Hello everybody! Welcome back to my blog. The purpose of this blog is to help people find their way to a healthier lifestyle. I mostly talk about exercise and its science, which is my area of expertise, but I also talk about nutrition, sleeping habits and many other subjects related to wellbeing and healthy lifestyle.
A few months ago, I shared a pretty popular post about girls’ and boys’ behaviours on the gym floor, and it gave me some inspiration and ideas for other posts. That’s how the section “Fitness myths” was born. Check them all out if you haven’t seen them yet!
Today I would like to talk about the importance of working out the whole body.
How many times have you gone to the gym and you’ve seen the guys working out chest and biceps? It seems like it’s the favourite routine for male. The few ones that have an idea of what they’re doing include 1 or 2 leg days a week. But leg workouts are “for the girls” some of them would say. The truth is, there are many benefits you get from doing a full body workout. Yes, this means exercising your whole body every time you go to the gym or do a fitness session.
- In our every day life, we move our whole body.
Since the moment you wake up, you use your whole body (unless you have a condition or an injury). In our everyday life we need to move a large proportion of our body in order to perform the tasks. When we walk, clean the house, cook our food, do the groceries, we use our legs as much as we do our arms. Doing exercises that implicate a great amount of muscles will help us do this every day tasks autonomously, especially as we grow older. Some functional training exercises mimic these activities. For example, farmer walks have a lot of transference to carrying the shopping bags, kettlebell snatches have transference to lifting up a box or a little kid, and dumbbell chops are great exercises for woodcutters!
There are many other examples, and trainers have the ability to adjust some exercises to someone’s necessities. For example, an interesting exercise for elderly people is “tidy up the weights”. It basically consists on putting some weights on the floor performing a good technique and then putting them back on their place. The weights will depend on the individual’s level, and the trainer will make sure that the technique is correctly applied and both sides of the body are equally used. This exercise will help these elder people to put their groceries away and tidy up their houses, adding more quality to their lives. Some younger people should add this exercise to their routines, maybe that way we won’t struggle finding the dumbbells.
- Squat now and stand up by yourself when you’re 80.
What’s the very first exercise you do when you get up from your bed? Next time you get up, pay attention: you’re doing a squat.
Some elderly people have difficulties getting up from bed or from a chair, they need help from someone or something. This is because a number of reasons, and one of them is the weakness of the leg muscles and bones. And you might ask, how does exercise help the bones? It has been demonstrated that exercise increase bond density, but that’s a subject for another post.
But you not only need strong quadriceps to get up. You also need to balance your body with your CORE (abdominal and lower back muscles).
Squat is the only exercise I strongly encourage my clients to do, even if they absolutely hate them. There are alternatives, but in my opinion it’s the most important exercise of them all. The primary target muscles involved in a squat are quadriceps, gluteus Maximus and hip flexors (rectus femoris, which is one of the quadriceps, iliacus, psoas, iliocapsularis, and sartorius). The secondary muscles are calves, hamstrings, lower back muscles and very important, the abdominal muscles (preventing you from losing balance). There are many different types of squats, and every of them target these muscles in a different proportion.
Strengthening all these muscles through squats is not only beneficial for sitting and standing: walking, lifting something from the floor, playing with your kids and a number of other activities will profit from squats.
- There’s more transference to other physical activities.
Have you ever practiced a sport in which you use just one part of your body? (apart from chess). From one of the most static sports (golf) to one of the most dynamic sports (running), you use your whole body to perform movement. Some sport requires running, fast reaction, jumping, going on the floor and back (volleyball), and it’s important to exercise all the muscles in order to be ready for the high demand.
For example, a great tennis player will hit the ball using the strength from their tippy toes to the fingers. This way, it gives more speed to the ball and it will prevent from injuries.
It’s also essential to bear in mind that, even though some sports (such as racket sports) use more one part of the body than the other (following the example, in racket sports the players use one arm more than the other), we must exercise both sides of the body in order to compensate the strength, so we don’t grow one arm bigger and stronger than the other.
- It’s more fun and diverse.
People are getting very creative about the exercises they do for chess and biceps. It’s no wonder they do such thing. It is extremely boring to do the same biceps curls and hammers exercises every time. Some fitness gurus come up with impossible exercises and ideas, which ordinary people may find unthinkable. Maybe the solution for this boring routines is working out more muscles on the same session (remember that this blog is for ordinary people who want to improve their health and fitness, not for professional weight lifters).
In my experience, people engage more and enjoy further when we do a functional training session. They mobilise their whole body and they feel overall better. Lifting weights tends to be very static, some people even sit down to perform a biceps curl. After a day sitting in the office, they go to the gym to sit down on a bench!
Especially if you’re a beginner and you’re looking for a healthier lifestyle, mobilise your whole body is of great importance.
- You avoid imbalance between upper and lower body.
Beyond the aesthetics of a well balanced body, a stronger upper body and weaker lower body and the other way around may lead to injury. Same happens with the right and left side of the body. To avoid these injuries, it’s necessary that we workout everything equally.
Pubalgia (imbalance between the adductor muscles and the abdominal muscles in the groin) is a common injury in soccer players caused by an imbalanced use of one leg (when kicking the ball or landing on the same leg repeatedly after a jump). The soccer player needs to work out both legs, despite the major use of one of them. They’ll also need to work out the abdominal muscles.
This is an example of injury that may be caused by muscle imbalance. There are many other situations in which we can suffer from a muscular imbalance.
A little tip to consider when working out alternating right and left, is starting the set with the weaker arm or leg. Count how many you can do with the weaker one and do the same number of reps with the same load with the stronger one, even though you’re capable of doing more with it. Once the weaker one catches up with the stronger one, you can increase the weight.
- What’s up with your CORE?
As I mentioned before, CORE is that middle part of your body that balances up upper and lower body (basically abdominal muscles, lower back muscles and pelvic floor). Have you ever tried to go on one leg without engaging your CORE muscles? Try to do it: put your hands around your heaps and feel your muscles getting tighter when you lift one foot from the floor. If you don’t contract these muscles, you’ll fall.
To exercise the CORE muscles, we don’t need to do 100 crunches or 1 minute planks, although they’re interesting ways of working out the abs. The best way to improve your CORE strength is engaging it in every other exercise. That way, you will work out your abs every time you do any type of physical activity.
- Ladies (and gentlemen), let’s talk about Kegel.
Focused on strengthening the muscles of the pelvic floor, Kegel exercises should be an important part of every woman routine, and nowadays there are studies that show the benefits for male too. The pelvic floor is the base of the CORE muscles. Some of the benefits from having a strong pelvic floor are: incontinence prevention (avoiding urine leakage) which is very common in pregnancy and elderly, it helps during pregnancy, because these muscles work harder in this state (they support the weight of the baby) and during delivery, making the woman more capable of pushing harder. It also improves sexual life, helping erectile function and ejacualtion in men, and making it more pleasurable for women through voluntary contractions.
To exercise these tricky muscles, imagine you’re holding the pee and at the same time, tuck your stomach in. In a more simple way, imagine you have a little cherry and you need to hold it so it doesn’t fall. Pregnant woman can imagine that they’re hugging their baby with the internal walls of the abdomen.
That’s it for today! I really hope that you enjoy and it gave you an idea of how important it is to workout full body. If you like what I do and you want to support this project, follow me on Instagram and Facebook, like the post and comment! Thank you!