The world's best sculptors understood the concept of muscle symmetry. The same concepts apply to body sculpting. When working with weights, muscles and their opposing muscles both require your attention. Ignoring opposing muscle groups distorts both your posture and your movement patterns. Take a sculptor's approach to weight training and add some symmetry to your workouts.
Chest and Back
Your rhomboids, located in your upper back, are the opposing muscles of the pectoral group. You perform the chest fly to create cleavage, but muscular symmetry requires cleavage in both the front and back of your body. Give your rhomboids some love and follow the chest fly with the seated row. Just as you squeezed your pectorals together during the fly, squeeze your back muscles together to create divine definition in the upper back. Allowing a chest/back imbalance to continue creates a hunched forward posture -- kind of like that neanderthal who always hogs the bench press in the weight room.
Biceps and Triceps
Biceps workouts have a fun, Rosie the Riveter, I-can-do-anything-the-guys-can-do appeal. Triceps are a different story. They are generally weak and hard to train. That's not a reason to ignore them, though. Weak triceps minimize elbow support. There goes your tennis, basketball or volleyball game! In general, triceps exercises are not fun. Dips, for example, wreak havoc on your wrists. Experiment with free weights or use the rope attachment on the cable machine for a slightly more pleasant experience.
Hamstrings and Quads
Hamstring/quadriceps muscle imbalances are common in women. Telltale signs include standing with hyperextended knees, inability to sufficiently bend your knees when landing from a jump and a vulnerability to knee injuries that makes you want to scream "Why me?" To fix the problem, eliminate the leg extension machine from your program. Your quads may already be working too hard doing cardio, as on the elliptical, so you may not need quadriceps isolation exercises. Instead, perform compound exercises that engage your quads, hamstrings and gluteals simultaneously. Examples include the leg press, the squat and the lunge. When working the hamstrings, some women find the prone leg curl uncomfortable. Experiment with the seated curl or try standing leg curls using the cable equipment.
Your inner and outer thighs provide pelvic, hip and knee stability. The seated abductor/adductor machine targets these muscle groups. Some women, erroneously clinging to the myth of "spot reduction," end up doing more of one exercise than the other, thereby creating an imbalance in the hips and knees. This type of imbalance leaves you susceptible to hip, knee and lower back injuries. Give equal amounts of love to both sides of your legs and experiment with different types of equipment. The cable machines and ankle weights also offer effective abductor/adductor workouts.
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.