Integrated Over Isolated Movements

One of the biggest mistakes I see people in the gym making are performing exercises with the intention of  isolating one muscle group.  If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, an example of this would be the woman who wants her arms to look skinnier, so she persists on spending 15 minutes doing bicep curls and tricep extensions.  This could also be the guy at the gym who is doing every form of a bicep curl and shoulder press imaginable (using dumbells, cables, resistance bands etc.).  Though maybe his arms and shoulders do look good, is he even able to lift his arm straight over his head?   I hate to say it ladies but…you’re wasting your time, & guys, you have some major muscle imbalances going on.

Guys, let’s take a look at something you could do for this imbalance…

1. Angels on a Foam Roller (P.S. you’re probably going to need to do a lot)

Ladies, let’s take a look at something you could do in order to incorporate more muscles, but still work the arms at the same time…

1. Walking Lunge w/ Curl

Here, you’re getting more muscles involved (not to mention much larger muscles) so you’re going to be basically killing 2 birds with one stone (if you planned on doing lunges later) as well as getting your heart rate up a little more since we have more muscles working at the same time.

This is just one example of an integrated movement.  Well, what exactly does that mean?

An integrated movement is a movement performed that uses multiple muscle groups at the same time to complete a movement correctly.  You may have also heard it referred to as functional training (althougth this is a term that is tossed around a lot).  Functional training is meant to mimic activites that occur in our everyday life.  In most of our daily activities we use more than one muscle group, right? CORRECT.

Think about it, in order to do seemingly simple tasks such as bending over to lift a heavy box off the floor, muscle integration occurs. Legs should be involved (quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings) as well as core (in order to protect your lower back), and obviously the arms as you lift.  Not executing the movement properly can/will result in injury.  This is one example why deadlifts are SO important to incorporate into your training program.  We bend over to pick things up (whether they be heavy or light) everyday, therefore we should know how to engage the proper muscles so that injury doesn’t occur while performing this movement.

In addition, when you’re swinging a golf club, throwing a baseball, kicking a soccer ball, there are NUMEROUS muscles working together in unison to make that particular movement occur.  Although most of us aren’t professional athletes, swinging clubs or throwing baseballs like the pros do, these are all movements that we mimic in our lives.  Therefore, we need to train our bodies to prepare for movements like this. As Gray Cook* says, “use it the way you want to use it, & move it the way you want to move it.”

My point is that no one can give a good reason as to why they are performing isolated movements at the gym…except for bodybuilders.  Bodybuilders are a different case though.  I like how Gray Cook* puts it,  “if you’re going to isolate, we call that bodybuilding and you bodybuild to become a statue.  Body builders aren’t really known for their movement or athletic prowess, they’re known for the way they look standing still.”  In this case, isolated movements are needed in order to get the desired results.  But bodybuilders have to function in their everyday life still, right?  Let’s just assume that a bodybuilder probably wouldn’t have the best golf swing.

Bottom line, WEIGHTLIFTING SHOULD NOT BE SEGMENTALIZED.  Not every single exercise you do has to be multi-joint, but the foundation of movements in your training program should incorporate integrated movement patterns.  According to Gray Cook*, some of the best integrated exercises that you can perform are the following:

1. Half Kneeling Chop & Lifts

2. Turkish Get-Up

3. Two-arm Single Leg Deadlift

4. Cross-body One-arm Single Leg Deadlift

These 4 exercises are 4 of the best corrective exercises that most people can incorporate into their training program.  These exercises will certainly point out  left-right imbalances that are occuring in your body as well as challenge you in a way you probably haven’t challenged yourself.  You can look up videos for the movements online…I’d suggest looking at Gray Cook’s demonstrations on YouTube.  I plan to shoot some videos of these exercises & post them in the near future as well so you can check those out too!

*Gray Cook is possibly the world’s most sought-after injury prevention specialist, having a history of working with many NFL, MLB, NHL & NBA teams. In 2007, both the Chicago Bears & Indianapolis Colts used him in order to keep athletes strong & injury free, and both teams ended up at Super Bowl XLI.  He’s not only limited to the major leagues, he also works with the special forces, keeping them strong & injury free as well.


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