hanging over the edge of your thighs.
- Slowly curl your up toward your forearms as far as you can go, hold for a beat, and then return to your starting position.
Perform this neglected muscle workout at least once per week with three sets of 20–30 reps.
Which Muscle Groups Are Most Neglected for You?
Everyone has a muscle group that’s more neglected than the others. Take some time to notice which exercises in your regular workout routine are more difficult for you than others. Chances are it’s because the supporting muscles around your more major muscle groups are working much harder than they’re used to!
Focus in on some of your own neglected muscle groups, and you’ll notice a marked improvement in your overall appearance, strength, mobility, and balance.