If you’ve ever taken one of my classes, you’ve probably heard me jokingly yell out, “In my class there is NO MUSCLE left behind!”

I say that in jest, but I also mean it. Working out all muscles in the body is very important; not only does this help you develop a healthy and athletic physique, but it promotes joint stability, thus preventing injuries that can occur from muscle imbalances.

A good example of this is our most mobile joint – the shoulder. Most daily activities require lifting things by bringing our arms in front of us. Lifting a box, picking up groceries, a child, vacuuming, etc. When we work out, we frequently do exercises that further strengthen the front and the side of the shoulder (our anterior and medial deltoids). Popular exercises such as push ups, front raises, lateral raises, chest presses, etc., frequently leave the “back” of our should under-trained and therefore more prone to injury.

Another reason for muscular imbalances can be over training one particular part of the body – I’m sure you’ve come across some lifters that are all shoulders and pecs (pectorals – chest muscles) and they seem “hunched over.” They probably do very little for their back, becoming more susceptible to a back injury. Runners condition their front and back leg muscles but sometimes need to work more on their inner and outer thighs – to better stabilize the hip and knee joints.

You get the picture… but don’t be alarmed, this is knowledge that can only make you better in creating your workouts. So here are a few easy tips to follow:

  • Create a workout that works opposing muscles equally: chest and back, triceps and biceps, quadriceps (thighs) and hamstrings, anterior and posterior deltoid, etc. This “balancing” can be done over the course of the entire week – not necessarily in one  session.
  • Use equally challenging weights to work all areas of your body – so if working tough on that back row – don’t be shy when you work your chest. Women especially tend to worry about “bulking up” leaving the muscles they don’t like completely undertrained! Men on the other hand tend to “favor” certain parts and overwork them – doing multiple exercises to work one particular group of muscles not giving equal attention to the opposing group.
  • Work with a personal trainer to help you develop a comprehensive routine that is safe, well-balanced and yet challenging so that you can get the most out of your workouts. The cost of these sessions will be well worth when you take into account effectiveness as well as avoiding risks of injury of working out ineffectively.

Go to the gym with an action plan (ideally in writing). This way you won’t be just going through the motions, doing exercises because the machines are available. And you won’t be repeating the same exercises over and over.

So remember, next time you hit the gym, no muscle should be left behind. This is not only healthy, but it will yield the results you really want!