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.
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:
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.