Lots of studies are starting to show that multi-tasking just doesn’t work. Meaning, it actually makes us less efficient, not more. And, alas, this is even more true the older we get.
In terms of working your muscles, there are definitely times when you don’t want to multi-task, but instead want to isolate certain ones.
- When you are just getting started with working out or going to the gym. You may want to pay attention to one muscle at a time. This will help you learn the basic big movers and what they do. You can do this with the help of a trainer, or by using the machines in the gym and paying attention to the instructions and diagrams on each one.
- When you are aware that you have a weak link in a certain area, and you want to focus on strengthening it.
- When you have an injury, and are in physical therapy. Often you need to isolate certain muscles or muscle groups and retrain them back into function.
- When you are trying to mount a counter-attack on muscles that you know are being overused. In that case, you would be selecting to train them to do the opposite motion or train the opposing muscle to strengthen it.
But there are times when you DO want to multi-task, and there is a distinct advantage to it. That is when you want your muscles to do a particular task, desired move, or perhaps even explore what you are capable of.
Specifically, there are three main reasons why getting your muscles to multi-task is a good idea:
- There are key movements that we all learn as we develop. According to Grey Cook, PT, and author of the book, Movement, they are: rolling, creeping, crawling, kneeling, squatting, standing, stepping, walking, climbing, and running. Quite a big list, but it is a reminder of what we have all learned in the past, and are capable of. As we all know, as time goes by we often lose the ability to access some of these basic movements. We CAN, however, work on training these moves or related ones to help reinstate what we used to be able to do.
- Using a bunch of your muscles at once can be a very efficient, timesaving way to train.
- It’s FUNCTIONAL to train that way. In other words, it helps you out with what you are trying to do in your real life (IRL).
Here’s an example of a move that you can do (almost) anywhere. This one is good for body awareness. It also helps you fire up key muscles that are useful for other moves (aka, function). This move also counter-acts linear movement patterns that probably make up most of what you do during the day. And, last but not least, it helps to train your balance.
- Stand tall, and place an object on the outside of your left foot. The object should have some height to it, and this can change for a different challenge another time. I like to use something that moves (like a medicine ball) to make this even more tricky since it requires a delicate touch on the way down, but you don’t have to.
- Lift your right leg, bending at the hip and knee. Bring that leg across and in front of you to lightly touch the object. Bring the leg back to its original position. If you need to hang on to something, OK, but only as much as you need to.
- The final, extra learning part is this: When you start, and have the right leg lifted, take a moment to stand even taller. Then contract your abs/core, and the butt cheek of your left leg (the standing leg). THEN do the move. Notice that this makes it a lot easier to keep your balance, and you are involving many more muscles in the effort.
Repeat this move 10 times and then do it on the other side 10 times.
Voila! You have multi-tasked, and it has helped you move better, brought you a new awareness, and trained an aspect of your balance. Just one example of how muscle multi-tasking can work for you.
All the best,
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