How To Get Strong

Lifting more weight is a measure of strength, BUT not if your body is compensating around weaknesses and avoiding certain functions. The real feat is getting your body to do what it doesn’t want to do, to develop muscles that aren’t developed- unlocking functional strength that translates to better biomechanics.

The more weight you lift can make you stronger but if you don’t address the way your body compensates (consciously and subconsciously) to make it easier, then you’re just compounding dysfunctional tendencies. For example, when you curl heavy weight your biceps are working but your hips might be shifting forward to use momentum to help your arms lift the weight. When your hips are shifting forward, your lumbar spine is forced to act as a lever and compression builds in your lumbar vertebrae from repetitive misuse.

Getting your body to do what it doesn’t want to do might mean lifting less weight, but your structure is able to address its weak links and that is where strength originates. The sturdier your structure, stationery and in motion, the more concentrated force you can accumulate to produce power, without compromising form and causing pain.

Without feeling what we’re describing, you simply don’t know what we’re talking about. You have to feel it to know it. When you experience a properly executed exercise for the first time, and you’re shaking, sweating, breathing heavy, elevating your heart rate, and fatiguing muscles in regions that usually don’t activate… and you haven’t even touched a weight yet, you’ll know you’re fighting against your weaknesses. After all, if exercise is easy then you’re just going through the motions and defaulting to your body’s comfort zone. And that really isn’t getting you stronger the way you think it is. Exposing your dysfunctions and addressing those weaknesses will result in strength, without pain, spinal compression, joint aches, and injuries coming along for the ride.

Set up your initial workout with one of our trainers to start building functional strength, without setting yourself up for pain and injury down the road.

Muscle “Parts”

The function of individual muscles work together, through a (kinetic) chain reaction, to produce function for the entire body. So while we can try to train our muscles one at a time in the gym (you really can’t), in reality all of the muscles work together to move your body.

Constantly contracting the muscles in isolated exercises causes disconnections in the kinetic chain. Just like a chain that has missing or rusty links, won’t be as strong as a fully functioning new chain.

Every rep that you train a muscle to work by itself, apart from the rest of the chain it’s connected to, trains your brain to severe the built in muscle connections. Like a popular boy band when the lead singer will try to branch out into a career of his own, only to discover that he is nothing without the other members of his band.

Your muscles were designed to work as a team and should be trained together to condition total body integration, the way your body functions day to day. You can’t just use your bicep to take a sip of water, your shoulders are working, your pecs and lats are controlling the shoulder, your triceps are eccentrically loading, and your wrist and forearm muscles are involved. This simple example is used to illustrate the complexities of movement and how a movement might look like it’s controlled by a certain muscle, but not without the assistance of other muscles.

A more complex example is how you use your legs to walk but your legs are also being propelled by your torso and arms working in reciprocation to balance out the forces acting on it. Try walking down the street or across the room without moving your arms or your ribcage and see how awkward that feels. See, you can’t isolate one muscle at a time, not even in a very basic fundamental movement like walking. If your arms are swinging and your ribcage is turning, the muscles that attach to those structures are working. They might not look like an exaggerated exercise like a tricep extension, a chest press, or an oblique wood chop exercise, but they are working, otherwise you couldn’t move.

Exercises are exaggerated to stimulate the muscular system to strengthen and condition muscle functions, so that basic movements like walking, or even playing sports, becomes more efficient and less cumbersome on the body. Like studying hard for school projects only to find that after graduation, the job in the real world doesn’t require such scrutiny as your teachers placed on your grade.

So with the right exercise, your body can learn to exercise as one unit, in order to function efficiently as one unit in the real world. The way our body’s naturally move. Remember, in reality you can’t isolate one muscle at a time, any time you want to work just one muscle, some other muscle is supporting it, working with it, or counter balancing it, so there is always multiple muscle functions going on at once. Since your time exercising is only for a brief segment of your day, that time should be spent conditioning your body for the reality it will live in.

