Steve Wells: Fitness training ‘backward’ can ease pains
Great athletes figure out that they benefit by unwinding themselves, one way or another. They learn to reverse the punishing, repetitive patterns that cause pain, injuries and keep them from getting to the next level. Sometimes they do this by literally training backward.
Great athletes apply this backward approach to their training instinctively, as all great athletes do. Trainer geeks like me try to describe what great athletes are doing so you can benefit from it.
Not only do I mean that you should actually do stuff backwards or in reverse, you should train with movements that antagonize repetitive movements. I know that this goes against some popular training methods. I’m just trying to get you to consider that the best way to get better at push-ups may not always be as simple as doing more push-ups.
Flexion syndrome, like all syndromes, is a vague description of several factors that may lead to several symptoms. In this case, I am talking about the overdevelopment of “mirror muscles.” You know what I mean. If not, too many bicep curls and bench presses will get you there. Your “front muscles” get short from looking in the mirror and doing too many bicep curls, shoulder presses and dips. Your back muscles continually get weaker because it’s hard to look at your back and flex while working out. Sadly, it’s really this simple.
Don’t laugh at muscleheads because I see a lot of “yogis” who are in the same predicament from doing too many “pushing poses.”
Don’t get rid of the mirror, because it is a great tool for developing good form and technique — which is absolutely critical for maintaining the machine that you will need to live in throughout the next couple of decades.
This problem happens to various joints throughout the body. One side of a joint or joint complex becomes short, tight and often immobile — the other becomes weak and exhausted because of the tight side. Then we develop pain, which we mask with *Vitamin I (ibuprofen) and various other methods. Finally we sustain a “wear and tear” injury.
Bad posture is just as effective at contributing to the problem, especially with back pain. When you sit in front of a screen for most of your day, you are shortening hip flexors and disengaging your core muscles that support your spine. Training the antagonist muscles or “extension muscles” (glutes, back, hams) reduces symptoms and injuries because they oppose the tight/short hip flexor muscles. This holds the joints in better alignment. This also makes movement, balance and proprioception easier and more efficient, reducing your likelihood of sustaining an injury or experiencing pain.
Structural imbalance problems are never a simple problem to fix since we are very complex organisms. I often find that daily patterns cause changes in posture and over time they create symptoms.
So I say do it in reverse. It will help with your training, injury recovery, and it will get you way more looks in the gym than just by doing bicep curls.
Steve Wells is a personal trainer and co-owner of Midland Fitness. His column appears on Tuesdays.
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