Posture and a balanced workout for better fitness
A balanced life and exercise routine will make you fitter and healthier.
Better balance will also bring you more enjoyment. Learn how to keep your fitness in balance and live a healthier life.
Your mother probably told you, “You either do it properly or not at all.” We don’t wish to sound too like your mother but we will say, “It is better to do it properly.”
You often see people in gyms with an enthusiasm to get fit that leads to them neglecting good technique. This is particularly true with strength training. Because they are trying to do too much of an exercise or work against too great a resistance their technique has gone to pieces. They are in danger of doing themselves harm. Good posture and good technique are vital for any exercise.
Bad technique puts you at risk of injury as parts of your body are taking a strain they are not designed for. This excessive strain can easily lead to injury. Bad technique means the parts of your body that should be working the hardest are not. This means that you blur the picture of what is being done by any given exercise. It may be possible, for example, to lift a heavier weight or do more repetitions of it, but if it is not the muscles that are meant to be working that are bearing the burden you have a false picture of how healthy those muscles are (as well as straining other parts of your body). It is better to be ‘honest’ and use good technique.
Bad technique also means that ‘postural’ muscles are not being called on to do their job. There are some muscles, particularly in your trunk, which have a role primarily in maintaining your posture, but other muscles are often called into action to help these out. Techniques such as Pilates work on the principle of calling muscles into action to maintain posture in a way that either isolates them or places an additional burden on them.
If you slouch at your desk you get bad posture, partly due to habit but also because the muscles that keep you sat up straight lose strength and balance. Exercise is a way of strengthening these muscles. You may be amazed at the flat stomach and shaped back of someone who seems to do very little work on their ‘abs’. But this often comes about because they maintain good posture while running, lifting weights and even picking up shopping bags. Their ‘core’ muscles are constantly being called into action and so are well trained.
Think of what you have seen or done in a Pilates or yoga class and you will realise that maintaining posture can place big demands on different muscle groups! When you start having bad technique at any activity, including sitting at your desk, it is often that these muscles are not strong enough for the job. If they are constantly in action they will be strong enough to help you maintain good posture in a variety of activities and help you to avoid injury.
Good technique and good posture is important for avoiding injury.
Some people approach exercise in an imbalanced way. Bringing balance to your training will make it more enjoyable and more effective.
A common fault is to look at one area you want to flatten or develop and focus on this too much.
It may be a desire to flatten your stomach means you spend a lot of time on similar abdominal exercises. Or for some it may mean an unusual amount of bench pressing to build up the chest or ‘pecs’. It is easy to see why people place a lot of emphasis on ‘mirror muscles’ but the best way to shape up is to do a mix of exercises.
A good regime of cardiovascular work such as running will help burn calories and keep your stomach trim and make your muscle definition look better all over your body. Exercises that also include your back muscles will help to prevent injuries due to imbalance.
Often it is not the muscles you think that cause the problem. Weak back muscles can make your posture more slouched. The result is you look as though you are carrying more weight around your middle than you are. Likewise strong upper back and shoulder muscles will give a man the V-shaped upper body more readily than lots of bench pressing. Endless arm curls to shape your arms up may seem a good idea but the shape of your arms can be more affected by the tricep muscles on the back of your arms.
Developing one set of muscles without the group that work in the opposing way can cause imbalance problems. Developing muscle groups that surround the ones you are mostly concerned about also gives you a big advantage. For example, don’t just do those endless bench press exercises to shape your chest. Do some shoulder presses, long pulls, lateral pull downs and pull ups too. These work other muscles around the chest and shoulders so they will help shape your chest and enable you to do more work on the bench/chest press than if you were just banging away at the same exercise all the time.
Establish a training routine that includes all major muscle groups. After each activity think what the closest thing to the opposite of it is. Even endurance athletes can benefit from some weight training to improve their strength and reduce their susceptibility to injury. If you have worked the front of your legs think what you can do to exercise the backs and side of them.
Those of you looking to lose weight should not be afraid of doing a few exercises on the weights. The cardiovascular exercises such as running, cycling or the cross trainer will burn calories. While it might not be such an obvious way of losing weight including strength training to your routine raises your metabolism for a prolonged period and so you keep burning the calories long after you have left the gym, gone home and eaten. If your exercise is predominantly cardio (or if you are female) you are highly unlikely to ‘bulk up’ so don’t worry about that as a danger. In fact strength training for women has many positives and when done as part of an overall fitness routine can bring big health and fitness benefits.
If you are a guy who is looking to get in shape then don’t just pound away at the weights. When you see the World’s Strongest Man Competition you will see incredibly powerful guys who don’t always have the greatest muscle definition. Mixing some cardio work in there will shift some of that layer of fat. It will also give you a bigger base of fitness or ‘conditioning’. This means you will be able to do more training and so get fitter than someone just doing weight training.
This will not only be healthier it will also make your exercise routine more varied and interesting. By alternating types of session or the muscles you are exercising within a session you allow your body more recovery time before you go back to doing similar work again.
Variety and balance will keep your interest and enhance the fitness benefits of your training.