Focus 4 – Movement
FOCUS FOUR – MOVE ON PURPOSE “If you do nothing else, movement is the biggest change you can focus on…
March 15, 2018
FOCUS FOUR – MOVE ON PURPOSE
“If you do nothing else, movement is the biggest change you can focus on to achieve vitality, and save the nation’s chequebook.” Roy Sugarman, Saving your life one step at a time
“When before the beauty of a mountain or a sunset we pause and exclaim ‘aahh’ we are participating in divinity” Joseph Campbell – The Power of Myth
“Eating alone will not make a man well; he must also take exercise. For food and exercise, while possessing opposite qualities, work together to produce health. For it is the nature of exercise to use up material, but of food and drink to make good deficiencies”. Hippocrates
Whether you are a normal person or an elite athlete maintaining your mobility and movement is a vital part of great health for body and mind.
Unfortunately for most people – including many athletes this means just going out and exercising somewhat randomly. Following a program you found on the Internet or a generic program for footballers. Habit four – move on purpose is about balancing your exercise to produce optimal mobility movement and performance for you.
In his great book saving your life one step at a time Dr Roy Sugarman says “If there is a magic pill to take to avoid disability as you age, and I mean as you age past thirty or forty, you should take it, and there is: it is complex movement. ”
Sugarman’s book provides great information about the benefits of moving regularly. This section also discusses the importance of thinking about why, what and how we’re moving. With our movement we can develop strength, flexibility and fitness as well as stave off illness and disease. To make the most of your movement it is important to plan what you would like to achieve and to exercise accordingly. Most exercise is a good thing but focused movement is the best.
This principle – focused movement suggests you need to purposely plan to get out and move and also includes incidental exercise. The key however is knowing the purpose for your exercise.
There are three foundational areas you should focus on with your movement. I believe these areas are flexibility, strength and fitness. The order of importance depends on who you are and where you want to go. In general a good order to follow is:
Focused movement means creating balanced flexibility and mobility around your joints, balanced strength for good posture and increased capabilities and injury protection and Fitness for you and your needs and desires.
Balancing your flexibility means two things. Firstly it is about balancing muscles and creating ideal length/tension relationships in the body – thus improving posture and flexibility. Secondly it is about better mobility and movement – whether it is for athletic performance or just pain and injury free living!
General stretching of all muscles at once is relatively useless because it does nothing to address personal imbalances in the body and we almost all have them!
POSTURE AND FLEXIBILITY
“Long term, chronic, postural difficulties are often set in the soft tissue in such a way that re- setting the bones [to neutral] simply won’t last. The soft tissue will again pull the bones out of place. Even, balanced tone across the myofascia of the body must exist so that the bones will stay lightly, easily, floating in place.” Thomas Myers.
This is a very powerful point for people dealing with problems with posture, joints and movement. What Thomas Myers is saying here is that much pain and injury in joints is caused by muscle imbalance and cannot be fixed for the long term unless muscle (and myofascial) imbalance is corrected.
Imagine the central pole of a circus tent as our spine. Then we have other supporting poles which we can just imagine are our arms and legs. All of these structures are supported by ropes or cables to keep the poles upright. These ropes need to be evenly balanced to keep the poles in the proper position and doing their proper job – which is to support the tent. But what happens to our tent when the rope is too tight on one side and too lose on the opposing side? The pole gets pulled out of position and this has a flow on effect to other poles in the tent and the whole structure not only starts to look wrong – it starts to struggle to function properly.
