3 Hidden Muscles that Can Make or Break Your Physique
Everybody knows about the showy muscles, the big boys, the one’s people notice straight away. Huge arms, a thick, full chest, and boulder shoulders are what jump to mind when people think of muscle.
to put together a truly great physique - both esthetically and biomechanically - you need to bring the smaller and hidden muscles up to scratch too. It is the complete package that is striking to the eye. Even if those eyes are wandering over the usual suspects, they are subconsciously admiring the bigger picture.
It’s not just looks that are boosted either. In order to lift effectively and to the best of your ability, your body needs balance while remaining injury free.
Everything in nature requires balance for optimum performance
and being balanced can add serious poundage to your big lifts. Conversely, being out of balance can see you sidelined with an injury.
Read on to learn more out about the three hidden and forgotten muscles you should be training in order to give your physique a real boost.
Okay, so this muscle is less hidden than it is forgotten and ignored. The serratus anterior, or simply the serratus, in Latin means to saw
and originates over the first eight ribs at the front of the rib cage spanning underneath the pecs before inserting at the shoulder blades. It is the impressive looking, finger-like array of muscle that stretches from your pecs down toward your abs
when you hit a double overhead or front double biceps pose (see diagram below).
As impressive as it looks, however, very few people actually appreciate the importance of the serratus muscles. These muscles are vitally important to shoulder function, and it is the underdevelopment of the serratus that is a major cause of shoulder injuries. It is true that they receive a good workout when training the chest but, they can also benefit from some concentrated work of their own. To effectively train a muscle group like the serratus - as with all of the three muscle groups mentioned in this article - requires a good, solid mind-muscle connection.
Serratus Anterior Training
There are multiple ways to hit this beauty of a muscle. Be warned because afterward you won’t be wanting anyone to poke you in the ribs for a day or two! Chest day is probably the best day to throw these exercises into the mix. If you are experiencing muscle soreness, there isn’t enough I can say about Sheer Strength Creatine Monohydrate
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The Good Ol’ Bench Press Plus a Serratus Squeeze:
The first method of hitting the serratus is an exercise that you probably already have included in your regimen.
- Deep breathing during bench presses is a great way to get some work into the muscles in and around the rib cage.
- As you lower the bar, fill your chest with an almighty breath before powerfully exhaling through your mouth as you launch the weight skyward.
- Imagine that you’re blowing the bar upwards.
- As you near the top of the press, fully activate the serratus muscles using the mind-muscle connection and then give them a real squeeze at peak contraction.
Pullovers With a Serratus Squeeze:
- Pullovers are an excellent way to hit the serratus muscles and also a great way to isolate, warm-up, and pre-exhaust the pecs.
- Lie on a flat bench with your head slightly hanging over its end.
- A single dumbbell is better and kinder on the shoulder joints for this, although barbells or an EZ-curl bar can be used.
- Beginning with the weight held directly above you, lower it back behind your head taking care not to arch your lower back too much.
- Pull the weight back over and squeeze those serratus muscles.
Dip Shrugs With a Serratus Squeeze:
Dip shrugs, also called serratus shrugs
or reverse shrugs
, are very simple to perform and perfectly compliment the natural action of the serratus muscles.
- Climb aboard a dip station and slightly bend your arms
- Now, lower your body slightly without moving your elbows. Your shoulder girdle should now resemble the top of a shrugging movement.
- Simply return your body to the start position while stretching the shoulder girdles and feeling the squeeze in the serratus.
Cable Chopping and Punching With a Serratus Squeeze:
At a cable station, equip a stirrup type handle and set the height to around shoulder level.
- Starting off with a light weight, perform powerful and strict punching movements while squeezing the serratus.
- Next, setting the cable a little higher, grip the handle with two hands as if it were an ax and performed diagonal chopping movements across your body.
This muscle has received some press over the last few decades after the Austrian Oak himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, brought it to the attention of the bodybuilding world. Most people assume the upper arm is simply made up of the biceps and triceps.
