Most Underrated Exercises?
In and recent article we discussed some of the least effective, overrated exercises that everyone and their brother seem to be doing (think bicep curls: “1001…1002…1003…I don’t know if you heard me counting. I did over a thousand“). But aren’t there some exercises that we should be doing but aren’t?
What about some of the less popular, underrated exercises that are needed in our fitness routine?
When it comes to these underutilized exercises, a lot of it comes back to the fact that these muscles aren’t the “sexy” muscles, meaning they aren’t the biceps or the abdominals or even the pectorals. These underrated exercises usually work the muscles that counter these “sexy” muscles or are the muscles we don’t see but are vitally important.
Underrated Exercises To The Rescue:
Likewise, these are underrated exercises that work/stretch our postural muscles.
Sitting in front of a computer all day can really take its toll on our muscles (not to mention the mushy brain syndrome it can create) and we need to strengthen the ones that “wither” away from day after day of 8 hours sitting. Let’s check out our 10 expert recommended exercises that we should all be doing!
Top 10 Most Underrated Exercises:
1. Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts
Deadlifts have widely become known as one of the most effective exercises and our experts agreed. Lisa Reed, M.S., CSCS, USAW of Lisa Reed Fitness LLC said, “This move [single leg Romanian deadlifts] challenges the entire body. Any balance movement is a challenge, forcing you to engage your core for stability throughout the range of motion.
Furthermore, your glutes are on fire the entire time as they are controlling the movement.”
Likewise, “They not only work on your glutes, hips, hamstrings, but engage your entire core, low back, calves, feet and abs for balance! They are excellent for knee physical therapy to build all of the above plus the strength in the hamstrings to support the knee ligaments & tendons!
They change your body and give you excellent curves for how awesome they tie in the glutes and hamstrings!”
2. Rear Delt Flies
This is one of the exercises I definitely suggest everyone include in their workout routine. Strong rear delts not only prevent shoulder stoopage but also make you more well-rounded, “Failing to work the rear deltoids can increase the likely hood of shoulder injuries and the common sloped shoulders look we see in people whose frontal and side shoulder are strong but with no rear deltoid strength the shoulder slump forward into a hunched position.
This only worsens with age” said Michael Spitzer author of Fitness at 40,50,60 and Beyond.
He wasn’t the only one to recommend this exercise. Jessica Lopez, fitness/nutrition professional at The Boxing Club in La Jolla, CA concurred, “Rear Delt Flies work the rear deltoids all the way into the rhomboids. Performing this exercise will tighten the upper back making the shoulder blades retract while forcing the chest upward.”
3. Upright Rows
I’m constantly talking about how you need to build a strong upper foundation via strengthening your shoulders. It can add so much strength and make your life just easier (pictured above with one or two dumbbells)!
Denise Lee at Pinpoint Training Services said, “The shoulder, more so than any other joint, is likely to have significant changes that occur due to the aging process. The aging process results in increased stiffness in muscle, ligaments and tendons…Stabilizing and strengthening the shoulder is important to stabilize the shoulder blades and upper back.
The upright row incorporates strengthening the muscles in the shoulder (supraspinatus, subscapularis, Infraspinatus, teres minor) and upper back muscles (trapezius and rhomboids).”
Rows come in many forms but they all work the back/lats! You definitely couldn’t go wrong adding more back exercises to your workout! Several experts listed this exercise including Minna and David Herskowitz, certified personal trainers and owners of Sandbox Fitness, who explained, “I think back exercises are very overlooked at a lot of these fitness studios and the back needs to be worked out just as much as the chest for good posture.”
Alycia Darby, a lifestyle fitness coach, host, and speaker agreed, “The lattisimus dorsi are giant muscles that span the back and connect in the armpit, spin, and wrap into the sides of the body at the abs. Working with the abs, this muscle is often forgotten as a part of the all-important ‘core.’
Rows (there are many variations) are an excellent exercise to strengthen these major back muscles for posture, and over-all core strength.”
5. Lower Back Extension
Everyone needs this one in their workout. It’s important to strengthen our lower back, especially if you sit at a computer the majority of the day (like me)!
Jessica Lopez gave us the low down on why this exercise is so important, “As we sit for hours on end. Our belly button tends to sink into our lower back, sliding us into a slouching position.
This stretches the muscles in the small of our back so much that when we stand those muscles no longer hold our posture upright causing us to lean forward from the waist and making it painful to stand upright. It should never hurt to stand up straight.
