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NEGLECTING to train certain body parts, by k.n*

Body weight squats

Picture this scenario. You manage to find time for your gym quick workout, you are a busy person with little time to spare, and you have time only for what matters, you can not spend all day lurking at the gym. You walk in and usually skip the warm-up and movement preparation, jumping right into selectorized equipment, or free weights to target the chest, shoulders and biceps muscles, after all those are the important muscles that count when shirtless… That happens if you are a guy. I you are a woman then you hit the treadmill for a few minutes, or the stair climber, and then off to do some leg extensions, and maybe some lunges, in the best case some poorly executed squats. If that person is you then you are missing the big picture of muscle strengthening.

Starting with the vital movements, the foundations, the spine and surrounding muscles, is an area that requires your immediate care and evaluation. All the nerves feed from the spine and direct movement in upper & lower extremities. All body parts need to be addressed, proper mobility and function needs to occur in a progressive manner. Not all individuals are equal and plenty of parameters dictate what the priority is for each individual when it comes to muscle strengthening. Identifying what you will be working for the given day, based on immediate need, is your main task.

Yes all individuals need to strengthen their major muscles groups, however the order that this will happen (prioritize weakness, address imbalances…) and to what extend this investment will take place, is a meticulous case by case process, and it is usually dealt by fitness professionals.

There are a few across the globe agreements, men train primarily their upper bodies and women train their lower bodies, if we were to overgeneralize the situation.

Let’s take men for example, the need for properly functioning hips, knees, ankle-joints is paramount due to sports performance, primarily the land based (based on statistics men engage in team or individual sports more Vs women). The second most important reason why lower body workouts are vital, is due to the armor that they provide for the foundations, the base for the rest of the body to pile on, and to carry us through flat or vertical movements in our later years. Spend time developing lower body strength, maintain it, and your senior years will be so much more filled with freedom and quality in movement. Add the bone mineral density improvements that take place from lower body strengthening, and frail bones will not break that easy when falling down. Those are a few of the main reasons why you should never miss a “leg training day”. Close to my area at the beach, where I usually spend my summer time, more and more big guys appear “demonstrating” their weak legs, justifying the above.

The lower body strengthening concept is a link that binds well with the abolishment of low back pain (LBP). More findings suggest that strong glute muscle groups along with hamstrings that are not stiff, and not weak, can combat the ailments caused by LBP. A distinction needs to be made between young men (ages 20-40) and more mature men (ages 40 to 60)as to the direction each will be needing to follow. Their strength plan needs to take into account knee surrounding muscles conditioning and current status, and weight lifted should definitely not be the main goal for both. Proper technique and execution with enough muscle fatigue towards the end of the set, not complete failure or exhaustion is the goal for both groups.

Women neglect or gradually cancel muscle work, due to low demands for physical work in their job environment. That is exacerbated if no extra counterbalance work takes place at the gym, cementing their weaknesses. Also perceptions about the weight room, mental barriers, that could be classified as taboos, show that only 1 in 5 women fulfill the strength training weekly tasks (taken from 2018 Internat. Journal of Sports science.)  The myths of becoming bulky or adding weight still haunts many women, hence avoiding upper body strengthening. It is well documented though that lean muscle tissue is preserved, less energy demands occur when performing a daily task for the stronger female gym patrons. There is still some intimidation to hit the gym strengthening area, but the message is clear, if you are to reap the benefits, functional progressive and well balanced upper body strengthening is a must. Pain management for women sufferers at the neck or lumbar area, is also resulting from systematic strength work. Findings also suggest that glucose metabolism, injury prevention, and improved physique characteristics are all upgraded.

Key point for both men and women, is to make the time to work on your imbalances, or better stated your least favorite part of the body to train. Chances are, that body part is the one in need for the most work to catch up. Invest in that and show up 6 months later, more balanced, with strength to be manifested from top to bottom.


*K.N. is an Exercise Physiologist, graduate of the University of Alabama, an ACSM certified Health & Fitness Instructor, holds an ITU  Level II Certification as a Triathlon Coach, and is a multiple Ironman & Half Ironman Triathlon finisher. He is coaching Triathletes online, teaches Functional Training at ryltoday studio / Nicosia, and performs Exercise Physiology assessments at the Cyprus Sports & Research Center. www.ryltoday.com

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