Loss of muscle that begins in your 30’s went unnoticeable for a decade, maybe more. Those weak muscles as a result are likely showing up. More frequent back pain, handing the jar to someone else to open, and neck tension are more signs. Signs you’ve either lost muscle or you’ve got lazy muscles or both.
Muscles to Prioritize
Glute mass significantly declines by age 40 unless you’ve been extremely active and conscious. Even if you have exercised and trained those gluteal muscles? You’ve noticed a decline in size and shape if you have been able to maintain strength.
Remember those “nice butt” comments in junior high? How often have you heard that lately?
Our working lives don’t help.
Let’s face it, even as a fitness professional… who knows we can’t exercise all day and teach 2 or more classes a day regularly without risking exhaustion … I do a lot of sitting and standing, but not so much sit-to-stand!
Should you do butt exercises every day? (or arm exercises, thigh exercises…)
If you stimulate muscles adequately you need recovery between. If you do 2-3 days a week of butt exercises you can balance your need to “turn on” muscles regularly, and, have the recovery time you need between sessions to fully benefit.
Should you use the absolute heaviest weights possible?
Actually, there’s a “goldilocks” of weight that allows you to use enough to get adequate stimulus for the muscle and not too much that those “lazy glutes” refuse to play. When you do that other muscles take over that shouldn’t. That’s where you end up straining your low back or having problems with knees instead of improving your function. I call that “gluteal amnesia.”
Weak muscles that can’t perform their role wreak havoc elsewhere in your body.
Where your weak muscles show up can cause chronic issues you have.
#1 Glutes that can’t help you
get out of a chair or push against gravity show up as either lower back or knee pain.
#2 Hamstrings that can’t assist those glutes
in pushing out of a chair or going up stairs often end up pulled or strained. If you’ve ever experienced a high hamstring pull you remember it well. It shows up for two reasons. Your hip flexors are shortened and tight from the amount of sitting we all do, and on top of it you’ve got weak glutes and hamstrings.
#3 Weak muscles between your shoulder blades
called the rhomboids, are often the cause of neck pain, upper back tension, and even contribute to headaches. Women predominantly carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. The answer isn’t just stretching tight neck muscles, it in fact, is getting to the root of the problem: weak mid-back muscles. When the right muscles fire, the wrong ones don’t have to overwork.
#4 Do you have knee pain or weakness?
If you feel unstable, you can blame that on weak muscles to some extent. While you may have a loss of cartilage, you want to go beyond and ask why. The wear and tear on joints happened potentially because of a lack of strength where you needed to keep your joints moving properly. Pain in the knees often occurs because of weak quadraceps (thigh) muscles.
Knee pain also starts in the weak muscles of the glutes and hamstrings. The rule of thumb is always look to the joint and muscles above and below where you’re experiencing pain.
Weak muscles causing imbalances and lack of mobility, but….
Surprisingly, a benefit of strength training to improve your weak muscles is increased range of motion. For decades the myth that strength training shortens range of motion has slowly faded but depending on when you were introduced to strength training you may still believe it. What you learned during formative years and haven’t revisited often sticks.
The truth is strength training, through full range of motion, improves your range of motion. Movement becomes more fluid because of the integrity that you have around the joints.
Strength training doesn’t cause injuries…
but it can… help you identify weaknesses that left undetected would have become bigger issues. If you have ever or you know someone who got hurt because they started strength training it was one of two things.
First, was it a program designed based on research for them? There is a lot of good marketing out there, and less backed by science for your needs at the moment. Going to a bootcamp 4 to six days a week exercising without adequate recovery can cause injury. You’ll find even elite athletes don’t do that.
Second, the strength training itself was not likely the cause of many weak muscles or muscle imbalances discovered from strength training.
A good program with smart progression should allow you to realize there is a weakness before an actual injury occurs.
