Give those non-mirror muscles some love

This article was written by on of The Food Medic team; personal trainer and fitness writer – Adam Willis

It’s easy to understand why we often give more love to the front of our body than the back when it comes to training.

We see more of the front of our body than the back.

We see it more every day in mirror.

It waves back at us when we’re getting dressed up for a night out.

It’s what you see when trying on clothes in a shop and base your purchasing decisions on what you see looking back at you in the mirror.

We also consciously know that the front of our body is what everyone we meet each day gets to see [for the most part].

So, it stands to reason why we may be more hypercritical of it than other areas of our body, which in turn
leads us to pay it more attention consciously and unconsciously when it comes to training.

Pressing exercises for the chest and shoulders typically get more focus than pulling exercises for the rhomboids, traps and lats.

Quad-focused exercises like squats, leg presses and lunges often get more training stimulus than hamstring and glute work like Romanian Deadlifts, Hamstring Curls and Glute Bridges.

Abdominal exercises like Crunches, Reverse Crunches and Hanging Leg Raises get more attention than lower back exercises for the spinal erectors.

Now, for the most part people aren’t completely ignoring these muscles on the back side of the body, their training focus, or total training volume, tends to focus more on the front side causing there to be an imbalance in the training frequency and volume these areas get.

This imbalance is however accentuated further due to our day-to-day lifestyle as well.

We sit for long periods of time which can affect our glutes and hamstrings. Combine this with the majority of what we do in our lives being in front of us as well.

Our hands are in front of us.
We use computers and laptops all day.
We spend hours driving each week.
We look at our phones more than ever.
Even when we eat everything is in front of us.

Our world primarily being in front of us can cause the shoulders to roll forward and pecs to shorten and
tighten contributing to poor posture. We then go into the gym and exacerbate this issue by doing a bunch of bench presses, shoulder presses and push ups and often only do some token work for the upper back.

For training programme balance, and to help combat our day-to-day lives, more love must be given to those hidden non-mirror muscles.

We need more upper back work to balance out all those presses and life being in front of us.

We need more lower back work to balance out all those abdominal exercises and create more strength and stability for your core and spinal stability.

We need more glute and hamstring work to balance out all that quad love and develop greater hip stability and strength at the knee and hip joint.

So, what should you focus on when it comes to training those non-mirror muscles?

The Upper Back:

When it comes to upper back training, you’re primarily going to focus on training the rhomboids, the traps and lats. These are all key muscles of the upper back and will help improve your upper back and shoulder posture.

If you want to combat the dreaded desk slouch posture, then more upper back work is a must.

Key exercises to train the upper back would be:

  • chest supported dumbbell rows
  • single arm dumbbell rows
  • seated cable rows
  • barbell or TrX inverted rows
  • cable face pulls
  • lat pulldowns
  • straight arm pulldowns
  • chin-ups/pull-ups

My personal recommendation would be to focus more on the horizontal pulling variations [rows and face
pulls] than the vertical ones like lat pulldowns, straight arm pulldowns and chin-ups because too much lat-focused work can contribute to internal rotation of the shoulder as well [they can round the shoulders forward].

The Glutes and Hamstrings:

Aside from a great set of glutes being aesthetically pleasing, training the glutes properly is important because they are our powerhouse. Having strong glutes is so important when it comes to walking, running, jumping, and creating solid hip stability.

Thankfully the popularity of glute training has seen a huge increase in people training this area, but the
inclusion of more and more glute work in a lot of people’s programming often seems to come at the expense of hamstring work.

When it comes to hamstring training it’s important to remember its 2 key functions.

Your hamstrings create:

Hip extension: think, going from the bottom of a romanian deadlift to standing up tall

Knee flexion: think, bending at your knee to shorten the distance between your heel and butt.

This means it’s important that both are trained during your training week.

Like the glutes, your hamstrings are key muscles for walking, running, and jumping and they are also the antagonist to your quads, so strong and resilient hamstrings are important to avoid imbalances and reduce hamstring injuries.

Key exercises to train the glutes:

  • step-ups variations
  • glute bridge variations
  • romanian deadlift variations

Key exercises to train the hamstrings:

  • hip extension
    • deadlift variations
    • romanian deadlift variations
    • 45-degree back extensions
  • hip flexion
    • hamstring curl variations
    • glute-hamstring raise variations [works both hip extension and knee flexion]

The Lower Back:

When it comes to lower back training thankfully a lot of the exercises that train the hamstrings and glutes also train the lower back as well [another great reason why hamstring and glute work is so important].

Having a strong lower back is so important when it comes to having a strong and stable core, which in turn leads to you being stronger and more powerful in almost all other lifts.

Key exercises that help train the lower back:

  • deadlift variations
  • romanian deadlift variations
  • good morning variations
  • russian kettlebell Swings
  • 45-degree back extensions
  • glute-ham raise variations
  • reverse hyperextensions

Now, if you’re unsure if you’re giving these key areas enough training focus, grab your training programme right now and perform this simple task below.

Count and create a tally chart for all the upper body pressing reps you do in a training week.

Does your upper body pulling exercises match it in terms of total weekly reps?

Now count and create a tally chart for all your quad-focused reps for exercises like squats, leg presses, lunges etc.

Does your hamstring and glute work match it in terms of total weekly reps?

If there’s a big discrepancy, it’s time to make a change to your programming.

It’s time to reduce some of the weekly training work you do for your mirror muscles and give more focused training time to the back side of your body.

Give all those non-mirror muscles more love than you currently do.

You’ll be stronger for it.

You’ll have better posture for it.

…and your entire body will thank you for it.

Give those non-mirror muscles some love was last modified: April 19th, 2022 by Adam Willis

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