Meet your secret musclesand find out how these hidden assets can leverage your leap to peak performance
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
ON THE RED CARPET of fitness, your core gets all the glory; like that Ashton Kutcher punk, those muscles in your trunk, hips, and belly—which generate the bulk of your strength—receive the most attention. But there’s a subset of little-known muscles that need some work, too. These dynamos help you hold your line on a ledge or slickrock and fuel-inject your overall performance.
muscles, exercises, strengthThink small: strengthen the unsung heroes of the muscle world for a surprising edge.
muscles, exercises, strengthRotator Cuff: the torso’s shock absorber
Freddy Krueger, 28, a world champion water-ski jumper, believes in the power of B-list muscles. As part of his strength regimen, he works his peroneal muscles (which run along the ankles) and his adductors (the muscles in your groin and inner thigh). “It’s your inner thighs that keep your skis on edge,” the Florida native says. For him, training those sometimes ignored players can make the difference between nailing a world record and swallowing a keg’s worth of water.
By turning your attention to your peroneals, adductors, and others, you’ll see a marked improvement in your power, no matter your fitness goals. What follows is an activity-based primer on the little guys of Muscle Land, along with exercises you should add to your strength-training program.
A bulldog butt will power you up steep inclines, but your upper body also needs to pull some weight if you want to keep charging over miles of singletrack or pavement. “The rotator cuffs in your shoulders are your body’s first shock absorber,” says Alwyn Cosgrove, owner of Newhall, California’s Results Fitness and the guy who whipped world kickboxing champion Darren Vella into shape. “If they can’t compensate for that force, you’ll exhaust yourself and have to fight harder to stay on the bike.” Strengthen the four muscles of the rotator cuff—teres minor, infraspinatus, supraspinatus, and subscapularis—and you’ll keep screaming down rutted jeep tracks or winding canyon roads long after your gang has packed up and gone home.
The Exercise: Soccer-Ball Push-Ups
Get in a push-up position with your toes on the floor and arms a little more than shoulder width apart. Place each hand on top of a soccer ball and balance in that position. Work up to holding the position for 30 seconds and repeat four times.
To maintain your stability and balance for this Twister-like sport, you need a strong groin—the group of five adductor muscles along the inside of your thigh (pectineus, adductor brevis, adductor longus, gracilis, and adductor magnus). Why? When you’re flush against a wall or rock face, with your legs splayed, your center of gravity is no longer over your feet. As you press your thighs against the rock, your butt wants to pull away from it. “Your groin is working to keep your body as close to the wall as possible,” Cosgrove says. “If it’s weak, you’ll tire out quickly and could fall.” Exercises that work your inner thighs will provide the extra strength and endurance to keep you hugging the wall all the way to the top.
The Exercise: Medicine-Ball Squats
Stand with a medicine ball between your thighs, just above your knees. Squat down so your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold that position for a second and slowly return to the starting position. Do three sets of 12 repetitions.