What? Yet another claim that something is going to change my life? Ugh!
Was this just a cheap shot to get your attention? Actually no. In fact, I will go even further and say that these next few minutes will give you something invaluable that you can use forever to improve the quality of your life. May sound cheesy, but keep reading!
I am going to give you two (and only two) exercise experiments to do on yourself that will enable you to feel the difference between what happens when you do an exercise casually vs. paying attention to a few details. Once you can feel how to optimally use your muscles for each exercise, you will get much more out of it. This is known as BETTER RESULTS for the time and effort put in. These experiments are designed to help you get a sense of this.
First of all, let me spell out some of the benefits you will get from paying attention to form and alignment.
- Getting the right set-up often activates your core, which lengthens your spine, and puts it in the right position. When your spine is in the right position, the rest of you moves more freely and with better form.
- Along these same lines, when you are doing an exercise correctly it means more of your muscles and nerves are jumping in to do the movement. This may not sound like a big deal, but it’s huge. To put in another way, when more muscles are on board, it means they are fired up to work together to produce a movement. In the long run this cooperation (otherwise known as synergy) makes for fewer aches and pains or injuries.
- Once you feel the difference between a casual approach and paying attention, you can start to make changes for the better. You may start to make sure you are setting up correctly before any exercise you do. Then, it spills over into how you move around during the day. Voila! Life changing!
So, let’s get on with it.
The first “experiment”
Lie on your back on a mat or carpet. You are going to do an exercise called “Snow Angels.” Just lie casually, feet spayed out randomly, body relaxed and placed however comes naturally to you. Arms are down by your sides with palms up, fists clenched as if you are holding an egg in each hand. Keeping your arms straight and close to the floor, bring them up overhead, or as far overhead as you can without your arms coming very far off the floor. Then bring your arms back to the first position. Do this 5 times or so, and notice what your core is doing, if you have any aches or pains in your shoulders/arms, and what your low back and hips are up to.
Next, do the same exercise, but start out by organizing your legs and feet into straight lines, with toes pointed up to the ceiling. Lengthen your spine by stretching tall. THEN bring your arms up overhead as before. Can you feel the difference in your core, shoulders/arms, low back and hips? Can you tell that your shoulders are even, your arms move more easily, and your hip area is secured? Bravo!
The second “experiment”
You are still lying on the floor. This time your knees are bent and you are going to cross one leg over the opposite knee so you can do what is called a “Cross-Over Bridge”. Get in this position in casual mode. Now, press your midsection up to get into the bridge position (see graphic). How did you get there? Did you use the backs of your legs to raise you up? Did your low back get rounded to help out with the move? Perhaps you even got a leg cramp in the back of your thigh. You may notice that your hips and legs wobbled around on the way up. Do 5 of these on each side before moving on.
Now do the same move but think ahead. Before you move, you are going to square your shoulders with your hips. Then you are going to squeeze the butt muscle of the leg that is still bent on the floor, and push slightly into the heel. Rise up into the bridge. You should notice that your hips/legs don’t wobble, your low back doesn’t round or try to help with the movement, and you are not using the back of your thigh very much to achieve the move. Congrats! I hope you can tell that your body is moving much better. That’s because you are now using the right muscles to pull this off, saving your low back from overwork in the process.
What now? I implore you to use the same principles to check how you are doing your exercises. If you go to classes, take advantage of the instructions or ask for more. Not to drop another cliché in here, but “it only takes a few minutes”, and it can reap huge rewards for you.
Go for it, and all the best,
Any questions or comments about the experiments? Please do so below.
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