You probably have had someone once tell you that “you are not seeing what is right in front of you”. Well, when it comes to exercise, usually the opposite is true. Too often we look in the mirror and work on what we see—our biceps, chests, quadriceps and abs. The only thing behind us that we usually consider working on is our derrieres. But there is a whole army of muscles behind us that need just as much attention as what is in front. Hamstrings, back and calves are equally important. Sure, you most likely do many exercises focusing on the shoulders like presses and side and front raises, but what about those rear deltoids? Are you forgetting about them?
One of the problems is that if you rely on strength and conditioning classes to work your back half, you are somewhat limited in exercise options. One-arm rows with weights or lateral pull downs with bands are the extent of most back exercises unless you are in a circuit-type class where there are different machines available. We end up doing endless squats and lunges, but deadlifts and calf raises are sometimes overlooked.
But it is never too late to begin working those hard-to-see muscles. Here are a few exercises to get more for your entire backside:
Back: The best exercise to work back muscles is pull-ups, but they are also one of the most difficult. But that is not a reason to avoid them. You can do them assisted—either using a spotter or placing a resistance band under your feet. If you find yourself struggling with them, inverted rows are just as good. Place a secured bar at hip level, lie underneath it and, using an overhand grasp, hold the bar. Squeeze your upper back muscles as you bring your chest to the bar and then slowly lower yourself back down. Continue doing these for three sets of 10-15 if you can. As these become less challenging, try attempting those pull-ups.
Other exercises to build back strength and get that beautiful V-shape are pull downs (wide-grip, narrow-grip and straight-arm), seated rows and bent-over dumbbell raises.
Hamstrings: Nothing says strong hamstrings like a few good sets of deadlifts. You can use either dumbbells or a barbell. Just be sure to keep your back straight, no arching or rounding it, as you lower the weights slowly to your toes and then coming back up to a full standing position. Keep the focus in your hamstrings while maintaining a tight core.
Reverse lunges (either stationary or walking) are also great for the hamstrings as well as placing your heels on a stability ball, lifting your hips into a bridge position and then rolling the ball in and out. You can even do one leg at a time for a real hamstring burn.
Calves: Although small, your calf muscles are still very important. You can perform calf raises by holding a set of weights and going up and down on your toes without letting your heels rest on the floor. You can even work your calves while on a leg press machine by hanging your heels off the edge and then pushing the foot rest up and down. Be careful to make sure the bar is locked if you are on a lying leg press apparatus so that the foot rest does not fall on you if your muscles give out or if you lose your footing.
If you exercise in a gym, there are many machines that target these often overlooked muscles. Be sure to incorporate them into your usual lifting routine on a regular basis in order to create that perfect symmetrical figure. You want to make sure you are balanced on both sides of your body so you look great whether you are coming or going!