Knowing about all of the muscles of the body helps you create customized daily workouts to tighten and tone up problem areas during weight loss, healthy weight maintenance, or muscle building.
Each muscle group has a unique function within the body, and there are some muscles you might be surprised exist!
Three main muscle types within the body are skeletal, smooth, and cardiac muscles.
Skeletal muscles are attached to the bones in your body, and you can move these muscles when you want to. Cardiac muscles work to make your heart function properly, and contract on their own (involuntary muscle movements).
Smooth muscles are also involuntary muscles, and part of your digestive tract and other internal organs.
Upper Body Muscles
Your upper body muscles are important for completing routine day-to-day tasks. Regular upper body workouts tighten and tone up problem areas, and build up your chest, arms, and back muscles.
Knowing which exercises boost upper body strength and size helps you get or maintain the muscular physique you’ve been dreaming of.
Rhomboids are small back muscles that run from your upper back to the base of your neck on each side of your spine. These muscles help support your posture and prevent back and neck pain.
Rear deltoid flys and prone lateral raises are examples of back exercises that help tighten, tone, and strengthen rhomboid muscles.
Your trapezius muscles are a group of triangular-shaped muscles located in the center of your upper back.
To strengthen and tighten your trap muscles, try chin-ups, cable rows, pushups, upright rows, and shrugs.
Choose a variety of different upper back exercises to work your traps at different angles. Strong trapezius muscles help ward off neck and back pain, and boost muscle definition in your back.
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Deltoids are your shoulder muscles, and strengthening this group of muscles provides your upper body with the perfect muscular upper body physique many men desire.
To strengthen, build, and tone up your deltoids, try upright rows, front raises, lateral raises, and shoulder presses using dumbbell weights, resistance bands, or a bar.
The benefits of strong pectoral, or chest, muscles are endless. Strong chest muscles mean a stronger overall upper body, increased strength, and better muscle definition.
Strengthen your chest muscles by doing close-grip and wide-grip pushups, wide-grip dips, bench press or chest press with a bar or dumbbells, incline chest press, cable crossovers, and dumbbell flys. Try medicine ball pushups to add an extra challenge, and really tighten and tone up your pecs.
Your latissimus dorsi (your lats) are large back muscles located on each side of your spine. Your lat muscles make up a large, major muscle group, so work out these muscles regularly for a stronger, more defined upper body.
Try lat pull-downs, seated cable rows, dumbbell rows using a bench, or bent-over rows with dumbbells or resistance bands to really make your lats burn.
Lower Back Muscles
Numerous small lower back muscles exist within your body, and strengthening this muscle group helps you steer clear of back injuries.
Stronger lower back muscles also help keep your midsection slim and trim. Examples of low back muscles include:
- Extensor muscles
- Flexor muscles
- oblique muscles
To help make your lower back more defined, try deadlifts, back extensions, and reverse sit-ups on a stability ball — just to name a few.
Arm Muscles (Biceps and Triceps Muscles)
Just about every man over 40 longs for large biceps and triceps muscles. Strengthening your arms comes in handy for functional day-to-day activities as well.
To strengthen, tighten, and boost mass in your biceps muscles, try a variety of standing and seated dumbbell and barbell curls, or arm curls using resistance bands.
Defined triceps muscles are just as important as toned biceps for many men seeking upper body muscle definition and muscular physique.
Try push-ups, triceps dips, triceps extensions with dumbbells or bands, and triceps kickbacks using dumbbell weights to tighten, tone, and increase lean body mass in your upper arms.
The different muscles in your forearms help you grip things, and lift heavier objects at home or at the gym. Flexor forearm muscles help you grip things tightly, and extensor muscles help you release strong grips.
Properly trained forearm muscles also enhance sports performance and make your upper body stronger overall. Try dumbbell wrist flexion and dumbbell wrist extension exercises with weights or bands to boost forearm strength.
Hand and Finger Muscles
You may not think much about the muscles in your hands and fingers, but various muscles exist in and around your palm, thumb, and within your fingers. Over 30 muscles make up each hand and forearm unit.
These muscles help you move your hands and fingers properly and grip things. Squeezing a ball in your hands continuously and doing finger stretches helps strengthen the muscles in your hands and fingers, boosting grip strength.
Your body is made up of various abdominal muscles, such as your:
- Rectus abdominis
- Transverse abdominis
- Abdominal obliques
Having strong abdominal muscles and a slim and trim waist lowers your risk for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.
It also reduces your risk for getting injured from lifting heavy objects.
Cardiovascular workouts help trim up problem areas near your midsection, and abdominal exercises boost abdominal muscle and overall body strength.
Try plank exercises, knee pull-ups, leg raises, and sit-ups or crunches to work on a six pack — keeping your midsection tight and toned.
Additional (Unique) Upper Body Muscles
A few additional upper body muscles you may not have thought much about are some of the strongest muscles in your body.
Examples include your heart muscles and masseter (jaw muscle). The temporalis is a muscle in your head near your skull, which aids in opening and closing your mouth — and chewing.
You even have small muscles in your eyes, ears, cheeks, throat, lips, and tongue! These muscles help you make facial expressions, and hear and see properly.