Wrong. Just beneath the biceps, in the lower portion of the upper arm, lies the brachialis muscle (see diagram below). Like the biceps, the brachialis serves to flex the elbow joint but, unlike the biceps, it plays no part in the rotation of the forearm. This muscle is very easy to train, and there’s a very good chance you give it some work on your arm day.
If you emphasize good lifting with it, the brachialis can add another dimension to your guns.
There are a number of great exercises that target the brachialis muscles, and they are all based around the curl.
Hammer curls have become more popular in the last decade. It is not uncommon to see people ending their arm workouts with Hammer Curls.
- Simply take a dumbbell in each hand to perform alternate curls.
- Instead of turning your wrists to bring the weight parallel with the floor - keep it perpendicular as if you are holding hammers.
To perform Zottman curls,
- Grasp a dumbbell in each hand.
- Raise both dumbbells together in the same perpendicular fashion as Hammer Curls.
- When you reach the top off the motion, pause and twist your hands so that your palms face the ground.
- Now, it’s time for a SLOW descent to the original position before repeating.
Reverse Preacher Curls:
Sit at a Preacher Curl station as if you were performing normal Preachers.
- For this set, an EZ-curl bar is best as it takes some undue strain off the elbows.
- Some form of fat grip is needed to make this lift effective since it takes the work away from the forearm muscles and concentrates it on the brachialis.
- Taking a reverse Preacher Grip, curl the bar upwards before slowly lowering and feeling the burn in the brachialis area.
Just look at the picture of Arnie below to see what a difference well-developed brachialis muscles can make to your arms. And, never forget about the extra boost to your results that supplements like Sheer Strength Testosterone
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The transversus abdominis (TA) is a deep, hidden abdominal muscle lying beneath the obliques and rectus abdominis (six pack) muscles (see diagram below). This muscle gets worked best when performing powerful lifts that activate the core such as squats
but, isolating it has many benefits.
A strong TA can seriously bolster your entire core and aid in efficient power transfer. Not sold? What that means is bigger deadlifts and squats as well as a decreased risk of lower back injuries.
A well toned TA will also pull your tummy in giving you a slimmer waistline and enhance that sought after V shape. The TA also serves to enhance muscle definition around the entire abdominal region.
Right, so now that you’re sold, let’s get on with training it.
The Plank is an age-old exercise that is great for the entire core area. The Plank especially activates those deep muscles, such as the TA, which other ab exercises can gloss over.
- Drop into press up position on your elbows - instead of your hands.
- Keeping your back flat, hold this position for as long as possible.
- Even though you will begin to shake after a while - don’t stop - concentrate on keeping the core activated and the back flat.
The Torso Lift is similar to a crunch.
- Lie flat on your back with your legs bent and raise your arms out in front of you pointing to the ceiling.
- Now, as if you are reaching for the ceiling, lift your head and shoulders off of the floor and hold for two seconds before lowering again.
- Repeat until it hurts.
The Bridge has the same starting position as the Torso Lift.
- Change it up by having your arms by your side with your palms on the floor.
- Now, putting your weight on your heels, lift your butt upward to form a bridge keeping a straight line from your knees to your shoulders while maintaining shoulder contact with the floor.
- Hold for 2-3 seconds at the top.
The Stomach Vacuum:
The Stomach Vacuum is the best exercise for strengthening the TA and tightening your waistline.
- Simply stand and exhale completely while pulling your stomach in as far as you can and puffing your chest out.
- Hold for as long as possible.
- Picture those great Frank Zane overhead poses. That’s your aim.
- To make the Stomach Vacuum more difficult, you can perform it on all fours instead of in the standing position.
Start working these three hidden and forgotten muscles today and watch your physique transform dramatically. Not only will your waistline shrink, but your pecs will tie nicely into your abs, and your arms will gain a new dimension. Your lifting will also improve as you strengthen your shoulder girdle as well as your entire core area. Check out the full range of products to help you attain your goals from Sheer Strength
Jonathan Warren is a national level physique competitor and personal trainer with multiple certifications including NASM, NCCPT, and IKFF. His specializations include mobility training and corrective exercise as well as contest preparation.