Culture & Lifestyle / Sweat The Small Stuff: When Working Out We’ve Got To Work On Our Smaller Muscles Too

Sweat The Small Stuff: When Working Out We’ve Got To Work On Our Smaller Muscles Too

Culture & Lifestyle Apr 03, 2019

Whether it’s admiring Kareena Kapoor-Khan’s abs, or Tiger Schroff’s sculpted biceps, Bollywood stars share our passion for working out. Even though we can’t wait to tone our quads and hamstrings and the larger muscles, when working out we’ve got to work on our smaller muscles too!  

The Journal of Medicine & Science and Sports & Exercise recently discussed that most people, when working out and exercising focus on biceps, quads and other larger muscle groups. However, the smaller supporting muscle groups that we often forget to challenge are just as important to our overall fitness, strength and endurance!


Bigger Isn't Always Better: When Working Out We've Got To Work On Our Smaller Muscles Too
When Working Out We’ve Got To Work On Our Smaller Muscles Too: Kareena Kapoor Khan is famous for her hardcore circuit and pilates training. And her abs. Photo Credit:


Most people have some kind of regular daily activity, usually closely connected to their daily habits; walking after dinner, running in the morning or dancing with friends on the weekends. However, over time despite how active we have been, we all will experience a reduction with age in muscle volume, muscle strength, and aerobic capacity. Exercising both the larger and smaller muscles will keep us mobile and healthy during the entire course of our lives.

On a cellular level, exercise is important because we essentially want to increase the levels of oxidative enzymes which are found together with high maximal aerobic power capacity. This increases the rate at which adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is produced aerobically — we need this to happen so we can grow healthy muscle and tissue cells.


It’s All About Your Ankles, Actually

Our ankle absorbs force and helps maintain balance when we walk, run, and dance. We need healthy strong ankles to keep our strength and flexibility. When you dance to your favourite Bollywood tune, pay close attention to your ankles. You would be surprised at how much ankle muscle you use. Even simply flexing your foot (add a resistance band for advanced training) builds those often overlooked flexors. Muscle dysfunction in your ankles will lead a host of health problems and decrease the quality of life. Having healthy ankle muscles helps to protect your feet, legs and spine and reduce bone regeneration — which is critical for the maintenance of mobility.


When Working Out We’ve Got To Work On Our Smaller Muscles Too: From Bharatnatayam to Bhangra, you use key ankle and feet muscles to get your steps right, so why ignore them then in your workouts? Photo Credit:


So when you’re on the couch resting or watching your favourite movie, stretch your your legs, your feet and rotate your ankles in both directions. Having strong small muscle groups also result in more efficient gas and material metabolism between the blood and muscle fibres. Interestingly, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research recently did a study and found out that even a positive attitude towards physical exercise and strength training for prevention also help improve the body’s capacity to move!


Talk To The Hand 

Another small muscle group that you need to train often are the hands. Hand grip strength assists everything from opening jars of our favourite foods to holding a tennis racket or carrying groceries. All age groups can keep a tennis ball nearby and squeeze a tennis or stress ball to build hand muscles. Do you love to put mehndi on your friends? That’s when your grip control plays a major part. Yoga and mat pilates has also been shown to improve hand grip strength.


When Working Out We've Got To Work On Our Smaller Muscles Too
When Working Out We’ve Got To Work On Our Smaller Muscles Too: Think about it, when apply mehndi you need superb grip strength and muscle control. Working on your hand muscles is equally as important as working on your biceps. Photo Credit:


Switch It Up

Choosing to exercise your smaller muscles first or with intervals with larger muscle groups can also add variety to your weight training routine and help you bust through exercise plateaus. Smaller muscles are not able to train at high intensities after they are used to help stabilize for bigger muscles during exercise. This limits strength development of these small muscles. Choosing to exercise the smaller muscles first or in intervals will allow for greater strength development of these muscles.

For example, during dance or yoga, in between working the quads our class breaks for side bends, side twists or to  stretch the neck. Strength plateaus occur in training when your body becomes accustomed to the training you perform and plateaus also can occur when small muscles are no longer strong enough to support the training load or when large muscles don’t have a great enough ability to stabilize to produce movement.


When Working Out We’ve Got To Work On Our Smaller Muscles Too: Even doing yoga or mat excersises as part of your workout is a good way to switch things up. Photo Credit:


These are both areas where training smaller muscles first is most beneficial. Including small muscle training will help round out your training program and limit areas of weakness within both big and small muscles.

Check Out Your Chest 

You work the large chest muscles when you are standing, let’s say holding light or heavy weights and moving your arms in and out in a bird like wing motion. However you use your small muscle chest groups when you are lying back down on a mat again moving your arms across your pecs  like a bird wing motion open and closing. Having a strong chest is great for posture and increases your ability to ‘push’ things. These pectoral muscle is also involved in moving the rib cage during deep breathing. You can take deeper breaths when you have strong chest muscles. Strength training and small muscle focus training is an effective method in order to improve maximal strength and flexibility.

Spring is a great time to start a new exercise gym. Yoga, pilates, ballet are all ways to focus on both the smaller and larger muscles.


Main Image Photo Credit:

Nadine Afari

Nadine Afari


Our Guest Fitness Expert, Nadine Afari (@fitthoney) received her Masters in Science degree from The University of Toronto then relocated to sunny California to accept a job as a health researcher for The University of Southern California. She has been studying health and medicine for 15 years at som...