Muscles within your heart and digestive tract have involuntary contraction — that is, these muscles contract and work within the body without you trying to move them.
Lower Body Muscles
The major lower body muscles within your body are your butt, hamstring, quadriceps, calf, feet, and hip muscles.
Working these lower body muscles regularly helps boost overall body strength, burn excess fat, and increase explosiveness. Aim to work all major lower body muscle groups at least two times weekly.
Your glutes are made up of a group of several large (very strong) muscles, including your:
- Gluteus maximus
- Gluteus minimus
- Gluteus medius
Work these muscles regularly to form a tight, toned rear end.
Try squats, lunges, stair climbing, or leg presses to strengthen and tone up your glutes.
Use your own body weight for resistance as a starting point, and add dumbbell weights or resistance bands as you become stronger.
Having strong hip muscles lowers your risk for injury. Adductor hip muscles help move your legs toward the midline of your body, and abductor hip muscles do the opposite (allow you to move your legs away from your body's midline).
Try hip adduction and abduction exercises to keep your hips strong. Use machines at the gym or resistance bands at home to complete the exercises.
Pelvic Floor Muscles
Pelvic floor muscles are muscles you may not think about or hear much about. These muscles run along your tailbone to the pubic bone in front of your body and are responsible for supporting organs in your pelvis. When pelvic floor muscles are weak, urine leakage can occur during certain activities — such as jumping, running, playing sports, coughing, or sneezing. This can also lead to erectile dysfunction.
Being overweight, trauma, surgery, and repeated heavy lifting increase your risk for urinary incontinence due to weak pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscle-strengthening exercises you can try include squeezing the muscles that prevent you from passing gas or urine. Hold this squeeze as long as you can, and aim to complete at least 10 sets.
There are three main hamstring muscles in your body, which run along the back side of your thighs. These include:
- Biceps femoris
Hamstring muscle strength comes in handy for a variety of day-to-day activities and workouts, and maximizes leg muscle definition. Try hamstring curls, lunges, and deadlifts to work your hamstring muscles.
Your quadriceps muscles are located in the front part of your thighs and include your:
- Vastus lateralis
- Vastus medialis
- Vastus intermedius
- Rectus femoris
Squats, lunges, leg press, and a variety of other leg-strengthening exercises tone up your quads, and boost explosiveness during sports training and high-intensity workouts. Building up lean body mass in your legs also helps burn excess body fat, which a goal of many men.
The back parts of your lower legs contain numerous muscles known as your calf muscles. Strengthening this muscle group increases muscle definition in your legs. Doing calf-strengthening exercises regularly also aids in injury prevention.
Standing or seated calf raises and rope jumping are both excellent ways to strengthen and tone up your calves.
Feet and Toe Muscles
Your foot consists of about 20 muscles, and each help support movement. Your tibilias posterior muscles support arches in your feet, extensor muscles assist with raising the toes and taking steps, and flexor muscles help stabilize your toes. Strengthening and stretching the muscles in your feet (especially near your ankles) regularly helps avoid injury during athletic events and other strenuous workouts.
Knowing about Muscle Anatomy is Important
Whether you’ve recently started FF30X or have completed phase one or two of the program, knowing how to work major (and minor) muscle groups helps you achieve and maintain the well-defined body of your dreams — and keep lost weight and body fat off for good.
For best results, complete strength-training exercises most days of the week and choose workouts that train all major muscle groups. Avoid working the same muscle group two days in a row, however.
Sign up for a Fit Father for Life (FF4L) membership to have excess to all of Fit Father Project’s next level workouts as a way to stay accountable, receive effective strength training workouts, boost lean body mass, maintain weight loss long term, and shed additional body fat if necessary.
The more knowledgeable you are about which muscle groups to work, the better your physique will be. Using FF4L workouts takes the guesswork out of creating your own fitness programs, which often comes as a relief for many men with hectic schedules.
You don’t need a gym membership to build the perfect physique. Once you know how to work all of the different muscles of the body, you can get creative by using your own body weight, choosing dumbbell weights, or using resistance bands during workouts. As a general rule, complete 2 to 4 sets of 10 to 20 repetitions for each muscle-strengthening exercise.
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Working Out for Life
With an FF4L membership, you’ll have all of the fitness coaching support you’ll need for long-term success in healthy weight management. Use a journal to track your fitness accomplishments and body weight, to see how you’ve progressed over time. Take before and after pictures as well, as muscle weighs more than fat and the scale doesn’t always tell the full story.
Be sure to eat a healthy diet packed with vegetables, healthy fats (oils and avocados), lean protein foods, and whole grains to maximize muscle gains and keep body fat low. Choose nutritious proteins like egg whites, lean pork, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, reduced-fat cheese, yogurt, low-fat milk, dried beans, peas, nuts, or seeds at each meal and snack.
Remember, you don’t have to lift heavy weights to reap muscle-building benefits and achieve a well-defined physique. Make small changes a little at a time, and utilize social support from nutrition and fitness experts when you need it. Use your FF4L membership to gain access to new workouts. You can do it, one step at a time!
Writer, The Fit Father Project
A 15-year freelance writing veteran, Erin is registered dietitian and health educator who is passionate about health, fitness and disease prevention. Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife and mom of two beautiful children.