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Sometimes it's not the legs, chest or arms but the small, detailed areas of the body that are most appealing. The armpit area is one of those areas, and it actually contains three main muscles: the teres major, teres minor and latissimus dorsi. The teres major is right under your shoulder, covering the smaller teres minor muscle; the latissimus dorsi extends from your back to your chest, wrapping around the underarm area. For a toned, tight underarm area, focus on resistance-training exercises that train these three muscles. Consult a physician before starting a new exercise regimen.
To exercise the teres major, train it indirectly. Experienced exercisers who wish to target the teres major use rowing exercises, as the majority of all rowing exercises recruit the teres major in their movements. Examples of exercises that call upon the teres major include bent-over, T-bar and seated rows. When you push out your chest and pull your arms back during a row, the stretch you feel is in your teres major.
Though positioned next to the teres major, the teres minor moves differently from its neighbor. Exercises that recruit the teres minor are all forms of external rotation -- as opposed to internal rotation, which the teres major handles. Target the teres minor with shoulder external-rotation exercises, such as upright, lying and seated shoulder external rotations. When you engage in an external-rotation movement, you turn your arm outward; the teres minor supplies the force for this outward movement.
The latissimus dorsi is the biggest muscle in the underarm area, extending from the chest to the back. Most exercises targeting the latissimus dorsi involve the teres major, but these exercises put more stress on the latissimus dorsi than other muscles. These exercises typically require you to extend your arms and hold on to a bar or weight in a way that requires you to pull yourself or the weight up. Examples of exercises targeting the latissimus dorsi are pullups, pulldowns and pullovers. Although many people think that these downward-pulling exercises are performed by the downward pull of the arms, the latissimus dorsi actually provides the downward force in this type of movement.
If you want to lose weight -- not build muscle -- in your armpit area, there are no specific exercises that can target the armpit. This is because there are no cardio exercises that spot reduce or remove fat from only one area on the body. If you have some extra fat around your armpit, add three or four days of cardio to your weekly routine, as cardio will burn overall body fat.