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Muscle Groups   

Muscle Divisions | Upper Body | Middle Body | Lower Body

Muscle Divisions:

Your body is divided into five major muscle groups:

1. Chest 
2. Back 
3. Arms & Shoulders 
4. Abdominals 
5. Legs (& Buttocks)

Additionally, some people break the body up into three major groups:

1. Upper Body (Chest, Upper Back, Arms, Shoulders) 
2. Middle Body (Abdominals, Lower Back) 
3. Lower Body (Buttocks, Legs)

Regardless of the "major" division in body muscles, you need to think of your major muscle groups -- and the sets of muscles that comprise them -- on an individual basis, in order to work them properly. That said, let's examine each of the body's muscle groups individually, and see how best to work them.
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The Upper Body

The Chest

Your Chest muscles are also referred to by their Latin name: Pectorals (comprising the Pectoralis Major and Minor, and smaller supporting muscles). The most popular exercise for the Chest is the Bench Press, done in close, medium, and wide grips. Other important exercises include inclined and declined Bench Presses, and Flyes (such as Barbell Flyes, or Butterfly exercises on machines). In addition, there are dumbbell exercises such as Front Arm Raises, and Bent-Arm and Straight-Arm pullovers, which benefit the chest and other muscles.

The Back

The Upper Back, like the Chest, contains more than one group of important muscles. Most familiar to people with some understanding of kinesiology (the study of the body) is the Latissimus Dorsi (Lats). They run vertically from the upper arm to the lower back, and horizontally from the ribs to the spine. They are the muscles which give bodybuilders their distinctive "V" shape. Next best known are the Trapezius (Traps) muscles. They are in the center of the back, and run up to the tops of the collar bones -- between the shoulders and the neck. The Rhomboids run beneath the Traps. Finally, the Teres Major and Minor muscles are on the back, behind the armpits. Important exercises for the Lats include free-body Pull Ups, dumbbell One-Arm Rows, and machine Pulldowns. To work the whole upper back, use a wide-grip on a machine Pulldown. A Dumbbell Pullover will work the Lats, Rhomboids, and Teres Major. To work the Traps a Shrug, or Haney Shrug are best, and Upright Rowing helps too. Deadlifts and Stiff-Leg Deadlifts are exceptional ways to work the lower and upper back.

The Arms

The Arms are split up into a variety of muscles -- front and back, upper and lower. Most well known are the Biceps, on the top/front part of the arm. The "bi" in bicep indicates there are two muscles, and there are. Called the long and the short heads, when seen on a particularly well-defined bodybuilder the division between these two muscles is clearly visible. Although men have for centuries been proud of their bulging biceps, the muscles at the back of the arm actually make up more (essentially 2/3) of the upper arm mass. These are known as the Triceps. Again, as the name implies ("tri"), the Triceps is a three-headed muscle (made up of the "outer," "middle," and "inner" Triceps). Between the Biceps and the upper arm bone is a smaller muscle called the Brachialis. Finally, the lower arm is defined by the Forearm muscle (Brachioradialis). Best known of the exercises for the arm is the Bicep Curl (which also benefits the Brachialis and the Forearms). Bicep Curls may be done standing or seated (with barbells, dumbbells, or on machines). And they may be done on inclines. Variations of "curls" include Preacher Curls, and Concentration Curls. For the Triceps, excellent exercises include Tricep Pulldowns, Pushdowns, Tricep Extensions (with dumbbells, barbells and some machines), Tricep Kickbacks (with dumbbells), and free-body Dips (which also work the Chest) and Reverse Dips.

The Shoulders

The Shoulders, which cap the tops of your arms, are comprised of a "frontal," "middle," and "rear" muscle group. Besides the lower back, the shoulders are most susceptible to injury of the body's muscles. Consequently, you should take care in working your shoulders. Great Shoulder exercises include the Military Press (with machines, barbells, and dumbbells), the Back of Neck Press, Lateral and Front Arm Raises (with dumbbells), and Bent-Over Crossovers (with cables on some machines).
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The Middle Body

The Abdominals

The Abs, or stomach muscles, are a little different than the other major muscle groups in your body in that you can work them on two consecutive days. You also work your Abs a little differently. Whereas it's advantageous to do multiple "sets" (individual groupings of an exercise in 10 or 12 repetitions) of most weightlifting regimens, the Abs can be done in one long set of 25 to 50 repetitions. However, the best way to work your Abs probably involves doing specific exercises for you Upper Abs, Obliques, and Lower Abs. The Upper Abs are best worked by doing Crunches. The Obliques are best worked with Side Bends (which can be done effectively with a light dumbbell). And for the Lower Abs, Leg Raises are excellent.
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The Lower Body

The Legs (& Buttocks) 

Your Legs, like the Arms, are broken up into upper-lower, front-back muscle groups. On the top front of the thigh are your largest leg muscles, the Quadriceps (Quads). Additionally, on the inner part of the thigh are the Abductors. On the back part of the thigh are the Hamstrings. On the lower back leg are the Calves. Most famous of the lower-body exercises is the Squat (done with machines, barbells, and dumbbells). This one exercise works your Quads, Hamstrings, Lower Back, the Buttocks, and to a lesser degree the Abdominals. Variations on the Squat, which shift the emphasis on the muscles being worked, includes the Hack Squat, Sissy Squat, and Frontal Squat. Lunges (which can be done with barbells or dumbbells) emphasize working the Quads, Hamstrings, and Buttocks. Leg Presses focus on the Quads. Leg Curls focus on the Hamstrings. And Calf Raises (which may also be done on machines, or with barbells and dumbbells) are the key exercise to work your Calves.
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