Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gain Without The Pain

By Paul Boisvert, NSPA Conditioning Specialist, Electra Personal Training Director

It is hard to believe that anyone would commit to regular exercise intent on inflicting injury on themselves. Yet, the general population seems to display a strong inclination to avoid the basic foundations of proper exercise techniques.

Of course, no one is intentionally looking to hurt themselves. In fact, most people may think that the poor technique that they are applying will actually benefit them in some way. In other cases, proper form may raise the bar on the effort level. It is easier to cheat with sloppy form.

It is important not to confuse discomfort with pain. Without getting too scientific, there are chemical processes that are needed in order for our muscles to continually contract. One by-product of this occurrence is called lactic acid. The lactic acid produces the “burn” or discomfort that results from high intensity training. Sharp, shooting pain or numbness is usually caused by compressed nerves, over-used muscles, hyper-extended joints, or hyper-flexed joints. Improper body alignment and other bad training habits are usually the culprits. There may also be a pre-existing condition that you were not yet aware of. That’s why it is important to stay on track with your regular visits to the doctor.

Here are some things to think of when you workout.
1.Posture: Do you know what good posture actually means? Do you know how to apply it to your own body?
Start by keeping your ears in line with your shoulder. Your shoulders should stay down and back without exaggeration. Next, align your shoulder joint, hip, knees and ankles.
You will be using your upper back, hip, abdominal, and low back muscles to maintain this position. If you have poor posture, this alone will give you a workout. Apply this to strength training, aerobic workouts, and stretching. Practicing proper alignment will help the muscles throughout your body work the way they should without being pushed beyond their limits.

2.Muscle range of motion: This is a big factor in injury prevention. It is important to know the limits of the muscles you are targeting.
For example, a bench press should be performed with the range limited to a 90 degree elbow angle at the bottom of the movement. The top of the movement should be limited to the full contraction of the chest. Going beyond these ranges induces the risk of shoulder or back injury. Also, the chest does not get trained to its fullest potential. Each exercise has a primary muscle of focus. Getting to know the feel of the primary muscle and its limitations will greatly increase your overall strength and control.

3.Using the right muscles to stabilize your body:
Learn how to train the muscles of your trunk or core more effectively. They are your foundation when the intensity of an exercise picks up. Too many people call on the muscles of the upper back and neck, often causing injury. This leads to unnecessary pain that will bring about sleepless nights and missed workouts.
If this is the case, you could use the services of an Electra personal trainer to set you on the right path with more core awareness. Once you learn to call on these muscles as your base, you will benefit from less pain and more results.

There are still several other techniques that can be mastered for safer and more effective training. However, these three areas are the best places to start.
Exercise should be a major priority in your life. Without it, all your other priorities will suffer. Your health, productivity, and overall quality of life will decline at a faster rate without it. A fitness program is a worthwhile investment. A wise approach can only help you reap from the benefits and avoid setbacks.

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