In today’s world of fitness there is no shortage of traditional gyms, home workout programs, non-traditional workout studios, YouTube workout routines, and tons and tons of content online about everything from nutrition to developing a shredded body. I love that so many people are getting into fitness and that the industry is exploding the way it is. I realize people have different reasons for working out. Some people just want to lose weight, whether that be a few pounds to fit into that new dress or a few hundred pounds to escape being trapped inside their own bodies. Others just want to look good on the beach, attract a new partner, rekindle the flame in an existing relationship, or just look good for themselves. Regardless of your goal, reason, method, or motivation, understanding the basics fitness will help you reach that goal not only more efficiently but also more safely.
Why Focus on the Basics ?
So much has been lost about natural movement patterns, functional workouts, and basic technique that are important to understand in order to get the most out of your workout. These basics have been replaced with the strong focus on appearance and exercise fads that don’t last and in some cases aren’t healthy.
I get it. The basics don’t sounds as sexy or as fresh and innovative as some of the other workouts available but if you don’t have the basics down first you may be setting yourself up for injury, failure, or dissatisfaction in your results. Also, without understanding the basics it hard to get the most out of any work routine. Think of the basics as the blueprint and instructions for constructing a house. Your body is the materials the house will be built with and the workouts you select are your tools for building. Of course, you can decide you really enjoy using a hammer but hate using a saw and that building doorframes is your thing but you can’t stand doing roof work. Unfortunately, if you focus too much on that one tool or one type of construction you will not be able to construct your house. You want to build in a logical order and build what is needed according to the blueprint. Many of the various traditional or non-traditional workouts are tools that can be fit into the blueprint but it’s important you understand how they fit and if you need to supplement them with anything else.
Be Three Dimensional
Our bodies are designed to move in three planes of motion, namely, sagittal or front to back movements, frontal or side to side movements, and transverse or rotational movements across the body. When it comes to some of the popular workout programs, many are focused on working out in the sagittal plane. The unfortunately thing is that most injuries that people experience happen while moving in the transverse plane, which is partly due to the lack of focus on this plane of motion. Working out in all three planes of motion helps develop the body in a balanced and functional way. When it comes to thinking about functional movement, think about the type of activities you do daily. What movements do you do daily that are important for your typical actions? There is nothing wrong with wanting a tight butt and banging out squats and lunges to get there or wanting a nice chest and living on the bench to achieve that goal. It’s just important to consider the other planes of motion and to think about what you need to add to your workout to make sure you are doing exercises in all three planes.
Working opposing muscle groups is a must. Taking things back to my example of wanting a tight butt or a huge chest. When doing any workout you need to think about what the opposing muscle group is and balance out the body by developing these groups evenly. If you have a heavy chest day make sure you spend equal time on your back. If your biceps are your focus one day make sure your triceps get an equal amount of love. Think of it this way; for every pushing motion there should be a pulling motion to balance it out otherwise you will develop muscle imbalances.
Many people who sit all day at work have muscle imbalances due to immobility but so do others who hit the hard gym because they aren’t balancing workouts across opposing muscle groups but according to the muscle group they want to make look good.
Gumby Can Bench More Than You
Most people know that it is important to stretch and loosen your muscles up to reduce the risk of injury. However, outside of the Yoga and Martial Arts world, flexibility gets little attention. This attention is especially lost among people who are focused on strength training. The thing is that flexibility is essential for all workouts because your level of flexibility will determine you available range of motion. If you are not flexible enough to move a muscle all the way through its intended range of motion, you will not be able to fully develop that muscle. As you workout and breakdown your muscles, they heal in a shorter state than they were in prior to that workout. Each time this happens the muscle become tighter and tighter and your range of motion becomes shorter and shorter. You ever see that guy at the gym who is huge but looks like he couldn’t reach up to scratch his head if his life depended on it? He doesn’t stretch very much. So if you want that body you desire, remember, stretching to keep your muscle flexible is not only important to avoid injury but also to avoid limiting your ability to develop that muscle.
Diamonds are Forever
Now I want to discuss a topic that really gets overlooked and that is the concept of time under tension. Everyone knows that it takes a lot of pressure and time to develop one of the hardest materials on the planet, a diamond. However, it also takes a lot of pressure and time to develop a muscle. When working out people often focus on just the exercises motion but often overlook the fact that the amount of time the muscle is under tension from the weight it is resisting correlates to how much that muscle will develop. Basically the slower you do your exercise movement, the more you will get out of it. This does not mean moving through the motion quickly and then resting longer. It means moving through the motion slowly so that the muscle is under tension longer. For example, if you’re doing a 12 repetition exercise, you should be spending 50-60 seconds on that set. If you’re doing it faster than that you are missing an opportunity to gain more from your workout. Again, don’t increase rest time between reps but increase the amount of time your were in the motion of the exercise.
Elijah is the co-founder of gymsguide.com.au and a fitness fanatic. Over the years he has been featured in many articles in the wide world of weightlifting and athletic training. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org