Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Engage The Muscles

When people who are overweight, or a better description, out of shape, begin to work out, the first thing trainers and health coaches should work on is muscle engagement.

I know some of you are thinking "DUH!" right about now but hear me out. 

How many times have you heard someone who is out of shape or overweight say they don't have any ab muscles (or upper body strength or whatever)? 

I know I myself have said the exact thing MANY times. And I believe it! I believe it when I say I have no core strength or muscles. 


I'll tell you. 

It is because I don't engage those muscles consciously. I don't know (or I didn't used to anyway) know where they were or how to squeeze them to make them work. I mean, they are there and they do work, regardless of me engaging them, because I stand upright and walk and lift and twist and so forth everyday, but I am not consciously engaging those muscles to make that happen. 

I actually "worked out" for YEARS without understanding that instead of just moving my arm I needed to actively squeeze the bicep muscles while I was doing bicep curls. When I am doing ab work it isn't enough to just do the crunches, but I need to actually engage the core muscles, squeeze them, contract them...whatever you want to call it, to really make the workout effective. 

Even now I can forget to engage the muscles when I am working out, and I get a less effective and intense workout. 

The idea behind hiring a trainer or a health coach is to learn how to be healthier, and that is great and often useful, but I sometimes think (and I have had MANY trainers and health coaches over the years) that they don't start with the most basic of basics. 

Once we learn something as humans we have a tendency to think that what WE know is what everyone knows. 

That is simply not true. 

I did not know how to truly engage my muscles. I didn't use them consciously. I wasn't aware of them working everyday. 

It wasn't until I took a really excellent Pilates class, and became involved in Yoga that I really started to understand the difference between moving and engaging. 

It is easy to forget that not everyone knows what we once did not know. 

If you are working out but not seeing results, or if your trainer is saying things like "engage your core" and that doesn't mean anything to you, might I suggest stopping and having them really explain what that means.

I think trainers would see better results if they started the first session or two with simple static muscle engagement exercises, helping their clients identify WHERE their abs are, how this movement works this muscle, and how that movement should be felt elsewhere. 

Do you know where your muscles are? Do you actively engage while working out? Has a trainer ever had you do static muscle contraction to help you become familiar with your own body? 

I think it would be totally worth it. 

1 comment:

Marlene said...
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