My tiny, fit-looking friend recently revealed that she was stunned when she happened to catch a glimpse of her backside in the mirror, while toweling off after a shower. She is careful about what she eats, works out regularly, and tries to live a healthy lifestyle. What complaints could a person like this possibly have about her physical shape? Despite her small stature, and workout efforts, it seems her buns resemble party balloons; a week after the party is over!
My friend lamented that she runs on a treadmill and lifts weights regularly. How could she have this problem? She was feeling like, "Oh, what’s the use?" Well, the reality is, if you don’t use it, you lose it, so quitting just isn’t an option. But the way you use it is just as important as the effort of using it.
I explained to my friend that muscle work is very specific. If you have an area that doesn’t respond to your general workout, you might have an old injury or weakness that has gone underground and the muscles have atrophied. Surrounding muscles take up the work for the weak muscles and compensate for the problem area. Our bodies naturally slough off work that is uncomfortable and defer to stronger muscle groups. A lack of flexibility also contributes to the problem. A situation like this requires extra attention before results occur.
I showed my friend a few things to add to her workout that might buff-up her backside. These were lunge and squat-type movements with weights. She normally avoided these exercises because they weren’t comfortable. It became clear that she had such weak quadriceps or thigh muscles that she couldn’t even complete the first part of the movement to get to the muscle work for her gluteals. She had to start with a modified version of the movements to strengthen her "quads" before she could complete the movement and access her bun muscles. Now, a few months later, the work is paying off and she is happy to report that the "party balloons" are inflating!
In order to have a balanced body, where flexibility, strength and endurance are present in equal portions, it’s important to check your weak parts. If you have an area that is chronically stiff and sore, it’s likely that other muscle groups are taking over the work load for the weak area. For example, a sore back can mean that you have tight hamstrings or weak abdominals. You might be able to get through a workout in spite of this problem, but balanced results are not possible when you’ve got a slacker in the muscle group.
If you’ve got an area that doesn’t seem to respond to your workout efforts, how do you determine what’s going on? If you have the resources, a session or two with a personal trainer is an ideal remedy. You can find out what kind of strength training or flexibility emphasis might help. If that is not an option, enroll in a less expensive fitness class for a short time and take advantage of the knowledge of a trained instructor. Then if you prefer to workout at home, you can take your new-found knowledge back to your regular workout. These suggestions are for moderate, slightly uncomfortable muscle problems, not ongoing, highly painful troubles. For more serious, chronic discomfort and imbalance, a consultation with a doctor and/or physical therapist is probably in order.
Our muscles will respond to the right kind of muscle work with an improvement in muscle tone. A lack of progress in toning a particular area is not a message that you are built differently or that you are a fitness failure. It is simply a message that something in your approach needs to change.