Let me set the scene: it was the morning after I broke my arm while snowboarding at Beaver Creek with my good friends Rob and Colleen. Our plan was to ‘board two more days. Instead, I was conquering the challenges of a different mountain-overcoming a broken humerus and thumb. I soon found out that I needed to re-learn every “simple” movement that I had previously taken for granted. Every move became a torso/core exercise. Just sitting up from a pullout bed to go to the bathroom took me what felt like 10 minutes. To say that it was extremely challenging to try and move that first morning would be an understatement. I immediately realized that if I did not engage my abdominals with maximum concentration, my arm would naturally move to help me stand. And when it did, boy, did I feel those broken bones dangling about! I couldn’t help but think what people without strength would have to do just to move. I’m fairly strong but someone with less hip, leg and abdominal strength would have an impossible time with what I would now be facing–from sitting up to brushing my teeth.
From the very first day of my injury, it’s been an ongoing education. My injury has been a not-too-subtle reminder that all movement is an integrated experience. Even lifting a weight with one arm translates throughout your entire muscular-skeletal system. The mind and body must work together to allow you to move, with muscles working as movers (angonists), antagonists (muscles working in opposition of movers) stabilizers and neutralizers. Think of muscles working like lights on a dimmer. They can be at full strength (as bright as possible) or weakened (dimmed low). A muscle’s neuromuscular strength can be affected by many variables: injury, posture, repetitive stress, nutrition and even food allergies. The bone break I experienced turned the muscles in my arm completely off for several reasons one being because using those muscles would have caused me great pain so they received limited calls to activate.
I’m sharing my story to make a point: strength matters. Strength helps you live independently, recover faster, do fun and challenging things (think white water rafting), have better posture, feel empowered and perform seemingly simple everyday tasks, like walking up a set of stairs. And strength is not just about weight training, but encompasses many things. Strength for life is about having muscle balance, body awareness and belief in yourself.
Here are your keys to building strength in the gym:
*Get started with an exercise program where you have at least two days dedicated to weight training.
*Studies have shown that performing two sets of 8-12 repetitions is good for a beginner, but progressing to three sets or more will produce optimal results.
*Train under control and with a full range of motion! Get your ego out of the way and lift a weight you can handle. Start with a tempo of two seconds up(concentric) and two seconds down(eccentric).
*Change things up every 4-6 weeks. Your body adapts to the the stress you place on it, so changing your exercise variables can be as simple as changing the order of your exercises, the tempo of movement, the time you rest between sets, altering your base of support and even shifting intention.
*Allow yourself time to recover. Some people want to train, train and train some more. This is not necessarily the way to achieve better results. Give yourself 24 hours to 48 hours of recovery after intense days of training. A lighter training day can be used as a recovery day. We call these organization days in Nimble Fitness.
*Of course, if you are interested in learning more, contact me.