7 Exercises to Work Smaller Muscles

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Exercise 2-script

Work Large Muscles First—Part 2

As I mentioned last time, it’s best to work your muscles from large to small groups. And before doing so, it’s good to warm up your cardiovascular system with at least a little cardio (walking or jogging on the treadmill, using the elliptical or the rowing machine—or simply marching on the spot or going out for a walk or easy run outdoors).

And when you’ve gotten that blood pumping . . .

Upper and Middle Back

The rowing machine is technically a piece of cardio equipment, but it also works the back muscles. Bent-over rowing with a barbell or single-arm bent-over dumbbell rows also work these muscles. Think of dumbbell rows as trying to start a lawnmower that is directly below you. Whenever working your back, be certain to keep it flat, pivoting from the hips. Don’t round your back. Also, keep your knees soft. This will take some of the pressure off your lower back.


There are a number of ways to work your latissimus dorsi muscles. As you would expect, most gyms have a machine specifically for doing so. You can also lie facedown over an exercise ball with your feet propped against the wall. Holding light weights, no more than 3 lbs. each, press them toward the opposite wall—as if doing a shoulder press while lying on your stomach. Be especially careful that your neck muscles don’t become too tight. This exercise is to work the lower portion of your back, along each side of your spine. It is not to work your neck. Also, be careful that your body isn’t too far forward over the ball. You don’t want to end up rolling forward and falling off.


The chest press machine is great, but you can also do chest presses with a barbell or dumbbells while lying on an exercise bench. WARNING! It is always good to have someone spotting you to make sure that you don’t get hurt, but it is especially important when doing this exercise with freeweights.


Overhead presses and lifts to the side and then to the front while holding dumbbells are great ways to work your shoulder muscles.


Your gym likely has a triceps machine. However, one of the easiest triceps exercises to do is the overhead extension. Grasp a dumbbell with both hands. (I prefer a 10-15 lb. weight.) Extend both arms overhead. Carefully lower the weight behind your head. Keeping the upper part of your arms (from your shoulders to your elbows still, exhale and lift the weight overhead. Inhale and lower.


Biceps machine. Dumbbell curls. Reverse dumbbell curls. Concentration curls. They’re all good for strengthening and toning your upper arms.

Rotator Cuff

While standing, hold a light dumbbell (no more than five pounds) in one hand. Rest that arm across the top of your abdominals. While keeping the upper part of your arm pressed against your side and your wrist firm, and without twisting at the waist, rotate your arm out and back as far as possible.  I normally do 12 with each arm.

Abs and Obliques

There are a variety of exercises for the core. Do some research online and carefully try out those that look interesting.

In most cases, I recommend working up to 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Remember . . . not all exercises are suitable for everyone. Check with your doctor before beginning or changing your exercise regime.


It’s best to work your muscles from large to small groups. (tweet this)


Check out other articles by Stephanie


9 Upper Body Exercises

4 Tips to Get Exercise in During the Day

8 Suggestions to Stay Active Despite the Weather


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Stephanie Nickel


Steph Beth Nickel is an author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She’d love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

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