When you first hit the gym, it’s tempting to concentrate on your arms and chest. This is what the majority of your fellow gym-goers will probably be doing – well yes, of course, everyone wants to look good in a T-shirt. But in reality, no matter if you want to build stronger muscles, get better at sports or just prepare yourself for day-to-day life, it’s useful to base your sessions on how your body works as a whole rather than targeting its specific parts. Let’s have a look at why you shouldn’t isolate muscles but train body as a whole.
Weightlifting is about training your body to be better coordinated when dealing with added resistance and teaching your muscles to work together and execute various movement patterns more efficiently and powerfully. If you concentrate on and isolate specific muscles, you reduce the amount of full body coordination required, and with it the relevance to real-life situations.
Let’s compare training the legs using barbell squats and machine leg extensions. The squat requires your hip, knee and ankle to work together, while the leg extension isolates the quad and trains it out of context. Now guess which is more useful when you’re climbing a step?
Instead of splitting your exercise and isolating body parts, try making them all full-body sessions. Make sure that each session includes exercises that work through the five main movement patterns: pulling, pushing, squatting, bracing and rotating. You don’t have to train each pattern exhaustively, either. Just do a maximum of two exercises per movement in each workout, performed back to back as a superset. Any more can increase the risk of injury, which is another reason to avoid spending an entire workout targeting one area only.
Try combining dumbbell high pulls with kettlebell swings for your pulling exercises, dumbbell lunges and barbell squats for your squatting exercises or alternating press-ups and dumbbell bench presses for your pushing exercises. To enhance your workout further, do any whole-body exercises – for example, push press for pushing or deadlifts for pulling – at the beginning of the session, and save exercises that are specific to the upper or lower body for the end. By improving your body’s ability to connect, coordinate and produce force through all of these movement patterns, you’ll grow stronger and bulletproof yourself for any activity.
[box type=”shadow” align=”” class=”” width=””] Train movement patterns instead of specific muscle groups – to build muscle, reduce risk of injury, improve performance and look as good as you feel. [/box]
Target each of the main movement patterns with these exercises:
DUMBBELL HIGH PULL
Think about spreading your elbows wide apart and pulling the dumbbells back rather than high up.
Keep your core and glutes tensed to make sure you’re working your entire body.
ALTERNATING DUMBBELL LUNGE
Keep your chest up throughout the exercise, and push off your front leg to return to the initial position.
Keep your body tense and straight, and avoid the temptation to let your hips sag.
Tense your core to stop your feet or the kettlebell touching the ground as you twist from side to side.