This is exactly what happens with the bones and muscles in our body! Through years of repetitive movement or just sedentary seated lifestyle we create these muscles imbalances in our bodies. I’ve seen many guys who go to the gym and perform the same three exercises day after day – bench press (chest and shoulders), bicep curls (biceps) and sit-ups (abdominals). All of these muscles are anterior to the body (and just happen to be the muscles these guys can see in the mirror). So what they actually doing to their tent is tightening the same rope day after day. What do you think will happen to this tent? It will lean and then it will fall. Just like the shoulders on these guys – they will become tight and round forward and then they will get injured after one bench press too many. Having muscle imbalances places the joints around those muscles under far more strain than a healthy joint. As soon as an imbalance becomes present – further movement around that joint usually exacerbates the problem – especially if that movement is adding to the imbalance (like some extra push-ups to go with your bench press on already tight shoulders). This is why group fitness classes or generic programs are not a good fitness solution for most people and often lead to injury. A proper exercise plan will include strengthening for all muscle groups but will also address specific and personal muscle imbalance by strengthening the muscles which need it most and stretching the muscles which need lengthening to create and maintain optimal posture and therefore also optimal mobility and movement.
Two of the most common places we see these muscles imbalances in people is the shoulders and hips. As already discussed too much exercise on mirror muscles can be a big cause of shoulder problems and then there is the other end of the spectrum – not enough exercise.
“Sitting is fatal, eventually”. Roy Sugarman
Sitting deserves a special mention here because it is now one of the leading causes of postural problems and muscle imbalance in western societies. Most people sit too often. I am sitting on my butt writing this book when I would much rather be doing bench press, bicep curls and sit-ups in the mirror right now! (I’m joking – I would do chin-ups, deadlifts and wood chops and then look in the mirror). Who would have thought that sitting all day could make us unhealthy? Mother Nature would slap us for asking the question since things which do not move in nature – die. Any creature or organism that was designed to move and does not – usually becomes unhealthy or dead. And try as we might to distance ourselves from nature – no skyscraper of comfy lounge can deny the fact that we are a part of this natural world. We were designed to hunt and gather and move much more than we do today – in motivation for coaches Roy Sugarman supports this in stating today “Few of us do ten thousand steps a day and nowhere near the seventy to eighty thousand our remote ancestors did when our genotype was evolving”. We may not have to kill sabre tooth tigers anymore to get lunch but we still have to move often and do what nature intended us to do if we want to be and stay healthy. “Sitting in a standard, triple-flexed position the whole day tightens and stretches in the wrong place,” Roy Sugarman
See the Sitting diagram above and you will notice:
All of these areas are very common problems at your local physiotherapist and all of these problems will lead to long term, chronic, postural and joint difficulties. There is one more massive problem with sitting! Circulation. When we sit too much for too long we do not pump blood and nutrients through our body and our bodies do not like it.
Roy Sugarman puts it wonderfully again by stating:
“Sitting is the body’s way of telling the brain it is time to start dying.” Roy
In summary sitting too much is very bad for you – you will lose posture and flexibility which to loss of mobility and poorer movement and this becomes a downward spiral of poor health and fitness. Movement is not just something confined to the gym. Sedentary activities of work and leisure are threatening for health and future disability, even in peak, young athletes.”
And Roy again:
“flopping into a chair after training undoes the value of the growth hormones released during training, and switches off the value that was added, both in body and brain. Light recovery is a key element here to consider, so that downtime is productive in terms of moving.”
MOBILITY AND MOVEMENT
By now I’m sure you can gather that proper posture and flexibility promotes better health. It also sets us up for better movement and performance. This may just mean being able to do the gardening without pain or it may mean enhancing performance at Olympian levels! All movement is enhanced when coming from a base of optimal posture and specific flexibility needs for specific sports and injuries can be developed.
When done properly, stretching can do more than just increase flexibility. It can also enhance physical fitness, enhance mental and physical relaxation, develop body awareness and reduce muscle soreness and tension, – thus promoting recovery from workouts and increase blood- flow and energy. In short – the right kind of stretching will contribute greatly to better mobility and movement in your life and this does not just prevent injury – it also creates capability and freedom in your movement.
Conflicting opinions about stretching
There is always allot of research and talk about whether stretching is beneficial and I believe I can dispel this conflict right here and now. Stretching is 100% beneficial when done properly. There is no possible way that improving one’s posture and the muscle balance around joints cannot help a person look, feel and function better.
