There are about 650 skeletal muscles within the human body. But don’t worry. You don’t need to know them all to get a great workout and a killer physique.
Of those 650 muscles, most occur in pairs. One on either side of the body. Think left and right biceps. Or left and right thigh muscles.
But that still leaves about 320 pairs of muscles.
Still too many.
I like to simplify things. So I organize muscles into muscle movement groupings.
Muscle movement groupings are collections of muscle groups that work together to perform or prevent movement.
Take a leg press for example.
There’s a lot going on, but no need to know every muscle involved. Grouping them together in lower body bucket is plenty.
It’s simple enough to do this for all your other muscles.
Looking at muscles this way just leaves 4 muscle movement groupings. Now that is easy to remember and program.
The 4 Main Muscle Movement Groupings
Unless you’re in an anatomy class, memorizing all the individual muscles or muscle groups isn’t necessary.
For a lean athletic physique, I find that concentrating on the 4 major muscle groupings is enough.
- Upper body Push
- Upper Body Pull
If you focus on those groupings with compound exercises you’ll transform your body.
Let’s take a closer look and se how you can incorporate this approach into your training.
Upper Body Push Muscles
The main muscles that fall under the category of upper body push muscles include…
- Shoulders (Deltoids)
- Anterior Deltoid
- Lateral Deltoid
- Posterior Deltoid
- Triceps (Triceps Brachii)
- Long head
- Lateral head
- Medial head
- Chest (Pectoralis)
- Pectoralis Major
- Pectoralis Minor
The amount of stimulation each muscle group gets depends on the exercise.
While the triceps are used in compound pushing exercises, the contribution of the chest and shoulders changes depending on the exercise.
A barbell bench press does little to develop your shoulders.
However, as the angle of the bench increases, so too does the contribution of your deltoids. For example…
When performing a dumbbell high incline press, the front of the shoulders help press the weight overhead.
On the flip side, a military press does little to spur growth of your chest.
The more vertical the more the shoulders are involved. The more horizontal the less the shoulders help and the more you rely on your chest to lift the weight.
Upper Body Pull Muscles
- Lats (Latissimus Dorsi)
- Traps (Trapezius)
- Upper Traps (Superior fibers of the trapezius)
- Mid Traps (Middle fibers of the trapezius)
- Lower Traps (Inferior fibers of the trapezius)
The Upper Body Pull Muscles are more complicated. But like the push muscles most are worked to a degree durning every pull exercises. And the angle of the exercise dictates to what degree specific muscle contributes to the lift.
Lower Body Muscles
There are a lot of muscles in the Lower Body grouping. But don’t worry. Compound exercises like squats and lunges hit the majority of them.
The only time you’ll have to do a lower body isolation exercise is if you’re injured or you have a stubborn muscle. Like the calves.
But if you’re doing all the other exercises that I recommend on your way to an athletic physique you’ll be fine with the major movements.
- Quads (Quadriceps Femoris Muscle)
- rectus femoris
- vastus lateralis
- vastus intermedius
- vastus medialis
- Hams (Hamstrings)
- Biceps femoris – long & short head
- Glutes (Gluteal Muscles)
- Gluteus maximus
- Gluteus medius
- Gluteus minimus
- Calfs (Triceps surae muscle)
- Gastrocnemius muscle
- Soleus muscle
Major Core Muscles
- Abs (Rectus Abdominis)
- Transversus Abdominis
- Rectus Abdominis
- External Obliques
- Internal Obliques
- Transversus Abdominis
- Low Back
- Erector Spinae / Spinal Erectors
The 7 Main Areas of Focus
If you like to dial in your physique a bit more, look past the muscle groupings and train muscle groups.
A muscle group is what it sounds like. A group of muscles that are located close together and perform specific movements.
Take the hamstrings for example.
They are a group of 3 muscles that work together to:
- bend the knee
- extend the hip
- tilt the pelvis
When it comes to building a lean athletic body there are 7 main ares to focus on.
I’m not an anomy teacher. And I don’t image you care about every single muscle. So we’re goin to break it down into the common muscle groups.
- Anterior Leg
- Posterior Leg
The Main Muscle Groups
There are a few ways to organize muscle groups.
- Push / Pull
- Upper / Lower
When I’m pressed for time and need a quick workout an Upper Push, Upper Pull, and Lower body exercise is perfect.
Core work usually falls under leg or cardio day.