Are you the type of person who hits the gym, works your butt off, and jets out? No warm up; no cool-down; and no stretching? If so, I hope I can convince you to change your routine.
In my time training, I’ve found far too many people have been sucked in by inappropriate cultural expectations we’ve built up about what it means to go to the gym, and what it means to be in shape. I’m here to tell you that working harder is not necessarily the best thing for you. You need to work smart at the gym, and for some people, that might mean spending most of your time stretching.
Experienced trainers know that a given training program might drastically improve one person’s fitness level and, for a different person, do tremendous damage.
This is because not everyone’s body is the same. One factor that significantly affects the way your body responds to training is posture. A person with good posture should be able to draw an imaginary vertical line from just in front of their ankle, through their knee, hip, shoulder, and ear.
While not everyone’s posture need be as perfect as suggested by the image to the left, if you’re experiencing a postural disfunction to any significant degree, there’s a good chance that a conventional training program you find in a workout manual may actually do more harm than good.
Why is that?
It’s because when your posture is poor, your joints aren’t aligned properly. This can lead to all kinds of problems, especially if you jump into intense training programs unprepared. It can destroy cartilage, lead to herniated discs, or cause tears in ligaments.
It is possible to gain muscle and cardiorespiratory endurance in very unsafe ways. In your late teens, twenties, and even thirties, you may not experience any of the symptoms of your postural deficiencies. But you can bet they’ll be coming along sooner or later.
One of the best ways to avoid these problems as you age is to ensure that your gym routine encourages your joints to move in ways they were designed (i.e. use good posture).
If your joints are already misaligned, then you can bet that imbalances in muscle strength and tightness have something to do with it. Bones do what muscles tell them.
That’s why stretching can be so important.
Over time, stretching and the right kind of exercise can improve your joint alignment, which will allow you to do more of those commonly recommended exercises found in fitness manuals more appropriately and safely.
Do your research before you hit the gym, especially if you’re planning on trying big complex movements like squats, deadlifts, or any of the exercises crossfitters love so much.