Unfortunately, even those who do stretch do not always stretch properly and hence do not reap some (or all) of the benefits stretching can give (and this may lead to some of the conjecture about the benefits of stretching in “research”). I will simplify stretching techniques into two categories – 1. Warm-up and 2. Corrective:
The following dynamic warm routines from darebee.com are good examples of mobility warm-up exercises that are beneficial. The basic idea for any kind of warm is to try to emulate some of the movements you are preparing to do and warm the up the muscles you are about to use.
“You will be hard pressed to find ANYONE in the gym without significant muscle imbalances in their body” Paul Chek – Intelligent Stretching
“If you have shortened connective tissues, prolonged static stretching is more effective” Paul Chek – Intelligent stretching
Prolonged static stretching is undeniably productive and Elizabeth Quinn agrees – “Studies do support that range of motion can be increased by a single fifteen to thirty second stretch for each muscle group per day” – “it’s important to remember that the goal of stretching is to develop and maintain an appropriate range of motion around specific joints. It’s also important to realize that stretching (or releasing) tight muscles should go hand in hand with strengthening the weak muscles.” Master Paul Chek uses stretching to improve muscle balance and therefore many other things including pain reduction and performance and my own personal experience with clients has been that I have saved many from proposed surgery by utilising stretching techniques. There is no debate in my mind – this kind of stretching works and this is how it can be done properly.
FOCUS ON TIGHT SPOTS
“If your piano or guitar were out of tune, would you stretch all the strings? If your bicycle has a wheel that was out of round, would you loosen all the spokes? Not if you knew what you were doing!” Paul Chek – Intelligent Stretching.
Similarly you don’t need to focus your stretching time and efforts on muscles that feel fine and don’t need stretching. Focus your stretching time and effort on the muscles you know are short, tight and painful. A general yoga routine can be a great way to recognise these areas and a good sports coach or personal trainer should also be able to help you recognise these areas. An easy way to notice short tight muscles is if you have one side tighter than the other. In Paul Chek’s book “How to Eat, Move and be Healthy” he has great series of stretching tests to help you find your kinks.
Some simple light cardio, walking, swimming or a sauna or warm shower can be sufficient warm up prior to stretching but whatever it is – it is very helpful to make sure you do this until you produce a light sweat. Warming up will decrease your chance on injury and increase the benefits you will gain from your stretch session.
HELP WITH BREATHING
A great yoga technique is to use your breathing to help you relax into your stretches. In yoga it is proposed to use your breath to help your movement. Inhaling can help spinal extension or lengthening and exhaling can help forward bending or flexing, twisting and side bending. As you do your stretches try to incorporate your breathing to help you relax deeper into your stretches
CONTRACT AND RELAX
The contract relax method of stretching is also a good way to stretch for warm up however I have found you can also use it help you get deeper into your static stretches. Basically it
involves contracting the main muscle being stretched for approximately 5 seconds and then immediately relaxing into a deeper stretch straight after you release the contraction. You will find you can also use your breathing to facilitate this process. Inhaling as you contract and exhaling as you relax into the stretch.
HOLD FOR SIXTY SECONDS OR MORE
For warm up or general stretching shorter periods of stretching are fine however if you are stretching problem areas you will gain best benefit from stretches of sixty seconds or more. This allows time for you to get deeply into the stretch and near the end of your current range of motion and then hold the position for a good amount of time. In my experience it can take thirty to sixty seconds to get safely to the point where you feel a good stretch so it would be a shame to then let the stretch go when you have just arrived.
CHALLENGE YOURSELF BUT DONT STRAIN
Like a good yoga session it is important to approach stretching a challenge but not a workout. The best benefits are gained near the end of your current range of motion however if you push too far into pain you can cause your muscles to tighten rather than lengthen thus muscle your stretch counterproductive.
COMPLEMENT WITH STRENGTHENING
As discussed this type of stretching is best used to try and create optimal muscle balance in the body and around joints – therefore it is best accompanied with strengthening of the opposing muscles in the body. For example if you want to open up a forward tight shoulder you need to stretch the chest and shoulder muscle but also strengthen the upper back muscles. The diagram below shows here you would need to stretch the tight spots and strengthen the weak spots.
