Health and Fitness

Working Smaller Muscles First and the Reasons Why

If you haven’t exercised much in your life and maybe aren’t sure where to start, or have had a big break from your fitness journey for work, family or health reasons, it’s important to take it slowly to avoid the risk of injury from poor technique, or a physical burnout. There are lots of ways to exercise, but adding this strategy to your training will make all the difference to your success. Even elite athletes can enhance their performance by taking heed of this approach.

Imagine a half-constructed Jenga tower. This represents your muscles, in terms of both size and strength. Every time you exercise, working your larger muscles only, you add an additional level to your Jenga tower. After a while, your Jenga tower is going to get pretty big and your muscles will become strong. The danger is that, if you build your Jenga tower too quickly, or there is stress applied to it, it’s likely to collapse and crumble. This represents injury, and erosion of much of your progress, sending you back to square one.

Imagine again that half-constructed Jenga tower we started with. This time in your workouts, you’re going to work to establish your smaller muscles before transitioning to your larger muscles. Improving the strength of these smaller muscles has two major benefits – one being muscular balance, and the other improved joint stabilisation. Ensuring that these often-neglected muscles receive enough stimulation to grow not only provides an aesthetic result, but also an excellent base for the larger, more movement-based muscles to apply force on the body. The more forces that the musculoskeletal system can handle, the stronger it will be. So, as well as adding an extra level to your tower, you’ll also be adding “glue” to both the existing and new levels, one storey at a time. This way, your tower is still going to grow and you will continue to get stronger. But when your Jenga tower gets really large, and stress is applied, it is going to be much sturdier and the risk of injury is significantly minimised.



There are lots of different ways to exercise out there, but not all of them will allow you to reinforce your Jenga tower as you build it. With Studio Pilates workouts, often neglected stabilisation muscles are strengthened before larger muscles and joints are targeted, creating a well balanced program of ‘hypertrophy’ ie the process of making the body stronger. The specific sequencing of the programs means you’ll receive better results over a shorter period of time, and exercise in a way that is sustainable for a lifetime.

With any exercise program you commence (or re-commence), it’s important to know and respect your limits, taking things one step at a time. By layering workouts with an initial focus on smaller muscles, you’ll protect your health and fitness goals from collapsing under stress and your brand new body will thank you for it!



Image Credit – Yiran Ding / Unsplash

About the Author – Studio Pilates Instructor Stuart Rech

Studio Pilates instructor, Stuart Rech, combines his experience in the health and fitness industry with more than 10 years as a national level, elite swimmer. He now devotes his time to ensuring his clients are the best people they can be, both physically and mentally.