Body Part Exercises

The “Body Part Exercise” section of is designed to help exercisers with  selecting and understanding exercises that are specific for certain body regions. Exercises in a gym or fitness center are often organized by body part. Exercisers talk about working out a certain area of the body (“What are you working on today?”).  Even workout cards and gym floor layouts organize exercise equipment by body regions to help members get enough exercise for each body region or help them remember not to neglect a certain body region. Workouts often involve one to three body parts or all body parts in a given exercise session. If one to three body parts are worked intensely, another group can be worked the next day while the first group of body parts rest for a time period (usually one to four days rest).

Body part training can be very motivating as each body part exercise focuses on performance, aesthetics and injury prevention by developing strength, size, speed and endurance of target muscles. With training and practice, an excellent mind-muscle connection can be developed with the target muscle. Prior to training, many people have no concept of the connection and control of target muscles. Keep in mind that the body works as a whole in sports, but that certain areas of the body can be lagging in development because of genetic characteristics, poor posture, bad technique, lack of proper use of certain muscles and single or repeated injury to a joint or muscle. Training specific body parts can help develop a specific area so that it can gain the ability to work in optimal performance and safety with a whole performing body. The actual muscle develops (with hypertrophy, for example) and the mind-muscle connection improves the ability to call on the muscle for action. Training specific body regions sometimes simplifies the whole workout and sports performance challenge.

Remember that the primary function of the musculoskeletal system is to generate forces by muscle contraction to cause motion of body segments (often bone levers) and to absorb forces by contraction with attenuation of forces to prevent injuries and keep body motion fluid, responsive, stable and firm. There is often overlap in muscle use; sometimes it is impossible to isolate certain muscles without using accessory and stabilization muscles. An agonist is the main mover muscle. The antagonists are muscles that work in an opposing way to return the body segment to an original position or to provide an opposing force that offers stabilization, joint integrity and smooth control.

Regarding sports specific activity, an exercise program cannot be limited to “Body Part Training” only. Training must also include integration of multiple body parts including skillsets that promote optimal use of the kinetic chain during various sports actions, development of stabilizing subsystems, flexibility exercises coordinated with co-action and relaxation of agonists and antagonists that finds the optimal conditions for performance and joint-muscle integrity, and conditioning and understanding of the specific energy output systems that are used for a particular sport activity.

Keep in mind that many exercises are used for rehabilitation and post-rehabilitation. There are occasions when body part training is useful to keep other body parts “in condition” while an injured part is fully or semi-immobilized. Training with isolation of agonists and antagonists can often cause immediate relief from pain or tightness in muscles or joints that are bound by muscle tightness and imbalances.

Machine exercises are often criticized by proponents of “functional training” because they isolate muscles and don’t prepare people for the integration action of multiple body parts that are patterned during activities of daily living, work-related activities, and sports-related activities. The best plan is to incorporate both isolating exercises and totally functional integrated exercises. The process of working a part, the whole, the part, the whole; and learning integration of the parts and then practicing the whole is very effective for optimal development. Whole-part-whole training is effective when breaking down a complex sequence to perfect each sequence and then put sequences together to perfect the whole pattern of a realtime action. Whole-part-whole training is also effective in developing the conditioning and architecture of parts and putting together an understanding of the parts as a whole body in full development. The architecture of the body that is revealed is amazing.