• 10 things you could be doing better at the gym

    Posted on April 18, 2010 by in fitness, performance enhancement

    Ask anyone REALLY successful, and they will agree that it is the little things that make the difference between good and great results. I could throw about 17 sports analogies at you (batting averages, fight for that extra yard, etc.), but I think most people will agree with the concept without me recreating the locker room scene from Hoosiers.

    Over the past 25 years, I have gathered a bunch of nuggets of information from trainers and fellow exercisers that I thought I would pass along to you. Most of them just require you to visualize the exercise better or make tiny adjustments to your form. However, you will notice a huge difference almost immediately.

    Before I share them, I wanted you to become comfortable with a basic concept that should be of great help to you in the future. It helps explain what exercises work for each body part, where injuries occur and what muscle groups work together. It is what you can learn from the old favorite: an anatomical chart.

    Pull up any good chart and look closely. See all those striations in the muscles? Those are the fibers, and they are not drawn in a random fashion. They show the DIRECTION that the muscle pulls when it is contracted. For example, look at the chest (pectoralis major). The fibers run horizontally from your sternum to the insertion point, a third of the way down the humerus (upper arm). So, when you contract this muscle, the lines will get shorter. That means the arm will be pulled towards the center of the chest. That’s exactly what you do during a bench press, chest fly or similar exercise.

    So, if you are wondering, “How do I work my chest?”, you should think to yourself, “I need an exercise that pulls my arm horizontally across my body toward my sternum.” You can apply this principle to any muscle and figure out what exercise will work for you.

    Now that you know this basic principle, here are some tips and tricks you might find useful:

    1. Shoulder press: imagine trying to pull your elbows towards your ears instead of pushing your hands up.
    2. Lat pulldowns/rows: squeeze your shoulder blades together at the end of the movement like you were trying to pinch a quarter between them.
    3. Squats/lunges: pull your butt in back in line with your head and neck as you stand back up instead of just using your legs
    4. Bench press/flyes: think about bringing your elbows together instead of your hands.
    5. Tricep extension: move your arm in a semi-circular arc for 180 degrees, not go straight up and down.
    6. Cycling: when you press down your foot, think about keeping your foot in a position like you are trying to scrape gum off the bottom of your shoe.
    7. Lateral raises (shoulders): hold the dumbbells like they were two pitchers that you are trying to pour at the top (when your upper arms are parallel to the floor).
    8. Ab exercises: don’t bend at the waist; bend a couple of inches below the xiphiod process (where you put your fingers when you do practice CPR).
    9. Inner/outer thigh machine: pull/push your feet towards/away from you (respectively) instead of your knees.
    10. All exercises: the more you are leaning/sitting/lying on something, the less work you are doing. The seat/bench/handrails are doing part of the work for you. Keep that in mind when selecting your exercise and how you use the machine.

    This is a constant learning process (I just heard #6 for the first time last week). Let me know if you have more tips to share!

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