“If you simply apply general stretching methods (as is so common in the exercise industry today), the best you can expect is to have a looser, yet still out-of-balance client!” Paul Chek
– Intelligent stretching.
The point here is simple and right in alignment with my whole philosophy. Stretching needs to be tailored to the individual. You need to account for your personal imbalances, tightness and sporting, movement, injury or life needs and desires.
Gandhi’s wisdom yet again enlightens us and aligns with us. In the gym we talk of strength nearly every day but Physical strength comes in many forms and is required for about as many different reasons as there are people in this world. And physical strength starts with mental strength so I hope you’ve chosen your philosophy and acted on attitude before you try to balance your strength.
The dictionary definition of strength covers the following:
As you can see even the dictionary acknowledges strength is more than just a physical capacity. For some – being strong enough to do their daily work is enough – for Olympians it’s about Citius – Altius – Fortius – Faster – Higher – Stronger. For all of us wanting to improve our strength we must look at the factors that interrelate to produce it
Don’t worry – we are moving away from a sports science lesson right now but I wanted to establish that strength is not just the ability to lift a heavy weight! Putting it into more simple terms strength is your ability to exert musculoskeletal force on an object. Athletes do need to differentiate between general strength and specific strength for their sport and lay-people need to differentiate which muscles they need to strengthen to create body balance and enhance their movement. We will look at general strength training with the disclaimer in mind that we are all different and there are many different forms of strength. Establishing muscle balance and general strength is also a good foundation from which more specific forms of strength can be acquired.
In looking at improving strength training we look at resistance training which includes but is not limited to bodyweight, dumbbells, kettle bells, medicine balls, resistance bands and even weights machines.
The physical and mental benefits of having strength include the following:
As mentioned – for the purposes of this discussion we are looking at improving general strength in all of our muscle groups and body movements. This provides a great foundation for life and sports. The best way to build strength is through resistance training.
Resistance training (also called strength training or weight training) is the use of resistance to muscular contraction to build the strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles. When this is done consistently and progressively, your muscles become stronger. The Australian physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines recommend that adults do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week.
You should vary your progressive resistance training program at least every six to eight weeks to maintain improvement but I recommend far more variation if you have the tools and experience. Variables that you can manage and can impact on your results include:
SETS – This refers to how many times you will repeat a given exercise. Three sets of ten means you will do three lots of ten. Three is a generic number of sets to be performed for many exercise routines however this should be adjusted depending on your age, experience and training goal. For people new to exercise or older people one to two sets is usually sufficient and for strength training and bodybuilding five to ten sets are often used.
REPETITIONS – This refers to how many times you lift the load in one set. If you lift a weight ten times you have done ten repetitions. It is important to know what the right rep range is for your desired result. For strength gains aim for between 3-8 repetitions. For muscle gain use 6-12 repetitions and for muscular endurance use 20-50 repetitions.
EXERCISES UNDERTAKEN – Which exercises you are doing obviously affects how hard you are working therefore this is an important variable that can affect your intensity. In general it is best to choose exercises that utilise more muscles at once. For example – push ups are better than bench press and bench press is better than machine chest press. Following this principle helps you to develop stabilising muscles through your joints and core and also helps you to burn more calories during your workouts. It is also very good for your body to mix up your exercises and whole routines often – your body loves variety.
“Movement at all times, in all planes and in all places is vital for maintaining basic metabolism, let alone peak performance… Moving in just two dimensions can also be improved on. Think movement in a bubble in which you are centred: fill that bubble with movement, as you would with dance or Tai Chi.” Roy Sugarman
INTENSITY (WEIGHT USED) – Paul Chek refers to intensity as percentage or one rep maximum weight lifted. What this means is if you are lifting 80% of your one rep max for four reps you are working are a higher intensity than if you performed 60% oF your one rep max for ten reps. Generally the heavier the weight – the higher the intensity
Another way to look at intensity is just perceived exertion. I ask my clients how hard they working on a scale out of ten? Ten out of ten is maximum intensity and can probably only be maintained for a very short time. One out of ten is like a slow walk. I like this system because it also covers cardiovascular exercise and references how the client is feeling not just the numbers. Generally it is only necessary to train to approx 80% of your perceived exertion.