Work with our team of human biomechanics specialists to get the dose of exercise your body actually needs. Resulting in the strength and function you actually want!

Reciprocity

What goes up, must come down, what goes left, goes right. Basic principles that can be used to train functions for the body, specifically with exercises that reinforce basic human movement patterns.

One pattern that accounts for moving your body is referred to as contralateral reciprocation. It’s primarily explained as your arms and legs working in uniform opposition- right arm swings forward as your left leg kicks back, and vice versa with the arm and leg on the other side of your body, to rhythmically propel yourself through space.

Watch any person walk or run (and even throw) and you’ll see reciprocal functions taking place throughout their body. Ipsilaterally and contralaterally. It’s a trait that the human body has developed as a result of its movement patterns.

Since the human body primarily operates through a series of reciprocal actions, you can use the principle of reciprocity and apply it to exercises in a way that replicates how the body moves in reality.

Realistically, walking is a, taken for granted, movement that your body does the most. If you want to get “strong” in a way that matters for the world you’re living in, get better at strengthening your body to master the mechanics behind walking, and running… (and throwing). That way you built your body to be resilient for what it endures on a daily basis, and to better withstand the damage from gravity and the force it places on your body.

Let’s reign this back in to, the title of this post: Reciprocity, and why it’s a piece of the puzzle to overall better movement.

If you study the patterns of human movement you’ll find that the body is constantly reciprocating, from basic examples like agonist and antagonist muscles- as one muscle contracts, the one opposite of it it, stretches. And the  timing of the inhale and exhale of your breathing mechanics. Then to the mechanics of contralateral reciprocation like walking, sprinting, kicking, punching, a golf swing, even a baseball pitch. And to more advanced reciprocation, like the micro sequences within oppositional motion. Like the Yin and the Yang, without one, you’d have too much of the other, and that would throw out the balance.

Let’s circle that back to exercise and “training” the body. Training doesn’t always need to be referred to as physical. With the right kind of exercise you should be training your brain and body, and using stimuli to condition the desired response you want for your body, or brain. If you understand that mechanisms in the body work in reciprocation then you can use exercise as form of stimuli to condition more harmony within the body. Exercises that revolve around the principles within gait (walking, running, throwing) involve contralateral reciprocation patterns of movement that communicate to the brain, that the body is in harmony with its biology- how humans evolved to move.

Think about it this way- an upright chest press, with a step, is reinforcing movement patterns that align with human movement, and reconditioning the neuromuscular system to achieve a more rewarding response. Versus, squatting with a bar on your neck, and lifting the weight up and down, or using a dumbbell to pump out 20 reps of curls for big arms- with no regard to what’s going on with the rest of your body. Have you consider that because the body works in harmony and integrates muscles to work synergistically at once, that isolating one muscle to work one at a time, creates disconnections in your neuromuscular system. So, which form of exercise do you think would create more symbiosis versus division in the body? No more Yin and Yang together.

While there is still much more to account for in terms of exercising, training, principles, function, and reciprocity, this was written with the intent to create a different way to think about exercise. And the effects it has on your body, function, wellbeing, and longevity. As we learn more about the human body and how it operates, we can finally become more intelligent with the way we exercise. No longer for sport or ego, because those aren’t healthy for your body and more importantly you can’t sustain the behavior.  So you spend a few years looking good, maybe even feeling good without joint pain, but eventually it’ll catch up to you and you won’t be able to move, you’ll hurt, you’ll put on weight, turn to dysfunctional behavior for comfort, and enter the hard to get out cycle of self sabotage. What if you could use exercise to get healthier as you age? Not to look good like when you were younger but to feel youthful, energized, and functional like when you were younger! It’s a red pill to swallow but one that can be rewarding in terms of wellbeing as you age. All the fears and self fulfilling prophecies of hip replacements, back pain, and immobile joints can all be avoided, if you decide to train smarter instead of harder. Set yourself up for the long run. The world needs strong and capable humans!

Yours in Health,

Michael