Muscle groups that get skipped during exercise typically vary between men and women. Men being more visual, often adopt an out of sight out of mind approach. If they can’t see what they are training in the mirror, it doesn’t always get the TLC it deserves. This is especially true of the posterior muscles. Women however, have little problem tending to their posteriors. If it makes for a shapelier butt, we are on it!

Both sexes dream of washboard abs and refer to this achievement as having a strong core. But the core is comprised of a lot more than just the striations we see in the mirror when we lift our shirts to sneak a peek.

Listed below are a few muscles that we may not always give the time of day and skip over because we cannot “see” the benefit, or simply find them boring to train.

1. Core

The core is incorporated in nearly every movement of the human body, thus core strength is key in performing most exercises with proper form. While we see both sexes perform certain types of ab exercises on a regular basis, they tend to forget that there is a lot more to the core than just the frontal view. The deeper “hidden” muscles include the transverse abdominals, multifidus, diaphragm, pelvic floor, obliques, as well as posterior muscles; erector spinae and gluteus maximus.

Basically your whole trunk is your core and these are some key exercises to test that strength:
• Plank hold (with raised leg for added difficulty)
• V-sit hold (side to side movement holding weight or medicine ball for added difficulty)
• Twisting Crunch (or “bicycle”)
• Supermans (twist at top for added difficulty)
• Ball Roll-Ups
• Mountain Climbers
• Ab Wheel Rollout

2. Glutes

Men, and typically those new to a training regime, often focus more on the physique of the upper proportions. Skipping “leg day” means skipping the largest muscle group in the body. This leads to strength imbalances and often muscular pain where you least want it, the lower back.

Glute specific exercises may include:
• Barbell Hip Thrusts (can be performed one-legged also)
• Reverse Hyperextension
• Deadlifts (also can be performed one-legged)
• One Legged Split Squats (also known as Bulgarian Squats).

3. Calves

We are all familiar with the common term “chicken legs” and most often we are referring to ‘chicken calves.” So many beefy boys train a robust upper body and shapely quads while sporting spindly calves. While unfortunately true that genetics play a large role in whether we have baseballs pumping down there or twigs, they are not a muscle group to be given up on.

Exercises to help promote growth include:
• Seated Calf Raises
• Calf Press
• Donkey Calf Raises

One strategy to avoid “burnout”, thus providing the calve muscles with maximum flow of nutrient enriched blood that aids in muscle repair, is to perform standing calf raises directly after each of these exercises. As this stretches the underlying fascia it also makes room for the promotion of muscular growth in those wee calves.

4. Hamstrings

Hamstrings are often neglected as many compound leg exercises and athletic activities are quad heavy by nature. Quads are almost always stronger with a healthy ratio between quad and hamstring being 3:2. Weak hamstrings however, contribute to instabilities above the knee joints and also account for about a quarter of all athletic injuries in both men and women.

Exercises to help isolate the hamstring muscles include:
• Seated, Lying, Standing, or One Legged (kneeling) Leg Curls
• Romanian Deadlifts
• One Legged Deadlift with (kettlebell or Dumbbells)


5. Chest

While men flock to the benches to work their pecs using the mighty Bench Press, Incline Dumbbell Press, or to the Cable Cross-over,… women not so much. Pushing exercises not only work the large muscles of the chest, but engage our abs as we exhale on the concentric phase, and make for shapelier triceps too! People are often concerned with the floppy “wings” on the back of their arms. A large muscle movement such as a pushup or chest press not only works all of these areas but yields a larger caloric expenditure than a tricep pushdown or ab crunch alone.

6. Forearms

You don’t necessarily get much to show for working this smaller group of muscles. But this group of muscles plays an important role when trying to workout much larger muscle groups, such as your back when performing pulling exercises like a Lat Pulldown or a Seated Row. Weak wrist flexors and extensors may hinder one’s ability to pull loads that tax the back muscles, meaning they burn out before you “feel” anything, making back muscles one of the most difficult muscle groups to isolate. Performing a large muscle movement such as a deadlift can also be problematic if the grip is weak.

Three common forearm exercises are:
• Seated Hammer Wrist Curls (thumbs facing up)
• Seated Wrist Curls (palms facing up)
• Seated Reverse Wrist Curls (palms facing down)
• Performing a bicep curl using a plate instead of a dumbbell will also help strengthen your grip.

7. Rear Delt

As mentioned earlier, out of sight often equals out of mind. Particularly in men, neglecting the posterior muscles of the shoulders won’t showcase all that hard work spent sculpting the thick muscles of the chest. Furthermore, while all that pec work yields strength gains and growth in the anterior delts, the rear delts hardly get the same attention.

Incorporating these exercises to your routine is beneficial:
• Isolated Rear Delt Flyes
• Supported Seated Rows (with a wide grip and elbows held high)

These will help prevent that hunched forward look that can actually make the chest look more concave, and improve posture as well.

In many women, the entire group of shoulder muscles could use a little more strengthening as the average gal still shies away from these upper body exercises for fear of appearing too bulky.

So even if you cannot “see” the benefits or find working these muscles groups boring, remember that they are important in supporting larger muscle groups, stability and muscle balance.

About the Author

Personal Trainer at Pure Fitness/ Private In-home Trainer
Over fifteen years of helping clients look and feel their personal best through tough but balanced workouts. Former competitive gymnast and coach.