“Train don’t drain” says master Chek.
FREQUENCY OF SESSIONS – Another important question is how often should you train? The answer is it depends on your goals, age, nutrition, rest and lifestyle. If you are training to lose fat then moving everyday is best but if you want to build muscle then three days per week may be enough. It also depends how well you eat and how much rest you get but the best recommendation for training frequency is how many sessions can you see yourself training indefinitely? What I mean is to plan for the long term – it does you no good to train twice a day for 8 weeks if you then stop exercising all together. Make it sustainable.
REST BETWEEN SETS. – I like to keep my clients moving in their sessions – usually alternating between exercises and keeping their heart rate up thus achieving some cardiovascular fitness along with their toning etc. If you are training for strength however rest periods can be from 2-5 minutes. For muscle building 30-60 seconds is generally recommended. For beginners I would say try to keep the rest 30-60 seconds but take as much as you need. If you need extra rest you can still make this time valuable by stretching your tight spots.
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”- Arnold Schwarzenegger
Here are some other general tips to keep in mind:
GOAL FOCUS – Have AND maintain a vision of what you want to achieve. Record and read your goals daily or as often as possible! I encourage my personal raining clients to turn their goals into a daily reminder on a device or note. It is also very useful to have a goal for your session! Do you want a light recovery session, a tough training session etc?
WARM-UP – Always warm-up (with light exercise for 2-5 minutes) before you go into intense efforts/exercise. This may be the most boring piece of advice I give in this book but it is also the most likely to save you from injury.
STRETCH – I believe it is a good idea to stretch as you go. After warm-up, between sets and after exercise (during a workout this can be either for mobility or for correction )
CHECKS – There are two things you should check before you begin any exercise. Firstly check you have the correct weight, secondly check you have you have the correct seating/machine adjustments (if you are desperate enough to use a machine) and or posture. USE PROPER TECHNIQUE – Maintain technique and control at all times! Proper technique will save injury and yield better results!
BREATHE – Breathe out as you lift and in as you lower the weight. Keep your movements in rhythm with your breathing.
BE CONSISTENT – “The hallmarks of successful training are long term consistency and progression!” Fred Hatfield
MAKE TIME – There are 168 hours in a week – all you need is 3 or 4! There is always enough time for your priorities!
EAT RIGHT – Nutrition is a major key to great health and fitness. “We should eat to live not live to eat!” Socrates
BE DISCIPLINED – “There will often be times when you don’t feel like a workout! Rarely times you regret having had one!” Ryan Fraser
ASK FOR HELP – Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. We want to help.
KEEP A RECORD – Track your success! You will progress better if you know what your progress is. Write it down.
TRAIN PROGRESSIVELY – Through gradual and constant progress in your training – Your body must change to meet the new demands on it!
VARY YOUR WORKOUTS – Your body will adapt to a routine. See your trainer regularly for new exercises and routines to ensure progression!
HAVE FUN!!! – Enjoy your workouts by challenging yourself! Realize the awesome benefits that increased health and fitness has in all areas of your life! “Healthy Body, Healthy Mind!”
For examples of a wide variety of training programs visit: http://focusfit.com.au/ and look under resources
The fact is strength training is a vast subject and a sport science so we will not go further into it in this book except to say if you are not confident in the application of balanced and progressive – consistent strength training – seek out an experienced and qualified – professional personal trainer that recognises your individual needs.
FITNESS FOR YOU
Cardio-vascular fitness – just like strength – means different things to different people. All good health and fitness regimes should consider what level of fitness is required.
The benefits of better fitness include but are not limited to:
There are basically two kinds of cardiovascular training. Steady state. Or Interval. Everything else is basically some form of these two. They both have their benefits:
STEADY STATE CARDIO TRAINING
This kind of exercise includes but is not limited to – walking, cycling, swimming, and running. Generally I recommend steady state training for low intensity easy cardio days or fat burn. The main exception to this is sports training which requires a high intensity level of cardio to be maintained for a long time like cycling, swimming and running marathons.
