Opposition is Key

I apologize for the lack of posting the past few weeks. Mid-terms, then spring break, then one of those weeks that sneaks up one you with a lot of work and more studying than you anticipated.

I recently attended a workshop to get certified a personal fitness trainer. The written portion of the test was a breeze, but I’ll admit that I was a little shaky for the practical portion.  I won’t find out my results for another two weeks (because apparently the process of grading a scantron is onerous), but worst comes to worst, I’ll retake the practical.

Lately I’ve been focusing on working opposing muscle groups. What this has done has made  me more aware of some specific existing muscle imbalances that are present within my own body. The kicker about muscle imbalances is that they happen over time without cognizance of their existence; they are often because of  habits such as improper poster when sitting or standing, or only working certain muscle groups, without working their counterparts (i.e. you work your quadriceps but not your hamstrings, the opposing group). Developing imbalances poses the potential for chronic  or long-term maladjustment of the body, as well as increase the risk of injury.

sciatica-6-muscle-imbalance

Lordosis is an abnormal forward curvature of the spine, often the result of daily habits that involve improper poster. This can result in pain in the knee join, as well as lower back pain.

When only certain muscle groups are isolated, they become stronger and contract, or shorten, while the neglected opposites become longer and weaker. This imbalance creates unwanted stress at the joint of the opposing muscle groups (the quads and the hamstrings are part of the knee joint >> strong quads + weak hamstrings = bad knees, to be blunt). To further expand on isolation, this type of exercising results in a lack of coordination between muscle groups when it comes to doing compound exercises, and your ability to perform functional activities (i.e. sports or lifting and moving heavy objects) will be decreased.

Another thing about isolation workouts is that they are not time efficient at all. Compound exercises is where it’s at. If you are a fan of the weight room, the elliptical is a great alternative to running on pavement. Many of these machines actually have an image of a runner whose muscle groups being worked are lit up. Depending on the incline you can work gluts, quads, hamstrings, and calves all at once. It’s also great for someone who already has bad knees #thisgirl. Take a look at a few more compound exercises to get a better idea of what I’m talking about:

http://www.primalpal.net/paleo-recipe-blog/46/The-15-Best-Compound-Exercises-for-Super-Efficient-Workouts

If you’re looking to mix it up and get away from the “norm,” trying a sport that involves multiple muscle groups is a great way to build some motivation and excitement about improving your fitness level. Above anything I will encourage anyone to try climbing 🙂 if you have only every watched someone ascend a wall, it may appear as though it’s solely with upper body strength. However, you might be surprised to find out how much you use your core and lower body as well. Another great exercise that will take you outside is kayaking. Not only is this going to load those guns, but it’s also going to work your lats, back, shoulders, pecs, and – shocker – abs (as you progress in your level of fitness you will become aware of the crucial role core strength plays a part in most exercises).

Total fitness involves the total body, not isolation of one specific muscle group. I’m not saying isolation exercises are bad. I had to do them as part of my physical therapy routine, however they were purely for rehabilitation and strengthening the areas that were weak and causing the patellofemoral pain. I would not suggest using isolation exercises to simply  build muscle if overall fitness is your primary goal.

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7 thoughts on “Opposition is Key

  1. So many people… esp desk jockies fall victim to major muscular imbalances. It is so important that they are not going to the gym and working their “natural strong” muscle groups… the muscles that are overly strong and about to cause them tons of postural pain.

    I am however against the elyptical. The elyptical does not allow your body to reach full hip extension and glute activation.

    • Thanks for the qualification! I agree, I don’t think full ROM is reached on the elliptical, but it’s better for a lot of people as opposed to nothing at al, especially people new to the fitness world who have been in a sedentary lifestyle for a long time. And I absolutely love the full benefits of natural running, however due to my own reoccurring knee problems, and a yearn to keep up what cardiovascular endurance I can, the elliptical, in combination with biking, is a good alternative for me until my muscles are stronger and there’s less risk of re-injury.

      • So true. Any exercise is better than no exercise. What is your reoccurring knee injury from? Constant running is so challenging on the body. I like to mix up my jog days with cardio circuit training, hiking, spinning, and summertime swims.

      • It’s honestly just a chronic pain that built up from years and years of basktetball and volleyball while I was growing up. Now it really just comes and goes, but I’m better about propper warm up, cool down and icing now. Climbing has been such a blessing to have stumbled upon because of the relatively low impact factor. I love love love hiking. Unfortunately where I live there are not too many areas for it, but I got in my first 14er last summer, and I’ve got another one planned out for the summer.

      • It is great that you have learned how to take care of your body to be your best :). I always thought I was completely indestructible as a teenager and young 20s but then I was hit by a car on my bike and everything changed. I grew a new respect for taking care of my body. I want to be active the rest of my life so taking care of it now is super important to me :).

      • What a testimony! I wish more people understood that they only have one body, and that unfortunately its parts don’t come with a warranty. I have a friend who, long story short, didn’t let an initial ankle fracture heal properly (stubbornness of athletes lol), and 18 months later had to have a pretty major surgery that’s left her in a boot for almost five months now. It’s definitely a challenge though for people to find that balance between the inensity they need and the making sure they aren’t conjuring up an injury that’s going result in a long-term impairment.

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