The sequencing of your exercises and the balancing of muscle groups are essential to workout efficiency, safety and effectiveness. Unfortunately, both weight-training novices and resistance exercise veterans tend to make major training errors in these aspects of program design. Over time, these mistakes limit the benefits of your workout, and in some cases, make you vulnerable to injury.
Pushing and Pulling and Planning and Designing
Most exercises fall into either of two categories: pushing or pulling. Pushing exercises push or press the limb, and therefore the weight ,away from your body. Examples include the leg press, the bench press and the shoulder press. In contrast, exercises like the leg curl, the seated row and the lat pull-down move your limbs and your weight toward your body.
If you tend to favor one action more than the other, it becomes immediately evident in your muscle symmetry, your posture, your coordination and your pattern of repeated injuries. Some workout enthusiasts believe they have a plan. They assign special days for pulling exercises, and others for pushing. Although the intentions are good, things still fall apart if you use heavier weights and perform more exercises for one type exercise.
In some cases, the equipment design is to blame. The leg extension and the leg curl machines illustrate this point. The leg extension is relatively easy and comfortable to use. The leg curl, not so much. Since many people already have weaker hamstrings and quads, the equipment design exacerbates the problem. Your personal trainer might suggest alternative hamstring exercises, performed in a position with better leverage.
The Push and Pull of Daily Life
Any time you reach up to put something top of a shelf, close a car door or push down on the arm rest of a comfortable chair in order to get up, you engage the muscles involved in pushing movements. These compound movements simultaneously extend the elbow and shoulder joints, and engage your pectoral muscles, deltoids and triceps.
Lower body pushing movements occur when you step on the gas pedal of your car, or kick a runaway ball back to the children who were playing with it. Your hamstrings, quads and glutes engage, while your abductors and adductors stabilize your knees.
Pulling movements bring objects toward your body. Examples include reaching up and bringing down the garage door, opening a door or lifting a child from the floor. These movements involve flexion of the elbows and retraction of the upper back muscles.
Sequencing Your Exercises
Always begin your resistance training workout with compound exercises for the larger muscle groups. For example, in an overhead press, your powerful deltoids are the prime movers, and the weaker triceps assist the movement. If you perform triceps exercises prior to the overhead press, you end up exhausting an already weak muscle group. If your triceps are too tired to give your poor deltoids a hand, your form will suffer.
The same thing applies to the biceps curl and the seated row. The stronger lats and rhomboids act as prime movers, whilst the weaker biceps lend a hand. As such, the row should precede the bicep curl.
If your personal trainer discovers a distinct imbalance in either your pushing or pulling muscle groups, he or she will adjust your program accordingly.
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