By Nathane L. Jackson
How often do you come across someone who could run before they could walk? How about someone who spoke in complete sentences before mumbling their first words? The link between these random examples is that we, as humans, have to fulfill a prerequisite before we can attain specific skills, and the process is no different when it comes to choosing exercises.
In order to build strength and muscle or decrease body fat, the exercises that make up a solid program should have a heavy emphasis on compound movements, such as squats, deadlifts, and pull-ups, as they provide the greatest reward. The problem is, despite all the benefits of these great exercises, many people shouldn’t begin with them.
An exercise novice can’t simply purchase a sleek new workout outfit and expect to start deadlifting and squatting — this could seriously harm their body. Substituting machines for deadlifts is a much safer place to start; however, I know from experience that people can become too comfortable with machines or traditional cardio equipment, meaning they rarely venture into the free-weight area of the gym. So, be sure to consider machines your prerequisite, rather than your end goal.
Too Much, Too Soon
Let’s take a look at some common up against a wall. In this instance, being able to complete this inversion is great, but have you checked that your wrists are mobile and strong enough to hold the majority of your body you hit the gym and I guarantee that you’ll notice a serious lack of warm-ups, preventative measures, and proper form being displayed by your fellow members — nixing the prerequisites is an all-too-common error.
Fitness coach Michael Boyle once told me, “People need to get in shape to run, not run to get into shape.” Think about that for a moment, because that means there are a large percentage of people running who have absolutely no business doing so. If you are overweight, how long do you think your joints can hold up? Or what if you’re running with a minimalist shoe? Your body’s soft tissues and bone structure have adapted to years of wearing shoes with raised heels, meaning a long run, without the raised heel, could cause some serious damage.
Should You Static Stretch?
Another common damage-causer is static stretching, which is still a popular pick among many trainers and gym-goers who are hoping to increase flexibility and range of motion. Research suggests that unless an injury has occurred (in which static stretching can be beneficial in helping to reorganize cells), it should probably be avoided. With static stretching, the effect of increased flexibility is short-lived and the range you may achieve now puts you at an increased risk for injury because your body is not strong enough to control this new end range.
Making The Most Of Mobility
In order to decrease your overall risk of injury, the ideal prerequisite should increase your range of motion and ensure sufficient joint function with control. According to Dr. Andreo Spina, founder of Functional Anatomy Seminars, and going back to our handstand example, if your range of motion is adequate and you possess normal joint function, then in the case of a handstand and the load required by the wrists, it would now be okay to perform a wall kick-up, as your strength and mobility prerequisites have been achieved.
I know it feels “cool” to be performing intense exercises right away, but the truth is, movement takes time. Our bodies have adapted to sitting for long periods, so when you suddenly try to perform deep squats after an eight-hour immobile workday, your body is going to be very unhappy. Try to make the transition from the office to the gym a little easier by setting up your best ergonomic workstation and putting that ego to bed while working on prerequisite joint mobility. Slow and steady wins the race — and helps you stay injury-free!