A balanced strength training program may not be what you need
If you take a body with muscle imbalances – weak muscles in places, and tight shortened muscles in other places – and give it a balanced program, what you’d be doing is causing more imbalance.
Can you imagine this? Say you have tight hip flexors and weak gluteal and hamstrings. Or, you have tight chest and anterior (front) shoulder muscles and lengthened weaker back muscles. That’s a simple description of most of us who work over a computer keyboard, text on our phones, and love to cook or garden, play cards or carry babies.
If you start a program that has equal parts push for the chest and pull for the back you’ll get more and more out of balance.
That begs for an injury.
How do you avoid weak muscle-caused injury?
In my STRONGER programs I usually provide one push exercise for every two pull exercises. I have you work those small muscles between your shoulder blades and imagine dropping the shoulders away from your ears while sewing the shoulders toward your hips… with cues in every set.
Why? Because I know my clients. I am my client. After 30 or 40 years of rounding our upper backs over babies, and dishes, and keyboards, and now cell phones with tech-neck … it’s what 99% of us need. In my case, though I swim – working my back, I also cycle for long rides sometimes, rounded over on aerobars.
Major muscle groups are key
You want to focus on major muscle groups. For longevity and avoiding frailty, falls, and bone fractures later, but also for the metabolism boost and avoidance of injury now. Then you layer in those smaller muscles and functional exercises that include movement patterns that help you move with comfort all day.
Tending to those weak muscles is key to loving your todays and tomorrows. Having feedback from what you’re discovering about weak muscles or tight muscles and what to do with it is also a key to your success.
My best advice is start strength training if you’re not. Start following a plan that has progression if you’re not. That is, starting with lighter weights higher reps, possibly fewer sets, and gradually progressing to continue reaching fatigue as you notice you can increase the weight. You maintain the higher rep range. You’re laying a foundation
Body type plays a key role in how you may respond best to strength training
Light weights (light enough you fatigue at 20 or 25 repetitions) aren’t just for beginners. They’re for someone who gains muscle easily too. They’re for someone who has lifted for years but isn’t seeing as many results from the same workout she was doing. I am an advocate for lifting heavy to stimulate muscle and bone changes that prevent aging, and I’m an athlete who needs that power.
But, I’m also a more muscular body type – a mesomorph – and lifting heavy all the time doesn’t give me the look I want if it’s all I do. So periodically I’ll take 12 weeks and do my Tone & Define program.
Even within it there is occasional a slightly lower rep range so you get variety, but for the most part, so you can get the best combination of lean and strong muscles. You can look good and strengthen weak muscles so you perform better.
Close the Door on Weak Muscles
STRONGER Tone & Define has been an exclusive Members-Only program until right now. I’m opening it up for a one-time public enrollment for you. If you’re seeing this early you may get the early bird rate too.
Along the way during this program I’m going to share some tips live in your Facebook group to work on common weak muscles so you can target your needs.
Look, we’ve all been subject to some restrictions this year. They don’t have to create weak muscles that can cause long-lasting aging effects and devasting disabilities. You need true strength, and you need lean muscle to age your best and feel your best now.
Limited time enrollment is open December 2020 and closes Jan 1. We start Jan 1 with this 12-week program.
There you have it … the three muscles you want to check first:
And ways those weak muscles show up:
- Lower back pain
- Knee pain
- Tight upper back and neck
Goal Setting for Stronger Muscles?
If you’re setting goals… be sure you’re setting the right ones. My new 90-Day Planner is like a Flipping 50 program without buying a program. It’s the perfect complement to a program, to continue tracking after you finish a program, or instead of a program. When you order yours, either a single 90-day or a 4-pack that saves you $50, you enjoy free shipping for a short time longer.
You’ll get a How-To video from me demonstrating how to use the planner for best results. If you hurry, we can still get one in your hands by the start of the year! Wrapping it up for the holiday? My suggestion is you print out the cover in color and tuck it into a box or card and let them know it’s on the way!