For anyone who wants to start, or is already doing, a regular exercise program, it’s always good to understand what you are doing and why you are doing it more fully. When you’re looking to build muscle without weights you will need to know how to target specific muscles and get the most out of your exercises. This series of posts will cover some of the basics about muscles and how they work.
The human body is composed of 0f approximately 640 skeletal muscles distributed over either side (left and right). This means for the most part, there are 320 pairs of muscles from head to toe. Left and right biceps, triceps, and deltoids. Left and right frontalis, external obturator, and even flexor hallucis longus.
We emphasize skeletal muscle because this is the primary type of muscle that is directly affected by exercising. The heart muscle that is similar to skeletal muscle in structure, is indirectly affected by exercising but, unlike the muscles of the skeleton, you can’t voluntarily control it and make it contract or relax. But, when you do a biceps curl, you are using volitional control over the biceps to make it contract and bend your elbow.
When you hear some people talking about “flexing-flexion” or “extending-extension”, anatomically, this refers to the movement of the muscle as it positions the joint. While these are relative concepts, they are fairly consistent. In general, flexion refers to the “bending” a joint and the moving of 2 body parts together. Extension is the opposite. When you extend, you straighten the joint and move the body parts away from each other.
Using the example of the elbow again, when you flex, you bend the elbow bringing the lower arm closer to the upper arm. When you extend the elbow, you straighten the arm and move the lower arm away from the upper arm. It’s helps avoid confusion and you can avoid potential embarrassment when you use the terms properly.
There are a couple of other movements that come in handy when you are discussing fitness, exercising, and muscles. One is “adduction” and the other is “abduction”. Because they sound so similar, many people just say the first two letters and then the rest of the word. A-D duction, or A-B duction. It’s a lot easier that way.
Anyway, A-D duction is where a body part is brought toward the midline of the body. Such as in cable cross overs. A-B duction is when the body part is moving away from the body as in lateral raises for the delts.
Two other terms that are used alot in the medical and health care fields can also help to identify certain muscles or describe certain movements. These terms are “agonist” and “antagonist”.
The agonist is the muscle that is contracting. The antagonist is the muscle that is opposing the contraction. Looking at the elbow again. When you bend the elbow, the biceps is the agonist and the triceps is the antagonist. Conversely, when extending the arm, the roles of the muscles are reversed.
Understanding these terms and what they actually mean will help you in your pursuit to build muscle without weights, or, with weights. They are used frequently in fitness and body building articles, books, and seminars and it’s really helpful to be able to visualize a particular movement when reading so you can reproduce it later in your workout routine.
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