By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator

If you have been working out at home for the last year, you have surely done your fill of squats, lunges and push-ups; but what about those smaller muscles that haven’t received as much attention?


What Are Synergist Muscles?

Many small muscles in our body play an important role as synergists, which means they assist the primary muscle, or agonist muscle, to perform a movement.


Why Are They Important?

Take a push-up, for example. In this exercise, your pecs would be the agonist muscle and your triceps would be the synergist muscle. Maintaining the strength of your synergist muscles is crucial, because not only do they assist in performing many large movements, but also keeping them strong will help to prevent injury. 

If you are looking for some variety in your workouts, try these four exercises that require little to no equipment! They target four different small muscle groups that often act as synergists.


Exercise 1: Wrist Rolls

Target muscle: Forearm extensors and flexors

When this muscle is a synergist: Bicep curl

Equipment: A broom, a dowel, or similar

  • In a standing position, hold your equipment with an overhand grip, hands shoulder width apart.
  • Raise your hands up to shoulder height in front of you, equipment in hand. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping your arms up at shoulder height, roll the equipment in your hands, rolling the right hand forward and left hand backward, and then alternate. Keep switching, and roll the equipment both forwards and backwards.
  • Perform for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds; repeat for 3 sets.


Exercise 2: Tricep Get-Ups

Target muscle: Triceps

When this muscle is a synergist: Push-ups

Equipment: None

  • To work your left triceps: Lay on your right side, bending your legs slightly. Hold/touch your left shoulder with your right hand.
  • Place your left hand on the ground, close to/underneath your right shoulder.
  • Keeping your core engaged (belly button pulled in towards your spine), press your left hand into the ground, raising your torso up off the ground, until your arm is straight. Lower back down to the floor with control.
  • Perform 8 reps, rest for 30 seconds; then repeat sets x3. Switch sides. Or, perform supersets and immediately switch from one side to the other.


Exercise 3: Adductor Squeeze

Target muscle: Hip adductors (inner thighs)

When this muscle is a synergist: squats

Equipment: an exercise ball, or a few folded blankets, a pillow, or similar

  • Laying on your back with your core engaged (lower back pressed into the floor), bend your knees and place your equipment between your knees.
  • Raise your feet off the floor so your legs are at 90 degrees; this is your starting position.
  • Consciously engage your inner thighs, squeeze your equipment between your knees and hold for a 4-second count; rest for a 4-second count; repeat x8 reps, resting 30 seconds in between sets.


Exercise 4: Squat Hold With Calf Raise

Target muscle: calves (soleus and gastrocnemius)

When this muscle is a synergist: Hamstring Curls

Equipment: none

  • Adopt a wide stance, and sink into a squat; this is your starting position.
  • Maintaining your squat, press the ball of your left foot into the ground and raise your left heel. Movement should be isolating to this one area of your body.
  • Lower your heel and repeat on the other side.
  • Perform 8 reps on each side; rest for 30 seconds and repeat sets 3 times.