When performing steady state training the aim is to get the heart to between 60-80% of the target heart rate. Having said that this is the least interesting and beneficial kind of training.
TARGET HEART RATE
A simple formula for producing your target heart rate is this.
220 minus your age (40) = maximum heart rate (in this case 180). Target hear rate = 60% x Max (180) = 108
INTERVAL CARDIO TRAINING
Interval training involves varying bursts of higher intensity faster movements with periods of lower intensity recovery. For example you could run for thirty seconds and then walk for thirty seconds. Ride hard for one minute at 90% perceived exertion and then easy for two minutes at 50% perceived exertion. The intervals you choose would depend on your fitness level and your goal. For fat loss 30 second intervals are great. For sports training you should try to mimic the intervals in your sport.
Generally speaking interval training provides more bang for your buck for both fitness and fat loss benefits and is also often mentally easier to approach.
Here are some great example fitness circuit programs: https://focusfit.com.au/resources/fitness-core-workouts/
EXERCISE IN GENERAL
We have now covered some of the basics of exercise and hopefully some of the education and tips will help you to plan your exercise routine effectively. Here is an example plan of what a balanced exercise plan for someone wanting general strength, fitness and flexibility could look like.
WEEKLY SCHEDULE EXAMPLE
Monday – Strength and Stability Workout Tuesday – Yoga
Wednesday – Fitness and Core Circuit Thursday – Strength Workout
Friday – Yoga Saturday – Swimming Sunday –
“Movement is an effective strategy for keeping your body healthy, I am sure that you get that fact, but it ALSO and in some cases, more importantly, not only saves your body from unhealthy decline, but also keeps your thinking and reasoning and other cognitive issues going at the right pace in your brain. To achieve this you have to sit less, and disrupt sitting patterns often for brain health as much as body integrity.”
INCIDENTAL VERSUS PLANNED EXERCISE
The above weekly example shows how to plan your exercise into your week. Since all of these workouts are planned it is clear to understand this is planned exercise. It is also very important to try and make sure you also get plenty of incidental exercise
“Incidental movement is movement you do not plan, but is made a vital part of the daily life you lead. This is the opposite of planned movement, such as going to the gym. Incidental Movement what saved Great Grandma from this bad sedentary stuff was largely incidental rather than planned movement.”
Incidental movement can mean walking to work or doing some gardening. Any kind of manual labour is great – washing the car, vacuum the house etc. Any kind of movement is good and it means you’re not sitting on your butt going stale and you are burning calories. Regular movement is not completely covered by your weekly workout schedule.
“Regular movement means movement multiple times per day, disrupting your sitting time.” Roy Sugarman
So you don’t have time to make that weekly routine work? Then make it a four day routine. Or a three. Or a two plus more incidental exercise. There is no best time to exercise except the time it is most likely to fit into your lifestyle. Having said that:
“Statistically, you have a 30 percent greater chance of accomplishing a fitness goal if you practice in the morning.” ( Yoga for dummies)
If morning just doesn’t work for you then the optimal time for exercise is the time that fits into your schedule best and ensures you achieve your lead goals for exercise.
The amount of time that you dedicate to exercise is a personal choice — and generally I recommend less is more – aiming for 30 minutes six days per week is better than three hours three times per week
What is important is that you schedule your fitness time like any other important appointment in your week. Schedule it in and keep your appointment just like you would a doctors or dentist appointment. If it’s important and booked in – it gets done.
Moving on purpose is about taking an intelligent approach your exercise. Any exercise is good. But exercises with goals and awareness behind them and objectives and desired results in front of them will yield the best results.
Your exercise should be balanced you incorporate the flexibility, strength and fitness you need for your lifestyle and it should be flexible enough to accommodate competing priorities and energy ups and downs.
Use the three keys – flexibility, strength and fitness. Be consistent. Use progression and variety and track it and enjoy your results.
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