With more people staying away from gyms, strength training is falling to the wayside. In this article we’ll explore the “pre-COVID” approach to strength training using machines, how this differs from ancestral strength, and then define ways to increase your flexibility in order to lift your body well.
First off – Remember the days of going to the gym?
We curled our biceps and hamstrings, we extended our quads and triceps, and we had conveniently contrived machines to augment the strength and action of each body part, so we didn’t have to do too much thinking beyond when it was time to fit the pin to the next lowest hole on the weight stack.
I remember noting the irony of the activities we did in the gym — we would crank out reps or miles on our “evolved” (and sometimes seated!) machines, with the goal of conditioning our bodies to have the power, strength, and endurance of Neanderthal days.
And then the Pandemic hit. For many of us, stepping foot in a germy gym is out of the question, and giving up our monthly memberships to the Y and 24 Hour ends up paying for our Netflix and Disney channels.
Here we are a year later, still in our living rooms, having put our Netflix accounts to good use, but also having lost some of the lean muscle and motivation we used to so diligently work on weekly, in the gym. Metabolisms are lower, stress hormones are higher, and the Covid poundage has slowly crept up with endless time spent in isolation. Especially with winter upon us, our bodies are moving less, and “working out” is not top on our self preservation priority list.
As you quest for the impetus to move within the confines of your home, you might start with a simple question:
Do I lift my body well?
We’ve all been blessed with body weight — a radical way to view the extra Covid poundage — which provides load for our muscles to move. What if we use this bodyweight to really learn how to control each little inch of our squat, pushup, or any other movement, and build the strength necessary to stop and stabilize at any point in that range of motion?! Think of this form of body weight training as being relative to what our ancestors had to do to survive — without the convenience of technology and automation, manual labor was necessary for everything from getting food to building the roof over their head. Because they weren’t spending their days seated in front of the computer, they’re movement patterns were not limited by the loss of flexibility that a sedentary lifestyle provides therefore, their strength was much less compartmentalized.
While gym machines are user friendly, they’ve never helped our bodies to intuitively move well. Making movement challenging without extraneous load requires finding the edge of our range of motion limitations, and then learning to hold and control body weight throughout those ranges.
Which brings me to my next point, we need to start with our flexibility. And you’ll be happy to know that some flexibility can be gained while you watch that next episode of Bridgerton? Put this time inside your home to good use by working on the flexibility practices that were so diligently ignored at the gym, such as:
- Ball and foam rolling
- Passive and dynamic stretching
- Yoga and pilates
Your body is a clean slate right now, and because of the lost reps at the gym, you might find flexibility work to be less of a struggle. As we clean up our inflexible limitations, we then have an easier time controlling our body weight in any position without fighting tight musculature. What if you spend these last few months of social distancing working on increasing your flexibility, strengthening throughout your full range of motion, and then return to the gym with a newfound Neanderthal-like strength base to build on.