Have you ever stopped to think what exercise really is?
In this world where there is a plethora of exercises, what is it really?
Is it movement? Is it a bunch of rules to follow? Is it a sequence of movement to do? How about yoga, pilates, walking, skiing? Where and how do those fit in the exercise world?
Exercise comes down to Resistance.
Gravity, law or reciprocity, law of inertia..all those affect our bodies and hence should be taken into consideration when doing exercise. So whether we’re doing yoga or running, we need to work first on improving our muscular ability to deal with internal and external resistance ie forces. What that means is that it all really begins with how well you can FLEX your muscles in order to move your body. Instead of doing the push ups and hoping it would magically make your chest super strong, you need to first be able to flex your pecs. Then learn how to use your pecs to lower yourself towards the floor and push yourself back up into a push up motion. Remember, not the other around. Your push ups will only make your chest strong if you’re using those muscles to perform the push ups. Sounds obvious? You wouldn’t believe how many people are doing push ups but feeling everything working except for their chest muscles*! When we fail to focus on what we’re using to perform the exercise, we tend to use our strongest muscles (the body always sends it’s best players to the game) and if you’ve got an underused chest, they’re probably not coming to work in your pushups. That means your chest muscles aren’t getting stronger and the other surrounding muscles are getting overworked thus causing potential muscular imbalances. That’s the recipe for tightness and joints aches and pains.
Fun activity for you today: How many muscles can you consciously flex? Can you do it just as well on the other side and if not, what exercise could be contributing to this muscular imbalance?
To conclude, here’s my recommendation: Slow and controlled. If you’ve done the fitness thing for a while and feeling stuck and injured, it might be time to take the road less travelled. Slower reps increases muscle recruitment as you focus more on flexing and tensing the targeted muscles and focus less on performing the motion. This will decrease chances of injury as you control the movements to what you can tolerate.
More results with less breaking down sounds like an upgrade right?:)
* Note: We’re assuming in this push up example that the goal of doing a push up is to increase chest muscle strength. Push ups can also be used to focus on other areas such as triceps or abs. If you’re looking for more tricep strength in your push ups, then switch the focus to flexing triceps instead of pecs.