The internet tells me there are approximately 639 muscles in the human body. That seems like a pretty exact number to be approximate about, but whatever. Most of these muscles connect and help stabilize your bones and don’t really come into play when losing weight. I mean, sure, there might be an exercise to help you develop your temporalis (a thin large muscle covering your skull responsible for moving your jaw, which can be seen at the temples when someone is clenching their teeth), but it’s not going to help you shed a few pounds if you’re able to bite through a large chunk of wood.
While there are many muscles that should not go ignored when working out, there are a few major muscles that you will always have to focus on, and I have listed them below.
ARMS (Biceps, Triceps, Deltoid)
If you imagine your arm is like a camel, the hump of the camel is the bicep.
The triceps are directly beneath the bicep, on the underside of the arm. These muscles are responsible for moving your elbows, which might not seem like much until you find yourself trying to eat with completely straight arms and discovering new ways to get the food into your mouth (hint: bring your face to the food. It’s messy, but it works). The deltoids are the muscles covering your shoulders, and grant you the ability to lift your arms in front of you, to the side and above you head (a.k.a. the YMCA muscle). They are usually grouped together with the back muscles, but it’s my blog and what I say goes.
LEGS (Quadriceps, Hamstring, Gluteus Maximus)
Quadriceps are the muscles on the front of the thigh and run from the knee to the hip. Hamstrings are the same thing, but on the back of the leg. Why the front thigh muscles sound like a robot and the back thigh muscles sound like an instrument for a pig, I don’t know, but they are both crucial for moving your knee and swinging your leg which is only important if you like to go places and do shit. There are also the calves (back of the lower part of the leg) which help stabilize and move your ankle.
We all learned what the gluteus maximus is in junior high, right? You don’t need me to describe it, and I don’t need you making any childish jokes. Some people have big glutes, some have normal sized glutes, and some people seem to not have them at all (you poor, poor bastards). It gives us good posture and helps stabilize where our lower and upper bodies meet. Now let’s just move on and keep our dignity.
What I have dubbed “The Superhero Muscles”, the pecs are the two large, thick, fan-shaped muscles that cover your chest (except for you ladies; you can find them under your awesome funbags). While having strong arms helps you do things, it’s your pecs that carry most of the load as they help you lift, rotate and flap your arms. All these actions in just one pair of muscles! BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Along with all the arm stuff, they also help you breathe in deeper into your lungs in case you need to hold your breath for a prolonged period of time, such as jumping into a swimming pool, or running through the tear gas that the police just shot through the window while you haul a bag of rubies and doubloons and a shot hostage into an air vent that leads to laundry room where you hid a motorcycle early last week.
Listen, I don’t judge what you do on the weekends.
BACK (Latissimus Dorsi, Trapezius)
Seriously, all these muscles sound like robots from Transformers.
The latissimus dorsi (or “lats” for short) is a large muscle on the lower back, and extends from your arm pit to your spine. Seeing that pretty much everybody was on the wagon, the lats also help with the movement and rotation of the shoulder. This is also true for the trapezius, which is a huge triangular (or trapezoidal, if you’re getting all lexiconic on me) muscles that connect the shoulder to the base of the skull and almost all the way down your spine. Along with moving your shoulder (specifically “The Shrug”), it also assists in moving your neck. But both of these muscles also help your balance, and stabilize, support and strengthen the spine, which the internet tells me is one of the most important things in the body, which leads me to the next muscle group –
ABDOMINALS (Awwww, don’t make me list them all . . .)
There are a lot of muscles in your belly region and it’s important that you work them all. Transverse abdominal, interior obliques, external obliques and the rectus abdominus all make up the abs (also called your core, although that term also includes some back muscles), and they are responsible for good posture and aid in the movement of the spine. And while the pecs may help you take a breath in, the abs help you breathe out.
There are many many many exercises that you can do to work these muscles, and I’m not even going to try to list them all seeing as I’m slothful and you’re already on the internet and can look them up yourself. But I will go through some rudimentary body weight exercises that cover the basic gamut.
Also called the press up or a floor dip, the push-up is a magic exercise as it works the triceps, the pecs, the deltoids, and the entire upper body as a whole. The exercise consists of lying on the floor with your hands placed on either side of you and lifting your body off of the floor with your arms while keeping your back and legs straight. And it can be easily modified to increase the difficulty, utilize your chest more or target other muscles like your biceps by simply changing the position of your hands, using one arm or changing the elevation of your feet.
Targeting your shoulders, elbows, back (specifically, your lats) and your torso in general, the pull-up (or chin-up) consists of grabbing an overhead bar and lifting your body off of the ground. Much like the push-up, this exercise can be altered to target specific muscles, such as your biceps, simply by changing the placing of your hands on the bar and lifting so the bar goes behind your head.
This exercise works your entire lower body, although you feel it mostly in your groin. And by “feel”, I mean that’s where it going to hurt for the next few days after you’ve done a few sets of these, but if there is any time where feeling discomfort in your groin is a good thing, it’s here. Performed by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and then squatting down (hence the name) all the way to floor and then returning to standing position, all while keeping your back straight.
Another complete lower body exercise, although this will make your butt sore. Excuse me while a giggle like an infant at the term “butt sore”.
. . . . . .
Starting from a standing position, step forward and lower your body to the ground while keeping one foot in place, and then return to a standing position. Both the squat and the lunge and be modified by adding weights or other movements (lifting a leg, etc.).
Targeting the abs and hip, sit-ups and leg lifts help strengthen your core which will make your entire body stronger. While laying flat on the floor with your knees bent and placing your hands behind your head, lift you torso off the ground and bring it to your knees, and then lower it back to the floor. It is vital that you keep your back straight throughout the entire process (have you picked up on that theme yet?) as you can injure yourself if you don’t. But a sit-up only focuses on a few of the ab muscles, so you’ll also want to do some leg lifts which are sort of reverse sit-ups.
Instead of lifting your torso to your knees, lift you legs straight up in the air and then lower them back to the ground.
As I said before, there are more exercises than these, and if you use weights you’ll be able target specific muscles more effectively. But if you perfect these exercises, you’ll be in a good place. In fact, you can create an effective routine comprised entirely of these simple exercises.
And thus ends my posts about muscles. Is there more? Oh, that’s a big “You betcha”, but since we’re in this for the long haul (that whole business of losing weight and keeping it off for the rest of your life) there’s no need to rush into all the information that’s out there. If I added anything else, it would be to remember to breathe out when you actually lift the weight so you don’t burst a blood vessel. Still, looking back over it, I’ve come to two conclusions:
- We’ve gone over the most important basic of strength training; and
- I’ve used parentheses far too much.