The Best Exercises for 7 Popular Trouble Spots (Part 1)

Find out the best butt, hip and thigh exercises, the best calf exercises, the best chest exercises, the best shoulder exercises, the best back exercises, the best arm exercises and the best ab exercises in this two-part series. Up first are the legs, calves, and chest. Keep reading to find out how to best target these trouble spots.

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #172

Trouble spots are areas on your body that don't look the way you want them to. These can be body parts that are simply too fat or skinny, not curvaceous or toned enough, or simply too weak and prone to injury – the type of troublesome issues that really bug you about your body!.

Have you ever wished you could just walk into a gym and get a customized list of the very best exercises to target your specific trouble spots? Consider this 2-part episode series your go-to guide for the best butt, hip and thigh exercises, the best calf exercises, the best chest exercises, the best shoulder exercises, the best back exercises, the best arm exercises, and the best ab exercises. In Part 1, you’ll learn about the legs, calves and chest.

How to Find Out How Much A Muscle Contracts

Sports and exercise scientists utilize many different tools and methods to help them determine how much a muscle contracts during a specific movement, how many calories a specific movement burns, or how much stress is placed on a joint during a movement. One of the most popular and effective tools used to measure muscle utilization is electromyography, also known as “EMG.”

EMG simply measures the electrical activity produced by muscles, and is performed using a special instrument called an electromyograph. The electromyograph creates a record called an electromyogram, which scientists then use to quantify the strength or quality of a muscle contraction. EMG signals can also be used to analyze medical abnormalities, the activation level of different areas of a muscle, the order in which muscles are recruited, and biomechanical abnormalities from injuries or poor movement patterns.

The Best Exercises for 7 Popular Trouble Spots

So what can EMG tell us about the best exercises for 7 popular trouble spots? Many studies have used EMG to study the extent to which certain exercises activate certain body parts. So if we know which exercises cause maximum activation of a specific body part, we can use those exercises to create the best workout plan for that specific body part (or trouble spot)!

Below, you will find a list of trouble spots and the best exercises for each.

Butt, Hip, and Thighs

In a recent Get-Fit Guy newsletter, I revealed that 2 different exercises cause your glutes to grunt the hardest:

  1. Prone bent leg hip extension against manual resistance. Yep, that’s a mouthful. Basically, the move involves getting into a crawl position with hands and feet on the ground and then kicking out behind you with one leg - against a partner who is manually resisting your kicking force. Of course, you could also do this exercise against resistance such an elastic band, as I describe in the article “How to Tone Your Butt,” but it’s not quite as effective as having a partner resist your kicking force.
  2. Standing butt squeezes with a wide stance and feet turned out. This one is a bit hard to describe, but I’m going to give you the description from one of my favorite butt-experts - Bret Contreras, who says:

“From a standing position, take a moderate to wide stance and flare the feet out slightly. Now squeeze the glutes as hard as possible for 30 seconds. Make “fists” to increase the neural drive through irradiation. Just do this one time.”

Want even more butt tips? Then check out the episode “How to Get A Better Butt.”

In addition to your butt, it’s important to target your hips and thighs. It turns out the very best 2 exercises for activating your hips and thighs are the deadlift, in which you simply lift a heavy weight from the ground, and the glute ham raise, which is a special apparatus at the gym that is also know as the low back extension.

For the deadlift (which I also list as one of my 2 favorite exercises for getting a flat stomach), the basics are simple. You just pick a weight such as a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell or any other heavy object off the ground while using good form that relies on your hips and legs, and not your lower back.


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.

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