This post was written by Max Shippee, our crossfit coach.
“I really want to work my biceps today!”
“Just your biceps?”
“Yeah, I want bigger arms.”
“Well, yeah, that too.”
“You want really strong arms, but weak shoulders?”
Bodybuilding is a funny thing. The guys who are masters of it, the real professionals of the sport, push their bodies to the limit. They are patient, disciplined sculptors of the human body. What they do is truly amazing, but they may not be at the pinnacle of fitness, and looks can be deceiving.
We, as humans, are great at finding “faults” in ourselves. Seriously, you can walk over to the mirror right now and make a list of things you want to change. As a guy, you want bigger arms, a bigger chest, and some sweet abs. As a lady, you probably want a perkier backside and a nice sleeveless-dress shoulder line, and also that little 4-pack of abs. ;)
And this is where many of us can get into trouble with the traditional body building approach to fitness. Many people don’t realize one of the judging requirements for body building competitions is symmetry. They are judged by how balanced their bodies are. If anything is out of proportion, they have points deducted. Great arms, but no shoulders? Sorry. Awesome abs, but chicken legs? No go.
Unlike those professions, however, what we “normal” people tend to do is ONLY work the parts that we want to improve. We don’t balance. We’re not symmetrical.
Now, in the best case, what this means is that as a guy you have these huge arms, with chicken legs, and neither one seems to “fit” on your body. As a lady, this means you just work on your abs all the time, and wind up not having any shape. In the worst case, this leads to unnecessary injury, since your body “thinks” it’s stronger than it is. But, being out of balance, you have certain muscle groups that aren’t up to the challenge. It’s like getting in a boxing ring, but you’ve only trained your footwork; you’re gonna have a bad time.
If you LOOK strong, and FEEL strong, you should be strong, right? Not every time. You may have great arm strength, but when your friend asks for help moving a piano, you pull your back out. Because you’ve been separating your body, isolating different parts. When it comes to getting some work done, and not just working out, muscles and the like need to coordinate and work together to make your body move in a productive way. If your body isn’t used to that, it could cause injury.
What’s the remedy?
Run, jump, push, pull. These are the movements that your body has evolved to be really quite good at. Running, jumping, pushing and pulling. Your body doesn’t activate just one muscle group at a time. It also very, very rarely moves with just one joint. Sure, you may do some single joint movement to rehab an injury, but you should be headed to a movement pattern, in relatively short order, where you can move said joint in coordination with others. All the curls in the world aren’t going to make that piano any lighter.
If you stop thinking about your workouts by body part, and instead, start thinking of general movement patterns, you are going to be engaging more of the body more often, and using your body the way it was meant to be used, instead of dividing & conquering yourself. Our most basic functional movements all fall into this pattern. A burpee is a push and a jump. A squat is a push on the ground through your legs. Picking up anything off the ground (deadlifting), is a pull with the arms, and a simultaneous push with the legs. You get the idea.
Sure, you can still do some “vanity sets” if you want towards the end of your workout (we all want abs, right?), but trying to get your whole body involved in your workout is a really good thing for sculpting your whole body and creating balance.
Run, jump, push, pull.
Give it a go; you might get both a better workout and better results!