Our current lifestyles are not very conducive to fighting our natural aging process. We sit at work, sit at home, lie around on the couch and, if we’re spunky enough, decide to take random, casual walks when we want to get out of the house.
In our previous article, we talked about our pre-historic friend, Katie. Without getting into too much detail, Katie had to be an athlete forever in order to survive. This worked out well because Katie was naturally moving all the time, fighting our bodies tendency to tighten in certain areas (tonic muscles) and weaken in certain areas (phasic muscles) as we age.
So since we don’t have to worry about hunting down our food or climbing a tree to escape a predator or building make-shift huts every night to have shelter, we had to develop purposeful exercise to keep ourselves functioning properly. Many of us, though, are helping the aging process with our training instead of fighting the fight. Let me explain.
If You Don’t USE IT You LOSE IT!!
As you may recall, we have tonic muscles that tighten over time. There are 8 of these muscles including the pec muscles, hamstring and calf muscles, to name a few. We also have phasic muscles that weaken over time. There are 7 of these, which include the rhomboids, obliques and glutes. If you step into a fitness center, you’ll see plenty of bench press (pecs), leg curls (hamstrings) and calf raises and few horizontal rows (rhomboids), proper abdominal work (obliques) or deadlifts (glutes). You certainly don’t want to try and bench press on Monday….that’s national bench press day at the gym.
Implementing a training routine that hits the areas that the aging process is trying to sabotage will not only help you look better, it will help you move better, feel better and perform better in the long-run.
With that in mind, it’s important to have a plan of attack when you’re heading to the gym for training. Maximizing the time that you have is something that a lot of people struggle with. Actually, time is often the excuse I hear when people don’t stretch or warm up properly and aren’t putting in regular abdominal training.
Alright, get to the point…What Am I Suppose To Do?!?
First we want to start with a proper warm up which will help stretch our tonic muscles and activate our phasic muscles. Activation is important because we want to make sure the circuits running to that particular group are awake so that they perform properly during our training. After all, if you don’t use it, you lose it.
A proper warm up can be done in 5-10 minutes. First, focusing on more low intensity, static stretching and into dynamic stretching and mobility work. Here’s a quick example:
- Can Opener Stretch – 30 Seconds/side
- Quad/Hip Flexor Stretch – 5 Rocks/side
- Spiderman with T-Spine Rotation – 5 Rotations/side
- Single-Leg Hip Bridges with static hold – 5 reps w/ 5 second holds
- Elbow Pushups – 8 Repetitions total
- Plan Circuit (Front, Side, Side) – 20 Seconds for each plank variation
Notice our first group is low intensity coupled with easy mobility work, while our second group slightly more intense focused on activating our phasic muscles (in this case the glutes, rhomboids, deep abdominals and obliques).
During our training routine, we want to focus on developing strength where we need it while continuing to stretch or mobilize the areas that are tight. Again, grouping your exercises together will give the most bang-for-your-buck when it comes to time. Here are 2 groups that would be great for developing strength in the tonic muscles while stretching the phasic muscles:
- Kettlebell Deadlift (Strengthen glutes, stretch hamstrings)
- Half Kneeling Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Strengthen deltoids, strengthen obliques)
- Assisted Leg Lower (Stretch hamstrings, stretch calves, strengthen deep abdominals)
- Offset Split Squat (Strengthen glutes, strengthen obliques, stretch psoas)
- Inverted Row (Strengthen rhomboids, strengthen mid-back)
- Suitcase Carry (Strengthen obliques, strengthen glutes, strengthen deep abs, strengthen deltoids…yeah, pretty much everything)
Notice that each exercise in our routine is not only helping one area, but multiple areas. Good training doesn’t only make you stronger or bigger or help you look better. Good training should also be preventative and rehabilitative (if you’re recovering from an injury).
Do your body a favor. Give it the best chance you can to allow it to function as well as it can for as long as it can. Making some changes to your program here and there to maximize your time and get your best results will be great for the long-run.