Resistance Training the Right Way: Part 4
by Fred Dimenna, CSCS

Designing a resistance training program requires considerable attention to detail. Many gym goers don't realize this and simply go through the motions when working out. Not surprisingly, this laissez faire attitude results in less-than-optimal gain.
Resistance training offers many important health-related benefits. But unlike cardiovascular exercise, these improvements are gleaned in a spot-specific manner. That means simply performing a couple sets of one movement and a few more of another won't do the trick. The body's muscle groups must be worked symmetrically to bolster overall neuromuscular synergy.
If your goal is to improve aerobic function, challenging your cardiovascular system with any of the numerous activities routinely performed should get the job done. Incorporating cross-training into your regimen isn't a bad idea because it helps to keep things interesting and prevents excessive trauma to one specific area that could result in overuse injury. But when all is said and done, if you simply do the same aerobic activity like jogging or stair-climbing every time you work out, you'll probably achieve maximum circulatory benefit because the effect you're looking to induce is systemic. With resistance training, however, a different set of circumstances is in place.
For the most part, resistance training's benefits are restricted to the muscle group you're exercising. That means if you want to derive maximal gain from this form of exercise, you had better make sure you cover all of your bases. There are more than 600 muscles in the human body and, while many of them don't require attention in the weight room, a significant number do.
To make matters worse, if you work some of these exclusively without addressing others, you can actually undermine musculoskeletal health by creating relative imbalances. Individuals who don't use resistance training to hone their musculature wind up with muscles developed solely to meet the physical challenges they encounter during activities of daily living. Typically, the muscles situated on the front of the body will be overdeveloped relative to those of the back. This causes postural deficiencies and is a major antecedent for injury.
A classic example of a typical muscular imbalance occurs with the underlying muscles that maintain stability within the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint. Collectively, the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff are responsible for holding the ball of the humerus (upper arm bone) in the shoulder blade cup (the glenoid fossa) within which it rotates. Ideally, symmetrical development of these four muscles keeps the joint balanced and operating at peak efficiency.
Three of the four muscles of the rotator cuff also function to turn the upper arm. The subscapularis turns it toward the body's front, while the teres minor and infraspinatus rotate it rearward. Obviously, the muscle that works in front is typically used more. But there's also another reason for asymmetrical development in this region. Other internal rotators include the muscles of the chest (pectoralis major), upper back (latissimus dorsi and teres major) and shoulder (anterior deltoids head). The only other external rotator is the posterior head of the deltoids. Consequently, more major muscles contribute to internal rotation, thereby increasing the likelihood that you'll be stronger at performing this motion.
Once resistance training is entered into the equation, unequal development should become a thing of the past. After all, once you begin pumping iron, you can plan your work out according to current need by developing a calculated plan to bring all deficient areas up to par. But this is usually not the case.
Paying special attention to the muscles that externally rotate the humerus, retract the shoulder blades (rhomboids and middle trapezius) or draw the foot up toward the shin (tibialis anterior) would seem the logical course of action for anyone beginning their entry into the world of resistance training. These are all areas that receive inadequate stimulation relative to the muscles that oppose themduring activities of daily living. But quite often, novice lifters wind up focusing on their showy areas and, before you know it, their inequities actually become worse!
An unbalanced resistance training physique is characterized by shoulders that are rounded forward. When the internal rotators of the humerus are overdeveloped relative to their counterparts, this is the posture that results. In addition, men typically neglect their musculature below the waist while women focus all their attention on lower body. The end result is a step in the wrong direction for achieving balanced development that promotes musculoskeletal health.
Simply buzzing through the circuit at your gym or copying fellow exercisers isn't enough. You have to understand that all your muscles require attention, as well as the motions that affect those muscles. This is the foundation upon which a well-designed resistance training program is built.

Fred DiMenna, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant is a two-time Natural Mr. United States and a WNBF drug-free professional bodybuilder. Visit him at or email: