Written by Imane Dodo
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Engaging muscles you didn’t know you had can be a fun and exciting experience, especially when you feel like your progress is stagnating and your regular routine is not kicking as much. The key is to target muscles you did not know you had is to incorporate many routines in your workout, and perform moves that help you activate those muscles in your regular workouts. Fitness diversity is the path to go, it just makes everything more fun and wonderful. As my uncle used to say, “diversity is the spice of life”.
Experiment with new activities
For simplicity sake (although it is not that simple even if it is not that simple because the human body has more than 800 named muscles), you can think about workouts in terms of big and small muscles. Although size does not equal importance, you can think of your big muscles as the largest in your body (the gluteus maximus aka your glutes is the biggest muscle in the human body extremely crucial for balance and everyday functions). The muscles you often do not know you have tend to be the smaller muscles that you do not feel as easily and that require more targeted action, very specific movements or mind/body connection to activate. As a rule of thumb, the workouts that entail the largest movements (running, strength training with squats, deadlifts, swimming, etc.) target your big muscles. In contrast, the ones that prioritize smaller range of movements such as barre, yoga or pilates tend to activate your smaller muscles.
Pilates, yoga and ballets are great options to feel those tiny muscles you didn’t know you had. They can also be a great addition in instances where all your workouts have historically focused on those bigger muscles. Keep your body challenged at all times, with new activities, different number of reps, moves and weights because constantly performing the exact same routine will limit the speed at which you see results down the line (just like anything else in life).
Incorporate balance and stability training
Perform mobility and flexibility training to unlock the muscles you didn’t know you had by improving your range of motion and targeting muscles that you do not usually activate during other exercises. Foam rolling and dynamic stretches are both great options to increase flexibility, in turn helping you activate more muscles during your regular workouts. Balance workouts such as single leg movements (e.g. pistol squats) or yoga poses challenge your core muscles and help you correct those imbalances that can go unnoticed with regular functional moves such as squats or deadlift.
Use new pieces of equipment
Intrigued about a new piece of equipment, whether kettlebells, resistance bands, skyers, tyres, stability balls. Go for it, experiment! Ensure you get guidance on how to use the piece of equipment to avoid injury. The beauty about new pieces of equipment is that they can also teach you new moves you can perform outside of using that equipment to continue engaging the muscles you just discovered.
Prioritise mind and body connection
There is something about mind and body connection that changes the game for your workouts once you master it. This is one thing that smaller moves based workouts, particularly pilated, help you develop and practice well. Mind and body connection is harder to develop with smaller moves but a great tip is to deeply focus your mind on the tiny muscle you are working. When performing an exercise, visualize, focus all your energy, concentrate and deeply feel the muscle you are working out to maximize muscle activation and reap the most benefits from your workouts. Mind and body connection in fitness takes a bit of time to develop but is very achievable with a bit of practice.