Friday, February 8, 2008

Train Movements, Not Muscles

The human body is a complex machine. I'd go so far as to say that no one in the world really has a full understanding of how it works. So it's understandable that many people are confused when it comes to the best ways to exercise in order to improve the body.

One problem is that beginning lifters tend to think in terms of muscles instead of movements. They walk into the gym thinking that they need to build stronger triceps or quads or focus on some other specific muscle group. But that's not how your body works.

Your body works as a unit. No single muscle or muscle group works independently of the others, so it makes little sense to train a specific muscle or group independently.

Instead of focusing on muscles, training should focus on movements: pushing, pulling, squatting, etc. Training movements will exercise your body in the way that it works in real-life scenarios: as a complete unit working to exert force on an exterior object. This will lead to better strength gains and will actually prevent or correct many of the strength and physique imbalances that lifters typically try to fix by focusing on a specific muscle.

So what does that mean for your workout? It means forget the exercises that isolate one muscle (bicep curls, tricep pull-downs, etc.) and instead focus on the exercises that use a large number of muscles in a coordinated fashion (Squat, Deadlift, Press, etc.). These large-scaled coordinated exercises are called compound movements.

If you took two people whose muscles were capable of exactly equal amounts of force production, but one trained with isolation exercises while the other trained with compound movements, the person who used compound movements would be able to move more weight around in real-life scenarios.

Think of it this way: if you're trying to lift a couch (my favorite example!), it doesn't matter how strong your hamstrings, glutes, quads, back, shoulders and grip muscles are. What matters is how strong your Deadlift is. Why? Because the Deadlift is a coordinated movement involving all of the muscles that you'd use to pick up a couch. Not only does the Deadlift increase the strength of all the muscles used, but it also trains them to work together. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts!

Training 2-7-08

3 x 5 x 265
2 x 4 x 265

Bench Press
2 x 5 x 235
4 x 235
3 x 235
4 x 235

5 x 335

0 x 100
1 x 100
6 x 50

5 x 100

Comments: My past few workouts have been too slow. Today we were filming for my American Gladiators audition stuff, which slowed it down. But overall I need to work on keeping my focus and blowing through the work with intensity. Lost reps on Squats and Bench, losing reps on Deadlift feels close. Chinups and Dips were mainly to get video for AG.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Good luck with the Gladiators tryouts!