Using Movement to Condition Your Body
If you’ve arrived here, let’s assume that you are chasing a dynamic, fluid, well-structured, fit, and athletic body. You want a functional physique that looks good and works like it should.
To do that, you need to focus on the long-term health of your body, improving your mobility so that you remain in good standing for many years to come.
Short-term bulking up and drastic weight cutting will make your muscles pop, but they won’t help you achieve that long-lasting body that you want.
What you need is movement. This means using a full range of motion movement-based exercises to improve your body’s functionality. We’re going to use the term “movement” to capture all the exercises you can do. This includes all forms of calisthenics, yoga, pilates, swimming, aerobics, stretching, or many forms of martial arts.
Let’s talk about how to prepare your body to age well, to improve it’s range of motion, how to reverse the potential damage of weightlifting, and prolong your body’s healthy movement.
The Benefits of Movement-Based Exercises
The experts have been saying it for years. Getting off the couch and getting some movement has tremendous benefits. Even 30 minutes of walking a day has an incredible impact on your heart and lung health, your muscle tone, and your joint mobility. When it comes to being fit, movement is king.
So, why is it that so many fitness experts preach about short-range motions and limited exercise movements? Because those results are easier to see. When you do a small movement like a bicep curl, you can actually see the results of a larger bicep and you can lift bigger weights. But you can’t easily measure your joint health, until you no longer have it.
Movement-based exercises have a number of benefits.
- Lowers your physical age - Everybody ages the same but not every body ages the same.
- Boost your immune system
- Keeps muscle and joints strong
- Reduces inflammation
- Engaging - Repetitive exercises can be boring. Movement exercises require focus and engagement
You’ll find that it also boosts your performance and prevents injury in your muscles when you have increased mobility and flow with your movements. True strength isn’t found in bulging muscles. True strength is functional strength, when your muscles work better together.
Training Your Movements, Not Muscles
It was once thought that one muscle made one movement. Your bicep pulls your arm up. Your quad lifts your leg upwards. But as we continue to understand muscle anatomy and the human body, we can see that muscles combine to make one movement.
Machines in the gym help you work on specific muscle groups. They use short-range motions to focus in on single muscles. But short-range motions and single muscle movements tend to build shorter muscles. That can lead to injury and stiffness.
In tandem with your weight lifting exercises, start to add exercises that target your movements. Movements helps elongate your muscles, making you look leaner and more balanced. You open up your body, reduce stiffness in your joints, and improve the functionality of your body
Let’s touch on a few of the most popular forms of movement exercises that can help you develop a wider range of motion and longer, leaner muscles..
There’s a reason the army still uses callisthenics, or bodyweight exercises, to train recruits. One, it’s a workout that you can do anywhere. Two, you don’t need complicated equipment, and by using your whole body to perform the movements, you get a full range of motion.
Here are some examples of movements you can do:
- Jumping jacks
- Push ups
- Calf raises
- Mountain climbers
You have the diversity of all these movements and don’t require anything other than a few minutes of your time and a few metres of space.
Innovated nearly 100 years ago, it’s still one of the preferred exercise methods to add mobility and flexibility. Joseph Pilates was a boxer, a bodybuilder, a gymnast and a dancer, so he thoroughly understood how the human body moves.
Pilates teaches you to be in tune with your body, focusing on your structural alignment, building true strength, increasing your athletic performance, and improving injury prevention. Bodybuilding produces muscles that look good but ignore the core muscles that provide true strength. Pilates works those often-ignored muscles to help your total physical conditioning. Enroll in a Pilates class at your local gym to experience the effects on your body’s function and balance.
The true advantage of proper stretching technique is that it’s not a long process at all. 10 minutes before your workout helps to improve your blood flow, warm up and lengthen your muscles, and boost your immune response to the trauma of weightlifting. Some lengthening stretches after a workout is a good way to encourage full movement in your muscles.
Try this simple stretching routine before you hit the weights to get your whole body involved in your movements.
Runner’s Stretch- Start with one knee on the ground like you’re about to propose with your other foot planted flat underneath your knee. With your back straight, lean forward on your planted foot to open up your hips and pelvis. Lean back and stretch your planted leg so it’s straight, stretching your hamstrings. Do this on both sides, holding for 30 seconds on each stretch.
Seated Twist - Sit on the ground, one leg straight out, and bring the other foot to rest on the opposite side of the straight leg. With your elbow on your knee for support, twist your whole body towards your bent leg, going as far around as you can manage. Hold for 30 seconds.
Hip Stretches - Sit on the ground in a crossed-leg position. Keeping your back straight, bend your waist to lower your torso to the ground, allowing your hips to open up and stretch. Hold for 30 seconds.
Forward Hang - Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, interlace your hands behind your back. Bend forward at the waist as far as you can and allow your hands to lift up over your head. Hold for 30 seconds, breathing deep while you hang there.
Movement flow is fairly new in the fitness world, although those who compete in MMA or some form of martial arts are familiar with the idea. The idea is not new, finding its roots in Tai Chi and Qigong. Movement flow combines exercises into one continuous movement, ‘flowing’ from one movement to the next. It’s a smooth transition that requires much more flexibility and focus than you might imagine. These movements will show you where your true abilities are.
Watch this video from Ido Portal, one of the pioneers of this new form of exercise to understand how it works. Even big name fitness enthusiasts like Conor McGregor use it to prepare and condition their bodies for full functionality.
Yoga’s first goal is to align the body, improve your flexibility, and increase your functional strength. Studies show that yoga decreases LDL cholesterol levels, improves heart health, and increased athletic performance. The best part of doing yoga is that is teaches your correct body posture, which is a crucial part of your weight lifting routines. The yoga poses themselves are like an isometric exercise that builds muscle tone and strength.
Yoga Studio is a great app for doing yoga at home. You get 280 poses, beautifully illustrated and guided. You can create a playlist of movements that increase the difficulty to match your level. Also, there’s no shortage of excellent yoga tutorials online to guide you through a beginners or intermediate yoga routine.
Although we love adding movement into your workout because of the benefits it has for your muscle gains, it does so much more. Add in a routine of movement to switch up your workouts, add some variety and fun into your gym visits, and experience a new way to exercise.
Your body’s health depends on a full range of motion that will sustain you for years to come, keeping you agile, flexible and mobile.