Alessi Personal Fitness

Staff Articles

Small Muscles, Big Results

2007-02-09 20:53:11
By Derek Alessi, PhD

Let’s start with a very safe assumption:  You care a lot about your prime-time muscles- biceps, pectorals, abs, quads.  You know how to pump them up, show them off, make them perform party tricks.

But a star is only as good as his supporting cast, as anyone who’s suffered with Ted Danson through  a few episodes of Becker can attest.  And the stars of your physique would look and perform  a lot better if you spent a little more time developing the bit parts.

Take your serratus anterior, a set of fingerlike muscles on both sides of your rib cage.  When developed, these muscles create the illusion that your chest and torso are wider than they really are.  They prevent your arms from quivering during sex, and even help you get the barbell off your chest during bench press.

Not a bad set of benefits from muscles you’ve never heard of.

Keep reading and we’ll tell you how to build the serratus, along with four other muscles that you won’t hear mentioned during sweeps week.  Make them a strong ensemble cast and these five bit players can take your body from the bottom of the Nielsens to the top of the charts.

 Focus on these muscles below and you are on your way.

Serratus Anterior is the strip of muscles on both sides of your torso, stretching from the inside ridges of your shoulder blades to your ribs.  To build these muscles do a crunch with a plus.  Grab a light barbell with a shoulder-width, overhand grip and lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  Start with arms straight and bar directly above your eyes.  Flatten your lower back against the floor.  Now use your abs to flex your trunk forward, as you would in a typical crunch.  At the same time push the barbell up towards the ceiling, pulling your shoulder blades as far apart as you can.  Pause, then slowly return to the starting position.  Instead of counting repetitions, aim for 1-minute sets.  Increase the weight when you can do three to five 1- minute sets.

Levator Scapulae Diagonal ropes of muscle that run from the top of the neck to the top of the shoulder blades.  To build these muscles I recomend bent –arm cable shrugs.  Most right handed men will find that their levator scapulae are stronger and tighter on the right side.  These guys should start with the left (weaker) side.  Lefties will probably want to start with the right side.  Attach a stirrup handle to a low pulley and grab it with your right hand.  Stand with your right side to the machine and turn your head so you’re looking over your right shoulder.  Slowly elevate your right should as high as you can.  Now keeping your shoulder up bend your right elbow slightly, pull your shoulder blades together in back, and rotate your right shoulder to the rear.  Reverse, the steps to return to the starting position, and continue for 1 minute.  Now turn and repeat with your left arm.  If you find that your two sides are equally strong, you can either stop  at on set or do one more set of each side.  If one side is stronger than the other, do three to five sets for the weak side and one or two for the strong side until your strength equalizes.

External Obliques Muscles that start on the ribs and extend diagonally down the side of the chest.  To work this start by lying face up on the floor, kness bent and feet flat.  Flatten your lower back against the floor.  Now do a crunch to flex your truck and lift your shoulder blades as high off the floor as you possibly can.  This is when the fun begins:  Keeping your chest high, perform a backstroke with one are at a time, allowing your torso to twist towards the arm that's reaching back.  Work up to five sets of 45 seconds each, alternating arms on each repetition.  The higher you lift your chest of the floor, the better the exercise will work.  Add light dumbells when the move becomes easy.

Triceps Long Head These are the biggest and strongest part of the triceps muscles, covering the inside and back of your arm.  How to build it:  Cable incline triceps extension with rope attachment.  Set an incline bench at 45 % angle and place it in front of a low cable pulley.  Hold your arms straight up above your eyes, slowly ben your elbows as fas as you can, pause, then straighten them.  Continue for 20 seconds.  Rest 60 seconds and repeat.  Do six to 10 sets.  You want your muscles to feel exhausted at the end of each set.

Glutes Medius A wedge of muscles on the side of each hip.  How to build:  Cable side stepups. Set a step or bench near the low cable.  Attach the pulley to a belt around your waist.  Start with your left leg, if you're left handed.  Place your left foot on the step and raise the front of your right foot so your weight is on the heel. (This keeps the right foot from doing all the work.)  Now push down with your left foot and lift yourself up the step.  Make sure you're completely upright at the end of the repetition.  Lower yourself until your right heel touches the floor, then repeat for 1 minute.  Turn around and repeat with your right foot on the step.  Do a second 1-minute set with whichever proved to be the weaker leg, do three to five 1-minutes sets for the weaker leg and one or none for the leg that's stronger.



Derek Alessi, PhD (Dr. Derek™) entered the field of fitness training at an early age when he realized other gym members, young and old, began asking for his advice about fitness and nutritional matters. At the age of 18, Derek passed a national fitness certification exam and began his career in personal fitness training. Later that same year, he entered his first and only body building contest. Disenchanted with the way body building tends to minimizes health and well-being in order to encourage raw size, he left that arena and dedicated his career to helping individuals achieve better health and wellness through a program of planned exercise and practical nutrition. As America’s Premier Health Advocate Dr. Derek’s core belief is that health and fitness are not a result of gimmicks, hype or the latest butt buster. Instead they are achieved by understanding the physiological complexities of the body and the synergistic role that the right kinds of exercise along with supportive nutrition can play in unlocking the healthy body that is inside every one of us.

Concerned with the shape of today’s youth, Dr. Derek is now conducting seminars for concerned parents who would like to know more about the complexities of helping their children lead a healthy life in today’s challenging environment.

Dr. Derek is the author of The Bermuda Triangle Diet (September, 2009 Strategic Publishing), Lose Fat Forever (2003), and The Promise Health and Fitness System (2002). He has earned a doctorate degree in health and physical education and a master’s degree in nutrition. He is also a National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) trainer. He owns and operates a private practice, a personal training facility for adults and a facility for children in East Amherst New York. He has appeared on over 125-TV and 300-radio programs throughout the country and has been featured in national print media including Maxim, Burn Fitness for Women and Iron-Man Magazines.

Dr. Derek is also the host of weekly TV segment on WGRZ TV Ch2 in Buffalo, New York called Dr. Fitness. He also partners with local food banks and Feeding America to raise money and awareness for national hunger issues. In addition, he also conducts health and fitness seminars for The American Heart Association, The American Diabetes Association, NY State Public Schools, The US Army, Adidas, York Barbell Company, Spectrum Nutritional, MD Labs and other Fortune 1000 companies, small businesses and other groups where he combines his unique brand of humor, empathy and knowledge to communicate his positive, affirming message: Make the Most of Your Life… Live It Fit!™