Adventure Nomad

Adventure Nomad

Friday, June 15, 2007

Confessions of a Gym Rat

My mum fell and broke her hip earlier this week. It wasn’t anything dramatic. She just lost her balance and fell to the floor. And now, she has a couple of titanium screws holding her hipbone together. Despite regular visits to the gym, she did not have functional strength to maintain her balance that may have prevented the fall.

My mum’s not that old. She’s in her 60’s. She visits the gym twice a week and works out mainly on the machines there. The problem with machines is that they can only exercise the muscle along one axis. That’s great for isolating and rehabilitating an injured muscle, but in real life, you can twist and turn and use your muscles in three dimensions.

Mum didn't have much chance to right her balance before she fell. Her stabilizer muscles were not developed in her gym routine. For example, the Leg Press machine she is so fond of is fine for building up the quads, but ignores the stabilizer muscles of the legs, and ignores the relationship between the legs, the core (muscles of the middle body), and the upper body. It’s the same for the other machines at most gyms.

I'm a gym rat, but if you’ve guessed I’m not a big fan of machines, you’re right. So if you’re wondering how else to get a workout in the gym, I can point you in the right direction. Core Performance, by Mark Verstegen, is a good place to start. The emphasis is on working out the body as a whole, and has elements of Pilates and Yoga. What’s also great about Core Performance is that the workout can be done with a simple home gym, or adapted for use while traveling.

If you’re an athlete and work out with weights for strength and power, another good reference is Dr. Michael Colgan’s: The New Power Program. One of Colgan’s premises is to avoid using machines for the reasons mentioned above, and prefer the use free weights and cables in order to recruit more muscle groups that are involved in stabilizing the weights. I’m a big fan of Dr. Colgan. His earlier work, Optimum Sports Nutrition, is a sports best seller, and it literally saved my life.

Despite my buff appearance in the photo on top, I'm not an expert. The authors of the recommended books are. Working out or training puts a lot of stress on muscle, joints, bones and the cardiovasular system. Please follow their advice at your own risk.

Photo by Stephanie Yeow

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