Strength coach and religious studies teacher, Dan John, likes to say, “The goal is to keep the goal the goal.” Read that again after we talk about why you should gain muscle and mobility.
Do you have a goal for your training?
I believe that while workouts should have a basic structure, for those of us who aren’t trying to extend a National Football League career, it is also important to have some randomness to our exercise design. Having some randomness in our training can help us deal with some of the random stressors that life likes to throw at us.
Additionally, if you’re over 35, you should probably be focusing on gaining more muscle and moving better.
Not static stretching, not running a bunch of miles – putting on muscle and improving mobility are more important for your longevity and quality of life.
Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of muscle size, strength, and function. Medical professionals say it begins during the fourth decade. But if symptoms tell the tale, I’ve seen it in people in their late 20’s and early 30’s (also Google the “Female Athlete Triad”). Unless you’re doing something to maintain and increase it, you’ll start to lose muscle in your 30’s. It’s important, and never too late, to create that “armor” now.
Muscle is so important that it’s maintenance or loss is predictive of the life span of someone with cancer, muscular dystrophy, AIDS, kidney disease, or heart disease.
Please don’t tell me you want to avoid putting on “too much muscle” – unless you’re comfortable with derisive laughter. The only people who need to worry about this are those with access to performance enhancing drugs – and they’ll have other issues to deal with down the line.
As you probably know, you put on muscle with resistance training. The body doesn’t know where the resistance is coming from so it can happen with barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, your own bodyweight, or machines (last choice). Make the resistance challenging and progressive.
Mobility or Flexibility?
People get these two confused. Part of the confusion stems from the fact that when something feels tight, stiff, or sore, stretching that part feels good. The problem is that the cause of the pain is often not at the site of the pain. In fact, releasing tension in the neck can alleviate some shoulder pain. The lower back can be made to feel better by rolling your glutes on a tennis or lacrosse ball. Heel pain can be helped with a calf massage. The knee bone’s connected to the shinbone but…
You know how your lower back can sometimes be a little stiff? Your go-to remedy to relieve the stiffness is reaching down to your toes, going into a yoga child pose, or lying on your back and pulling one or both legs to your chest. It feels good. You get some relief but the irritation never completely goes away. For too many people, the back problem slowly morphs into other things.
A couple of years ago, you would have run for the bus before it pulled away but you don’t want to embarrass yourself. Moving around first thing in the morning requires its own ritual just so you don’t hurt yourself. You stop yourself before you break into a trot up the stairs from the subway or to your apartment. You’d like to take a bath but it’s a hassle to get up and down in the tub so you stick with the shower.
You wouldn’t even dream of putting on socks or shoes while standing up without something to hold on to. In addition to your lower back, your shoulder, your knee, your hip, or your heel seem to be nagging you as well. Mobility and muscle are lacking.
If this isn’t you, you’re probably under 30 or have been coming to Brownstone Fitness 3x/week for more than a year.
Stretching lengthens the muscle that is being stretched. The muscle generally won’t maintain that length and may even cause it to shorten in a protective reflex if the stretch is too aggressive. Intelligent stretching (certain forms of yoga, PNF, etc.) can help with joint position but when time is precious, you get the biggest bang for your buck with…
Instead of just the muscle, improved mobility impacts the muscles crossing the joint, the ligaments, and the nervous system. Flexibility looks at the end ranges of motion. Mobility looks at how well you can move through those ranges of motion. Mobility work looks like Martha Peterson’s Essential Somatics,Tai Chi, some Pilates movements, certain flowing forms of yoga, the animal movements we do here, or gentle bending, twisting, and rotations at the different joints.
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