In my last article I introduced you to the Proud Body Program. I discussed some general concepts and suggested some homework to help you get started. In this next installment I’m going to discuss another aspect of physical health, your Body Mechanics or how well your body moves.
Your body is a kinetic chain. An injury of the foot could result in neck pain. Tightness in one muscle could be the result of shortness in another. Your body needs to be in healthy working order for the sum of all the parts to work together with ease and in harmony.
As an example, many guys spend too much time at the gym working their chest, resulting in forward rounded shoulders. They are setting themselves up for an injury or major discomfort about the shoulder joint later in life. It’s the Monday gym ritual: chest first. For optimal balance you should be ‘pulling’ as much as ‘pushing’, i.e. as many dumbbell rows and barbell rowing type movements for as many chest pressing movements. Ideally, your back muscles should be able to pull as much weight as the chest can push. But it’s not just bench pressing that may be the result of rounded shoulders. Most of us sit for a large part of our day, and if that sitting is at a desk in front of a computer, that posture itself is one that leads to slouching, a rounded back, head and shoulders forward while typing.
So what is good posture? Anatomically healthy standing posture as viewed from the side looks like this: you should be able to draw a straight, vertical line through the mid-point of your ear falling directly through the midpoint of the side of your shoulder and centerline of your hip. You should not be able to see any of your upper back from the side view and there should be very little curve in the neck.
If your head is poking forward of the centerline of the body and if your shoulders are rounded forward and if you can see your shoulder blades from the side view, you will need to strengthen the muscles of the back that involve retracting (pulling back) the shoulder blades. You might not have developed this posture from benching, but it’s possible that your ratio of benching (pressing) to horizontal pulling (back exercises like rows) is not equal and favours the chest. If your posture is out of alignment as described above you should favour rowing type movements until the imbalance is corrected.
Remember what your mama used to say? “Sit up straight!”, and “Stand tall, shoulders back, head up!” She was right. Posture is key to optimal body mechanics and you should investigate your posture, both sitting and standing, or hire someone qualified to assess your posture and advise on corrective exercises. How you walk (your gait) is also part of this picture.
Analogous to my suggestion that you should push (bench press) as much as pull (rows), you need to lengthen your muscles at least as much as you shorten them. Properly applied stretching techniques, as part of your total fitness programming, will result in the reduction of mechanical injuries playing sports or lifting weights.
In addition, the longer your muscle fibers the more opportunity for muscle growth. Short, tight muscles not only limit your ability to produce strength and muscle growth, but once again you are waiting for an injury. A tight muscle will reduce optimal range of motion about the joint, causing bone to rub against bone, wearing down the joint membrane and pinching nerves restricting nerve flow.
So what do you do? Knowledge is power so study the subject or hire a competent trainer who’s knowledgeable in body mechanics and can design a program to fit your current needs. Ask yourself these questions: ‘Does it make sense to lift weights that are more than my body weight if I have no idea what I’m doing?’ And, ‘Is it possible I could hurt myself?’ Just as you are required to pass an exam to drive a car, you need to know about what you are doing to your body, in its current state, when you start an exercise program.
In the next two articles I will teach you what you need to know about stretching and a general upper and lower body stretching routine. After that you can look forward to the first strength training stage of the Proud Body Program.
© 2012 Darren Stehle. All Rights Reserved.