So an exercise that can reverse this is a lower back extension. This exercise can be performed laying in the prone position either on the floor, on a stability ball, or on a bench specifically made for the lower back.
Your feet would be anchored in and you would lift your upper body away from the floor contracting your gluteus and all of the muscles in the lower back.”
6. Rotator Cuff Exercises
Many individuals have rotator cuff and shoulder problems over the course of their life. Perform these exercises to help strengthen those muscles! “These muscles are important because they keep the glenohumeral joint secured in place.
Most traditional exercise programs don’t specifically target those muscles which ultimately can lead to an injury if not addressed” explained Dan Flores, RTSm.
Likewise another expert, Emily Coates, PT, DPT at MedStar National Rehabilitation Network agreed, “Shoulder internal and external rotation to strengthen rotator cuff and maintain stability of the shoulder joint.”
7. Single Leg Bridge
We all want stronger hamstrings and better looking glutes, here’s one of our underrated exercises to do just that.
Arek Long MA, CSCS Owner of WorkoutLA explains, “These [squats, lunges, step-ups] are great exercises for the quads and glutes, but they’re less help to the hamstrings, especially at the knee joint. And it’s our hamstrings that largely control the rotational stability of the knee joint. That’s news to most people.
But it’s true. Check your anatomy text. The supine Single Leg Back Bridge, especially with the foot of the exercising leg on a medball, effectively strengthens the stabilizing muscles around the knee joint.”
8. Heavy Lunges
Lunges are one of my favorite exercises because they are so incredibly effective and simplistic. Make sure they are included in your workout (not pictured with dumbbells above). “Nothing better for the butt than heavy lunges. We do a lot of lunges at Orangetheory Fitness, but it’s mainly fast paced body weight lunges. Using heavier weights while you do lunges will quickly shape that butt” said Eric Moerman, studio manager and trainer at Orangetheory Fitness in Phoenix, AZ.
9. Neck Stretch
This is one of the underrated exercises I bet most of us don’t do very often. A good stretch session can have you feeling relaxed and limber. It’s something I need to implement more into my routine as well!
Are you ready for a thorough, insightful explanation? Vivian Eisenstadt, MAPT and owner and chief Physical Therapist of Vivie Therapy in Los Angeles, CA dives in, “If we don’t continually stretch them [neck muscles] throughout the day, then by the time we hit the gym we use the same neck muscles to do our ab work and even our leg work. Stretching your neck throughout the day will stop your neck from thinking it needs to do the job of every other muscle in our body.
Start in proper sitting posture with buttocks slightly arched and abdominals contracted. Put Right hand behind your back with the intention to lock the shoulder blade into position. You can also hold on to the bottom of a chair seat as well.
Keeping your chin tucked, grab over your head near your right ear with your left hand and start to pull your head to the left. When you feel a muscle pulling, stop there and let the muscle “let go”.
That might take a minute or 2 or 3…Once the muscle let’s go, pull lightly to the next tight place.
Try not to let your head start going forward to do a better stretch. The best stretch is one where you find your tightness and talk to it there. Once you have exhausted going straight ear to shoulder, only THEN can you start to rotate your head to look behind your right shoulder.
Make sure to KEEP YOUR CHIN TUCKED throughout the range. You will probably start to feel stretching in the front of your neck versus the side. Do this for a couple of minutes. Then slowly get out of the stretch and switch sides.”
10. Pec Doorway Stretch
Vivian Eisenstadt has another great explanation on why (and how) it is so important to stretch the pecs, “Doing a doorway stretch for your pecs is necessary to keep the balance between the muscles in the front of your body and the back of your body.
Stand in a doorway with one foot through the doorway and your forearms on doorframe. Move your forearms to a level on the doorway and slowly lean through the doorway feeling the stretch on the front of your shoulders. Return to standing by using your front leg to push you back as not to strain your stretched out pecs and shoulders.
Change the angle of the stretch by moving your forearms up or down from your first position and repeat stretch. Find all the different angles that your shoulders are tight and lean into the tight angles.”
The proper movements to work all of our non-sexy muscles can help to make us stronger and healthier; maybe help us reach beast mode!
It’s important to remember to work the opposing muscles of big muscles groups such as the pectorals.
Implement several of these underrated exercises into your routine for better posture, strength, and physique!
Josh (M.S., PT) is the founder and editor of DIY Active. He enjoys blending the latest science with health practices to help you exercise smarter. He enjoys providing as much free content as possible to help you get fitness results at home!
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