The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Build Progressions to Activate the 5 Muscular Subsystems

Written by
Sue Beckham, PhD
Posted in
Fit Tips

Friday, Oct 09, 2015

This featured exercise targets the posterior chain and then progresses to challenge the lateral subsystem.

To perform:

  • Standing cable low row: Standing with the feet shoulder width apart, grasp the handles out in front of the body with a neutral wrist. The elbows and knees should be soft. With the scapulae slightly retracted, pull the cable towards the body, by flexing the elbows and extending the shoulders back. This engages the latissimus dorsi and scapular retractors (middle trapezius and rhomboids). During the pull, the arms should track close to the side of the body. Slowly return the cable out in front of the body while maintaining scapular retraction (do not let the shoulders roll forward).
  • Cable squat: Holding the cable out in front of the body with the shoulders retracted, sit back into a squat, lowering the body to 90 degrees of flexion at the knee to activate the gluteus maximus and quadriceps. Slowly return to the start position.
  • Cable squat with low row: Holding the cable out in front of the body with the scapulae retracted, perform a squat. After returning to the start position, perform the low row. This combination simultaneously targets the gluteus maximus and latissimus dorsi muscles of the posterior oblique subsystem.
  • Cable squat with low row into a lateral lunge: Begin by performing a cable squat followed by a low row. After returning the cable to the front of the body during the low row take a large step to one side, shifting your body weight to that side. Squat down to perform a lateral lunge, bending the knee to approximately 90 degrees while keeping the other leg straight. The bent knee should stay in line with the ankle. While performing the lateral lunge, pull the arms back while keeping the elbows in soft extension to engage the core and posterior chain. One arm will extend back at the side of the body and the other will extend back between the legs. Push off the leg that is bent to raise and return to center. Repeat the sequence with a lunge to the opposite side. This sequence challenges the lateral subsystem by engaging the hip abductors (gluteus medius and minimus) and adductors and contralateral quadratus lumborum and internal oblique.

Explore additional exercise progressions to challenge all five muscular subsystems in Biomechanics of Resistance Training and correctives to enhance these subsystems in Functional Fitness Training.