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Weightlifting is the second most common exercise performed by Americans, according to government statistics. Nearly 10% of American adults lift weights as a form of training, but are you sure you’re doing it the right way?
People don’t often consider what our muscles are. When you see a perfectly sculpted bodybuilder or athlete, it’s easy to see their individual muscles as their own thing. Of course, they are each actually groups of thousands of fibers that interconnect with each other to form what we see on the outside as a muscular physique.
That means that if you only focus on lifting at one angle, you are only strengthening one area of your muscles. We don’t move in a limited range in the real world, so it doesn’t make sense to work out that way. To truly exercise all your muscles and build strength, it’s important to work all the angles.
Even altering by only a few degrees can drastically change the muscles you engage. It can even help with physical rehabilitation after an injury. Here’s what you need to know.
Strength training is important for building and maintaining muscle mass, but that’s not all it’s good for. Strong muscles also lead to strong bones and ligaments, which ultimately protect you against a variety of other injuries. We may be used to thinking of our hard skeleton as our strongest defense, but our muscles support our skeletal structure and can even help minimize the risk of fracture due to osteoporosis.
We all hit the gym with different motivations, and it takes time for the results to compile enough to truly build muscle and see the fruits of our labor. It’s a common occurrence for people to work out “glory muscles” like biceps and triceps that can be shown off, but you can’t overlook the different angles even in these muscles.
Not all fibers in your biceps will move in the same direction, especially as they grow in size. Working the same muscles in the same positions consistently can create issues with balance, strength, and more.
Take your knees, for example. Besides your bones, your knee joint consists of a series of muscles and ligaments that keep your legs bending in a fixed direction while supporting the weight of your body. Even a small ACL tear can throw everything off and end a career, so imagine the damage you can be doing to your entire body by only working out one angle.
Altering Angles for Better Full-body Workouts
Strengthening your entire muscle surface area can be achieved by simply changing the angle of your workout. When doing push-ups, for example, spreading your arms further apart will involve more of your chest muscles, while moving your arms inward will rely more fully on different regions of your arm muscles.
There’s a technique called small-angle training, where instead of repetitively hitting the same muscles, you continue changing the angles to stress your muscle fibers from different angles. The ultimate goal is to hit every angle as safely as possible within a normal range of movement.
It can be as simple as changing the incline of a bench or machine with each progressive set or moving your arms or legs further apart or closer together based on the exercise. A difference of just an inch or two in each set can make a huge difference in your overall workout.
Although most workout equipment has ways to adjust for different angles, there are a few things I recommend, particularly for my patients.
Small-Angle Training and Recovery Equipment
As an athlete myself, a torn ACL derailed my career prospects as a professional athlete. It took surgeries, training, and willpower to adjust to the new way of living. One major change I had to make was paying more attention to the exact angles I was working out and which muscle fibers they were hitting, especially in my legs, which needed more support than ever.
The Power Plate is one of these great devices that can engage all of your muscles at once using the power of vibration. This adds intensity to your workout in a low-impact way that helps strengthen your muscles without traumatizing them. It’s especially helpful for injury recovery.
It’s also important to focus on warming up and cooling down your muscles. Active stretching is, of course, the best way to start a workout. This gets your muscle fibers loosened up and ready for the strenuous activity you’re about to subject them to.
The Hydragun is a device I use for a percussive massage that uses bursts of pressure to target specific regions and help encourage muscle movement. Be sure to apply it to your muscles at different angles for the full effect.
Red light therapy is also a great way to provide relief to your skin after a long workout. Novaalab has some great red light therapy devices that ensure your entire body receives an even amount of light. You should know that I do receive a commission if you click through any of these links and make a purchase, but I signed up for the affiliate programs because I already use and recommend the products.
Here are some more great resources to get you started with working out from different angles.
The internet is filled with great workout influencers, and if you know what you’re doing and have a proper physical or occupational therapist coaching you, you can make a lot of progress. One of my favorite YouTubers is The Kneesovertoesguy. This Floridian and former basketball player had some great workouts to help build knee strength.
Joe Rogan fans may appreciate this clip of him discussing the importance of functional strength on his podcast. Rogan is an experienced athlete, trains with some of the most elite professional fighters on the planet, and can deliver a mean kick.
The government also has plenty of resources to explain the research behind preventing injury with resistance training and maintaining muscle at any age. These guides focus on maintaining functional muscles to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout your lifespan. And as always, you’re more than welcome to contact me for any tips.