The exercises that allow you to use the greatest amount of weight are the ones that help you build muscle the fastest. These also happen to be the lifts that allow for the greatest percentage of increases in loading. We’re talking compound (multi-joint) exercises here, done with free weights. You’re not going to grow at nearly the same rate with a workout comprising machine exercises and isolation movements.
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Secure a flat resistance band just above your ankles and stand with your feet at about hip width, keeping feet forward. Keeping your weight in your heels, step your right foot laterally, maintaining the tension in the band. Keep the band taut as you step your left foot slightly to the right. Continue stepping sideways to your right for about 5 steps. Then step to your left to return to the starting position. Repeat three times.
K. Aleisha Fetters, M.S., C.S.C.S., is a Chicago-based personal and online trainer. She has a graduate degree in health and science reporting from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and regularly contributes to Men's Health, Women's Health, USNews.com, TIME, and SHAPE. When she's not lifting something heavy, she's usually guzzling coffee and writing about the health benefits of doing so.
Just because your hip flexor region feels sore doesn’t necessarily mean the muscles there are tight — in fact, they might need strengthening. This is where that sports science debate we mentioned earlier comes into play. It’s important to identify whether you’re tight or if the muscles are weak. Again, the Thomas Test will help you identify if you’re maybe stretching something that actually needs strengthening.
One of the biggest glutes-toning mistakes people make is relying on weight machines to tone their butts, says Metzl. Instead, try functional bodyweight training exercises like those squats and bridges we mentioned before. These moves are more effective at strengthening the layers of muscle in your glutes, he says—weight machines, on the other hand, isolate a single layer.
When these muscles are under constant tension because of ergonomics and habitual postural positioning, they may become tight and shortened. This can result in pulling forward on the lumbar vertebrae, creating hyperlordosis and causing the pelvis to tilt anteriorly. This is commonly seen in people who maintain a seated position for a prolonged period such as office workers, computer programmers, and others who find themselves sitting at a desk for hours every day. It is important to provide education on proper ergonomics, movement, and self-care to these individuals.
Tight hip flexors can also make it harder for your glutes to activate—since they're opposing muscle groups, when one is really tight the other becomes lengthened. When a muscle is more lengthened than it should be, it takes away some of its ability to contract. When your glutes are in this compromised position, it can cause other muscles to do more work than they should, making your workouts less efficient and sometimes, increasing your risk of injury.