What is wrong with the picture to the left? Most people would take one look at the image and think “nothing”. When actually the picture shows the man with a towel wrapped around his neck which is one of the “no no’s” when it comes to working out. You don’t want anything behind your neck because it promotes forward head position and you want to try to put head in line with shoulders.
When it comes to working out, proper alignment is way more important than anything else. Without proper alignment you cannot build muscle properly and you risk injury. Alignment is important from stretching to cardio. So here are some more tips to help you work out healthy and safely.
- When it comes to using weights, it’s always a good idea to wear gloves. Gloves help not only keep you from blistering your hands, but it helps prevent the spread of bacteria. Especially since only 5% of people wash their hands correctly, and men are more likely to not use soap.
- Don’t pay attention to what “that guy” is doing. Chances are, you are going to have a different body and different goals than anyone else at a gym. Put that together with the fact that MOST people are working out incorrectly and you’ll see why I say to pay attention to no one! You have a smartphone, use it! When in doubt about an exercise or technique, use Google.
- Most of the time you will want to make sure your HEAD is in line with your SHOULDERS, in line with your HIPS and in line with your ANKLES! Keep a slight bend of the knees and feet pointed forward. This is your NEUTRAL position. Maintain this posture for basic exercises.
- CrossFit Family: A squat does not need to be toes turned out and butt below the knees. In fact unless you are super flexible (ie. you are a ballerina) you will probably injure yourself. Feet are anatomically meant to face forward. This will help your posture and facilitate you NOT getting injured!
- Doing a chest press or bench press requires that you have the bar over your nipples. Any higher and you are working more shoulder than chest and risk injury.
- Always warm up before getting into lifting. Think mobility, move every single joint in your body around. Pair that with:
- Always STRETCH! Stretching is MORE important than anything else. It keeps the body agile, helps aid in digestion, stimulated blood flow, keeps organs healthy and happy. It is also great because it helps alleviate muscles that are sore from training.
- Always learn the proper technique BEFORE trying something new. Don’t mess around with weights or even complicated yoga postures. Learn and move with caution. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Believe me you do NOT want a back injury from lifting too heavy like I did. Chronic pain is not fun to live with.
- Research before you try a new activity. Just because there is a Groupon deal to train with “Jo Cool”, doesn’t mean he knows what he is doing. Not every yoga class is the same. You don’t want to just walk into an Ashtanga class having never done yoga before unless you are an incredible athlete with great flexibility, or you are in for a killer suprise!
- Smile! Too often we have these horrible expressions on our faces like we are dreading what we are doing. This is exercise, not torture! Exercise should be fun, make you feel good inside, stimulate peace of mind and curiosity of spirit. If you do not like the activity you chose, pick another one! There are plenty of things out there to enjoy!
- If you like your cardio, watch your posture! This is something people do not think about but is super important. You need to be walking and running with your feet hip distance and facing forward. Your alignment should be the same as if you are standing still. (See bullet point 3). Pull the shoulders back and down, engage the abdominals by pulling the belly in and up. Keep the head in line with the shoulders. So many people have the forward head posture from being at a computer all day. This position compromises the spine!
- If you are on the elliptical or anything like it, keep your heels down and feet facing forward.
- If you work out at a gym, use the mirrors! They are there for a reason and it is not to check out the hot girl with the big boobs (though she is great to look at). The mirrors are there for you to watch how you do an exercise. So often I see people not looking at their form and getting distracted. FOCUS! For instance: bicep curls should be done with the elbows glued to your sides, your elbows should not be moving forward as you lift the weight, that is using shoulder and not isolating the bicep muscle.
- Lift smarter, not heavier! Too often people think they need to lift heavy weights to lose weight. Take it from me, I am smaller now with more strength as a yogi lifting no weights than I ever was lifting heavy weights. There is no legitimate purpose to lift heavy. No doctor would ever prescribe you to lift heavy weights. It compromises your joints and spine and results in injuries more often than you would think. Increasing weight should be done under the supervision of a professional and under the watch of a spine specialist.
- Forget the weight belt. These things do not serve you. They teach you to ignore your abdominal muscles and encourage strain and stress to the back as you lift heavy weights. Learn to USE your core! You core is more important than the dead lift you want to do with 500 pounds.
- Start simple. Sure there are balance discs, bosu balls and stability balls and yes they are fun to use. But only use them when you have mastered the art of the exercise standing on two feet. There is ALWAYS a way to make an exercise more challenging. You will ALWAYS be able to advance your progress. Be patient and practice. Practice DOES make perfect.
- Proper diet is just as important as exercise. You are what you eat. You need to eat with thought. The more organic and less processed food in your system, the BETTER results you will get. You will live longer, healthier and happier. Doctors are now prescribing produce! Whatever you do, DO NOT DRINK or EAT anything from your gym! Gyms have contracts with the suppliers to have crap on their shelves. Read the ingredients (you know I have), they are filled with crap. If you need to hydrate, drink water and eat your protein when you get home.
- After working out, you need to get fuel in your system within a half an hour. You just depleted your energy levels and your muscles need to recover. Best solution? Use organic protein (I steer clear of soy) with your choice of organic milk and a piece of organic fruit in your blender. Liquid form is easiest for your body to break down and restore your energy levels.
- Don’t forget to stretch your hands. Downward dog is great for this because it trains you to stretch your fingers wide and helps prevent arthritis from being on that computer all day!
- What are the Health Benefits of Yoga? (epicahealth.com)
- Posture Management for Bad Backs (badbacksblog.wordpress.com)
- Exercise for Good Posture, Not Good Posing. ~ Michaelle Edwards (elephantjournal.com)