Why You Should Avoid Isolation Movements

What is muscle isolation

Definition:  Isolation exercises are movements that involve one joint or one muscle group rather than multiple muscles and joints.

First of all, there is not real isolation. We must understand that the body is not made up of individual pieces, like a robot, but it is build and suppose to function as one whole unit.

If you tried to drive your car (which is designed to function with 4 wheels) on only one wheel what would happen? There is no balance, you can’t. If you train for it you might be able to, sure, but your car was designed to work on 4 wheels. Or driving it without the engine, no matter if everything else is perfect, your car will not go anywhere.

So why do you think that flipping a tire without using your hips (tire flipping doesn’t come from the shoulders), punching that bag without putting your body behind it (all the way from the back foot) or run without using your upper body (including your arms) as well, is the “correct” way to do things?

It might be fast, but the body is not designed to work like that. And that’s where many injuries come from.

Weak muscles?

There are instances when certain muscles become weak so we are advised to isolate and train that specific muscle. That’s not a bad thing of course.

But the question is why did that muscle weaken in the first place? Leaving aside situations such as fractures which lead to weaker muscles, muscle dystrophy, In many cases it is the incorrect use of the body.

If we don’t use the body how it was designed to function, as one whole unit, certain parts of the body will grow weaker.

Sabotage!

Your body will always, always try to find ways to sabotage, to make it easier for itself.

Example #1:

Many people walk with lumbar lordosis (excessive inner lower back curvature). Why is it that we feel more comfortable doing that?

It is easier to just “sit” on the vertebrae, which just stack up and support the body as a pillar, than using the core muscles (the mid section of your body) to keep a correct posture. The body looks for finds ways to make it easier.

The result:
– weak core muscles – they don’t work anymore (which makes it more difficult to keep from curving the lower back)
– poor posture – as a result of weak core muscles and poor habits
– lower back pain – again core muscles
– shoulder pain – poor posture because of weak core muscles
– injuries from lifting and carrying – because of weak core

And the list can go on as the body is interconnected. You body is as strong as your weakest link.

The links I made here are just scratching the surface. There are other muscles which don’t work as they were designed to.

Example #2:

If every time we stand, walk and run we distribute more weight on the right side then that side will work more (and also wear out faster) while the left side will gradually grow weaker.

Again the body is supposed to work in balance and as a whole unit.

Strength vs technique

Using strength to flip a tire or do monkey bars is impressive. But it’s just the surface. We don’t see what actually happens with the shoulder, the deltoid muscles, scapula, shoulder joint.

There is a lot of tension and strain if we don’t put the body behind it: abdominal muscles, hips, legs (in tire flipping). You see this all the time, as so many of us focus on flipping many times and fast. We forget to actually pay attention to what we are doing.

Throughout the hundreds of articles I wrote there is a pattern, a common element. That is: Go Beyond The Surface.

Once you get it right they you can go for quantity and speed.

To truly be strong and powerful train and use your body as one whole unit.

Knee Pain And Body Weight Distribution

Do you have knee pain?

Many people feel some type of knee pain throughout their lifetime. It’s like lower back pain, it’s pretty common.

Knee pain can either be structural (i.e. ligaments) which may need surgery, or less severe injuries such as runner’s knee which usually recover using ice and stretching.

There are many reasons we get knee pain. Many people suffer from knee pain when they run, jump, practice sports in general, or no sport at all. There is the case of osteoarthritis but this is not the topic of this particular article.

What I would like to point out is that we can reduce the risk of knee pain and knee injuries. Nothing is bullet proof but doing this small thing will certainly make a big difference.

 

My story in a nutshell

I have changed the way I use my body over the past 3 years, and counting. A 12 years old I could not walk because of knee pain. In 2013, after an MRI scan, I was told I had grade 3 meniscus damage on both knees.

Two doctors recommended surgery. However I knew that surgery will not correct the mistakes I have made that lead to this lifelong injury (body misuse in my life as an athlete). So, together with my coach, we changed the way I walk, run, sit, stand, we strengthened stability muscles and so on. Today I can say that I am 95% knee pain free.

Something I thought it would never be possible. My knees never lock and I can run, jump and do pistol squats without pain. I do advise following your doctor’s advice though. This is the path I chose for myself.

 

So what changed? I was the tripod

Since practicing the tripod every single time I remember (and after years of doing it I remember almost all the time) I managed to run, walk, go up and down stairs, squat and pistol squat knee pain free.

There are many things I did but one of the key elements way to keep the tripod firmly planted on the ground.

 

What is the tripod

Good tripods means proper body weight distribution.

You have 2 tripods, one on each foot.

They are formed by your big toe, your little toe and your heel.

Keeping the tripod will also reduce pronation. But I will write about that in another blog.

The tripods are your base of support. If your camera tripod would have a leg shorter than the other two, it would lean to one side. And the side it leans on, that leg, will wear faster than the other. While the other one will weaken as it is less used.

Same with your tripods. If your big toe is not planted into the ground your arch would rise and you walk on the outside of your heel.

 

Tripod and knee pain

When you consistently have more weight on the front of your foot your knees and ankles are under more pressure. And doing this while standing, sitting, walking etc in time leads to a lot of damage. That simple.

The tripod, if the 3 points are planted firmly, will help distribute your weight evenly on the back and front of your feet, and also left and right.

Pay special attention to the tripod when you squat and lunge. Lunging in particular is very damaging and, in the gym, I used to see these mistakes every single day, as people were not educated about weight distribution and pushed hard for speed and quantity.

How To Reduce The Risk Of Ankle Injury

Ankle injuries, sprains and strains, are very common regardless of whether you exercise, practice a sport or simply walk down the street. Has it ever happened to you?

There are several ways to treat ankle injuries at home as NHS suggests: protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation.

But how about we learn how they happen and how to keep your ankles “fit” and reduce the risk of sprains and strains.

The most common ways to reduce the risk is to wear the correct type of shoes for the activity and warm up properly before workout.

But how many times will you warm up before stepping on the side of the road or twist your ankle while wearing high heels? As if you planed to do it.

Ankle sprains and ankle strains often occur if you change direction or speed suddenly, fall or land awkwardly.

To ensure your muscles, ligaments and tendons are prepared for “the unexpected” you can do a number of simple things…..throughout the day, no need to take time out of your schedule:

  1. Stand on one leg, balance – to strengthen the ankle and foot stability muscles; you can do this while talking to your friend on the phone or watching tv (make sure you are aware of what is around you, in case you lose balance and fall; safety first)
  1. Ankle rotations – for ankle mobility; may seem too simple but done regularly while you sit on the tube it can make a difference…..if you actually do it; turn off your facebook on your phone and use your time on the tube instead of wasting it
  1. Full squats – squat all the way down without any weights; squats will strengthen stability muscles, mobilize your ankles and they do so much more for your body and health

 

Fine, I said you don’t have to take time out of your schedule but you have to for the squats. Or do you? How many time do you sit and stand during the day? Many times. Use that to:

  1. Place your feet hip width apart
  2. Toes facing forward
  3. Back straight – chest proud – looking forward
  4. Stand up as if you are standing up from a squat
  5. Sit down in a squat

Sure, it’s not a full squat but it still strengthen your stability muscles and mobilize your hips,

This is a fast explanation of a squat. If you are unsure message me and I will ensure you do it the right way so you don’t develop incorrect habits. When in doubt contact me.