N o one likes to be isolated – except for muscles! Isolating muscle groups when you work out can make a HUGE difference on the quality of your results and how quickly you achieve them.
Having a dance background (studied Ballet and Jazz from age 3-18), I have to remind myself that I have a skill many people at the gym lack. I understand isolations. Isolation is the ability to focus on only the muscle(s) needed for a particular movement. Dancers routinely run through a series of isolations in their morning warm ups to ensure that each muscle group is properly warmed and stretched prior to dancing.
Isolations is very important when it comes to resistance training as it will help you gain the most benefit from the least amount of lifting. But I have found that most people do not understand how to isolate their muscles. Therefore you see a lot over or under extension, swinging other body parts, and bad posture incorporated when people lift weights. This can cause injury, but more importantly it is an ineffective and inefficient way to work out. You’ll spend more time, often lifting heavier than you need to, and see less results. Who wants that?
So the next time you hit the weights, try the following the ideas. I’ll use a standard biceps curl as my example:
1. Ascertain exactly what muscle group the exercise is designed to affect (i.e., curls=biceps).
2. Position yourself (whether sitting or standing) in a way that will allow the rest of your body to stay relatively still, and any secondary muscles needed will only contribute about 25% of the exertion. In other words though your forearms are utilized they should not carry the brunt of the weight, and your shoulders should stay out of it completely.
3. Perform the exercise (the curl) slowly and precisely, maintaining a consistent contraction of the biceps (a squeezing) as you lift, and a slight relaxing and stretching of the muscles on the lowering (lowering all the way down, not half way as many people do).
4. Lift enough repetitions to exhaust the muscles and make them burn. If you start to swing your body or feel your shoulders pulling, or your forearms fatiguing, redirect your efforts back exclusively to the biceps (relax your hands, forearms and shoulders). Then do 5 more reps!
After 3-5 sets performed in this manner, you will have torn down and exhausted the muscles effectively, and now you can move on to another body part and do the same. Focusing on the quality of your form also helps you stay motivated as you will see more rapid results which always begets fresh enthusiasm to continue with your fitness goals.
So take the time to watch your form and learn to isolate each muscle group. Your body will thank you!