“May I tell you a secret?” Does this question take you back to the schoolyard where your best friend runs to you at recess to share some sweet morsel of information that’s to be held tightly just between the two of you? Or does it pique your interest because you’re a learner and you want to know and implement the latest health tip so you can get a jump start on your New Year’s resolution? Either way, I’ll share with you my top 3 secrets to a better workout…on two conditions. You must implement these secrets into your fitness program to the best of your ability, and then share them with those you are inspiring to better health. These secrets are too good to keep to yourself!
Assuming you agreed to my conditions, read on.
- STAY BALANCED as it relates to muscle compensation and adaptation. We must fight muscle imbalance by keeping our fitness routine varied by muscle group as well as exercise choice. More specifically, we want to train muscles in both directions and be careful not to show favoritism: for every “pull” exercise, balance the workout with a “push” exercise (if pushups are a favorite exercise of yours, balance them out by adding resisted pull-backs or rows to your routine on pushup day). In terms of adaptation, we want to cross-train muscles and movement patterns to avoid physical plateaus and mental boredom. Both of these are detrimental to our fitness goals!
- GET UNCOMFORTABLE. This one is one of my favorite secrets (and probably my class’s least favorite). When my class hears me say “don’t get too comfortable,” they suddenly pay more attention and reset a proper workout position, miraculously moving in such a way that I can actually see that they are working harder and smarter. As we all know, the path of least resistance is popular because it’s easier. In my experience, easier is rarely better, and it requires effort to take the better path. What I have found is that movement that originates from the strongest position is the more beneficial exercise, though perhaps less comfortable. A good example of this can be felt during a side-lying inner thigh exercise. If it’s executed with a strong body that is propped up by a strong shoulder press (ribs up and away from the floor) and is rolled forward at the hips (not resting back), the inner thigh will work harder and more efficiently. This makes for a better workout – though sinking into the position would be more comfortable! Go ahead. Try it yourself. You will be uncomfortable, but you will get stronger as a result.
- BE FLEXIBLE. This one sounds friendlier (and easier) doesn’t it? Don’t skip over this one though. Flexibility plays a huge role in our overall physical health and wellness. It promotes balance between movement, strength and functionality. Without it, dysfunction will show itself in another part of the body. Let me say that again. Without proper flexibility, which requires time and intentionality, dysfunction will show itself in a part of the body different than where we are experiencing tightness. For example, when our hip flexors are tight (often the result of too much sitting), our gluteal muscles of the buttocks will be weak. This tight/weak combination shows itself in a variety of dysfunctional movement patterns so stretching the hip flexors is recommended. Do this from a kneeling position with one knee down. Gently lunge forward from the hips until you feel a stretch in the top of the thigh. Flexibility training like this will pay off in better range of motion, muscle growth, less post-exercise soreness, improved functionality, and increased muscle strength. Remember, a flexible muscle is a strong muscle.
So now it’s time to apply these secrets personally…and then share them with those you are inspiring to better health. Some secrets are sweeter when they’re shared!
Amy Stafford, www.bodyandsoul.org