By now most of you know that it is highly beneficial to incorporate resistance training (lifting weights) into your weekly fitness routines. Toning, trimming and/or building muscle burns more fat calories than cardio, increases bone density, and keeps a body looking good and functioning efficiently. What’s important for you to understand is that form is the most important aspect of resistance training. We trainers say “lift smart or go home.”
The problem with so many people finally embracing the weights, is rampant incorrect lifting via poor posture, using over-heavy weights, and lack of proper muscle isolation. The results from this bad technique range from postural distortions (rounded shoulders, tightened leg muscles) to muscle strains. In other words, lifting incorrectly can create neck strain, chronic headaches, sciatic pain in legs, hips and glutes, spine-misalignment, knee strain, ankle weakness, and more.
Therefore today I will offer three easy tips that if followed will help you avoid some of the painful postural distortions. (Should you desire specific exercise instruction, contact me directly.)
1. BALANCE YOUR WEIGHTS:
Even if your goal is to have huge muscles, lifting heaving is not the necessarily the way to achieve that goal. The key is to find the balanced amount of weight that challenges your muscles without having to over-tax adjoining muscle groups just to get the lift (or push) conducted. Example: Dumbbell Biceps Curls performed with too heavy a weight can overly-engage your delts (shoulders) and traps (lower neck). This in turn, stretches those muscles out while shortening your pectorials (chest muscles), which causes forward-rounded shoulders that pull on your neck and spine.
Performing repetitions of 8-12 where your muscles are being exhausted through the repetitions while still bearing at least 85% of the actual weight will result in fast and visible benefits while not wrenching your muscles or spine of out whack.
2. START WITH GOOD POSTURE:
This tip works in tandem with the tip #3 below as you cannot have good posture without limber and flexible muscles. This is not to say that you have to be “gymnast-limber,” but you do need to have enough flexibility to execute the moves listed below. Performing moves while standing in a neutral position with head, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles aligned (or sitting with torso aligned) will allow you full range of motion on all exercise, better isolation of the targeted muscle(s), and again, less incorporation of unnecessary muscle groups.
3. STRETCH CORRECTLY:
Before any resistance training workout I always recommend at least 5 minutes of non-aerobic cardio (i.e., elliptical or walking at an incline). This gets blood flowing evenly throughout the body and warms up the muscles making them more supple for flexing and contracting. Equally important is a post -workout stretch of your entire body. A lot of people tend to only stretch the muscles they have just worked, but again if you are prone to improper lifting form, you will have undoubtedly worked other muscles that would benefit from stretching as well. You do not need to be a yoga-master, but a well-stretched body should be able to perform the following stances:
Standing in a deep, stationary and stable 90-degree lunge (each leg);
OVERHEAD ARM STRETCH:
Able to clasp your hands above directly over-head without your head sticking forward in front of your arms or your arms forward in front of your face (arms directly in-line with ears)
SUPINE OVERHEAD ARM STRETCH:
Able to rest arms comfortably over-head while lying in a supine (face-up) position on the floor. (If your arms are not able to comfortably rest on the ground above your head, your shoulder-girdle is too tight.)
WIDE-LEG TOUCH DOWN:
Relax into a wide-leg toe touch – legs in wide stance, bent at waist, fingers or palms hands resting comfortably on the ground.
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In closing I continue to encourage everyone to resistance train – weight bearing exercises are so beneficial for all adults – but please, take care, take your time, tell your ego to be quiet, and lift smart!