A ‘How To’ guide to exercise:
I love sport and the study of sports in relation to the body. However I know to most people the subject of anatomy or biomechanics in exercise can seem really dry. So today I wanted to do a simple “How To” when it comes to exercise. The three main things you need to concentrate on (in my humble opinion) are:
The science behind exercise is ever evolving and they’re constantly improving and changing the “correct” way to exercise but despite all that, a good rule of thumb is; if it hurts, stop. I don’t simply mean you’ve walked the stairs instead of taken the elevator and your legs are tired, but rather stop if you feel as though you are injuring yourself. This can be a tricky concept when it comes to pole and aerials because there are a few tricks out there that may always hurt in some way.
This is where your knowledge or the knowledge of the people instructing you will come in handy.
While I would normally never tell anyone to google for study guide references (one thing I actually remember from my Uni days) I’m not expecting everyone’s knowledge to be at tertiary level. So sometimes (and if you’re interested) it can be beneficial to brush up on some anatomy, even if it means just checking out a muscular system from google images and how they interact together. Knowing what it is you are specifically working on in relation to your body will also help you to workout smarter. Knowing how to identify what area/trick you want to work on will help you pick exercises that target your body more specifically. While this is easier when it comes to learning a specific trick on your chosen apparatus it’s more difficult when it comes to the strength aspect of class.
This then leads in to posture and technique.
Most people when doing strength may not even know that there is a more efficient way to exercise than what they’ve been doing all their life. Not only that but they might not have ever been taught how to do exercises but just given the basic information on what you do. Eg; the squat (eek) you either love it or hate it. When I talk about knowing your exercise the difference I mean is compared to someone telling you how to do a squat:
“Bend down at the knees and hips and come back up.”
Compared to someone teaching you how to squat:
“Head face forward, back straight; bend at the knees and hips, keep your bottom back like you’re sitting in a chair, knees stay in line with the toes, etc.”
Posture/technique is one of the biggest issues with exercising incorrectly. Most of what we are going to learn will come from watching someone and mimicking their movement. DON’T PANIC! You haven’t been doing things wrong for past whole of your life. Generally it just means that we are exercising a whole muscle group rather than the specific muscles within a group. Eg: Leg raises will help work the lower layer of abdominals for greater strength when piking or straddling compared to your basic sit up. This will work not only those muscles but also others around them so that you will be stronger in that general area but if you want to focus on straight leg straddles it may just take a few more sessions to fine tune. You will however be that little bit closer to that six pack. If you are unsure of the correct posture in an exercise my advice would be to ask the people who are teaching you or training you. Google at this point is a definite no no.(Mostly due to conflicting information) Posture/technique in this instance will greatly depend on what you are doing. For example the way you position your body in the splits in a gymnastics class versus a ballet class can be different.
While this can be the same for general fitness based exercises, for the most part it will just be similar to the specific individual muscle and groups of muscle analogy I went through earlier. Everyone will likely have their own way of doing things. Like I mentioned, exercise is always changing. You need to know and listen to your body. When it comes to the technique that works for you, ask everybody to show AND explain to you how they do it. Correct posture is easier to identify if you have more knowledge of the muscles and how to work them at an individual level.
Only go as fast through an exercise as you can keep your posture, you should never lose your technique in the middle of an exercise. This is when we get injured. I know what it’s like wanting to get through strength as fast as possible, but at no time during your workout should you look like you’re drowning on dry land. Control and execution will help build your strength quicker. Smashing out 30 push ups in a row in 30 seconds (while impressive) likely means you are relaxing your posture. It would be more beneficial for your muscles to do less, but technically correct exercises, which guarantees that you are working specifically on the muscles you are supposed to be training. Going through the exercises slower is also a basic way to help improve your endurance levels.
Remember. The three main things you need to concentrate on are:
Knowing: Make sure you understand why you are doing a particular exercise/trick and the muscles involved (and not just because your instructor told you to).
Posture/Technique: Learning how to do a trick or exercises and how to do them correctly, making sure you maintain it throughout the entire exercise
Speed: Slow and steady wins the race. Be efficient not fast. If you go too fast you have to work almost twice as hard for similar results. (All those bad posture repetitions don’t count).
Last tip: For general overall fitness, work out larger muscle groups; squats, burpees, planks. For more result based exercise, break everything down and work each muscle as specifically as possible. Just like any type of life goal, you need to be specific and think long term.