This series of blog post is intended to give the basic principles of a healthy workout to prevent injury in the short and long term. Whether you are a hard core gym rat or you just decided to take some steps toward greater health this will help you out. I am laying out the principles — NOT telling you what or how to do things. There is no perfect workout for everyone but if you follows these principles and apply them to the workout that you choose, then you will not only get the maximum benefit but you will also save yourself from getting hurt.
If you take nothing else away from this series take this: THINK!!!!- Any workout starts in the brain and the body follows.
A muscle, no matter how strong, is useless if the brain cannot fully control it in the way it was designed to function. A balanced brain leads to a balanced, functional body that looks and feels great.
Unfortunately most people follow what is commonly called “gym-science” in which the biggest guy at the gym must know the most science. This is flawed because, with a few exceptions, body building is a very unhealthy sport. Having lots of overdeveloped muscles leads to more problems and less functionality in the long run. Work out for function not vanity. The healthier you are on the inside the better you will look on the outside. As chiropractic philosophy states; health flows from above down and from inside out.
- Work out your connective tissue before your muscles. Ligaments and tendons take 3x as long as muscles to strengthen. That is why strains and sprains are the most common reason people stop activity. So especially when you first start to work out do low weight and high repetitions for a few months before you even think about lifting heavy weights. The saying “go heavy or go home” is a fantastic way to get hurt, so you will likely have to actually “go home” for a while.
- Spend at least 10 minutes to warm up and cool down with dynamic stretching before and after each workout. Dynamic stretching means you move your joints only with the muscles that are supposed to move them in a rhythmic motion. Static stretching where you push a joint till you feel a stretch and hold it there for 10 to 15 seconds is OK but only AFTER a workout. If you take a joint and push it passed the normal range of motion before workout then you are setting yourself up for an injury. To get the benefits of dynamic and static stretching add yoga to your workout. But keep in mind that it is a workout in and of itself. So on yoga days don’t go out and lift heavy right after a long session.
- Work out your extensors 2x as much as your flexors and stretch your flexors 2x as much as your extensors. Flexor muscles pull our arms and legs toward the center of our body and they pull the center of our body into a fetal type position. Extensor muscles, on the other hand, pull us into an upright posture and pull our arms and legs away from the center of our body. Now most things we do in this society involve sitting in a flexed posture or reaching down or in front and thus use our flexors. Does it really ake sense to continue to work out our flexors since we use them so often in every day activities? Think about this; babies are born being flexor dominant and develop their extensors in conjunction with the frontal cortex of their brains, where our ability to reason occurs. As adults, our extensors are supposed to be stronger than our flexors and our frontal cortex is supposed to be stronger than the lower, more animalistic centers of our brains. There is a reason that the stereotypical “meat head” has a low IQ and is easily angered. (If you would like to do more research on the connection between upright posture and brain health look up Dr. Uner Tan Senior Researcher, Department of Physiology, Medical School, Cukurova University, Adana, Turkey. You can start with this interesting PDF @ http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/2051587/214865967/name/REFLECTIONS+OF+A+SCIENTIST.pdf%20) Regardless of what you start out with, over developing the flexors will lower the ability to reason and increase the likelihood of emotional reactions. Our flexors are mostly on the front of our body from the waste up and on the back of our legs below our butt. Our gluts, butt muscles, are one of the most important extensors to work out. So think about what position your body spends most of the day in, then work out in ways that oppose that position. For example; if you sit at a computer most of the day it would be wise to work out doing squats, lunges, rows, and pull-ups. Avoid doing sit-ups, bench press, and bicep or leg curls. Take extra time throughout the day to stretch your chest, biceps, front of your hips, and the front of your neck.
- Balance is the key to correct technique and posture. Here is the hard truth to swallow for most guys who want to lift heavy weights: If you can’t lift the weight while balancing on a fit-ball, Bosu-ball, or wobble board then, no matter what your posture looks like on the ground or sitting, you can’t lift the weight correctly. When you lift weights while balancing you eliminate the use of your core muscles to move the weight because they are fully engaged in their real job, balance, which is really correct posture. This leaves only your outer “movement” muscles to lift the weights unassisted. So not only are you working your core muscles the way they are supposed to be worked but you are also getting the maximum out of the muscles you are targeting with the lift, even though the weight will be necessarily lighter in the beginning It is hard to have bad posture when you are standing on a fit-ball. No one should do any exercise while sitting EVER because it requires no balance!
Stay tuned for part 2 where we will talk about how much exercise you really “need” and how to accomplish your work out goals most efficiently.
As always… Much Love and stay adjusted, my friends!
Dr. Tad Schexnailder DC