I thought I would put together a list of things to be aware of whilst on your exercise journey, however far along you may be. It is not in any particular order, and is by no means all you need to consider, so feel free to add to it. I haven’t really elaborated on any point as I intend to address each point in more detail during the next few weeks. Note, the advice given assumes that you are fit and healthy to perform a normal routine of exercise. If you have any injury, medical condition, or the like, always consult a specialist before embarking on an exercise routine.
1. Lift Weights
Whatever your goal, the appropriate type, intensity and volume of resistance training will help you achieve it.
2. Build your routine around free weights
Exercise machines definitely have their place, but free weights, ie barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls etc will develop a stronger, more balanced and functional physique. Do both, but build your routine around free weights.
3. Perfect your form
Good exercise form is the key to good results and training longevity. If you can’t lift a light weight with good form, you’re not ready to go heavy.
4. Pay more attention to ecentric muscle contraction.
Ecentric muscle contraction is when a muscle contracts under load whilst lengthening as opposed to concentric contraction, when the muscle contracts whilst shortening. Developing control during the eccentric phase of an exercise promotes greater strength and muscle growth; it puts your body in the right possition for the concentric phase, it promotes body control and improves explosive power. So, don’t just drop a weight after lifting or pushing or pulling, practice control.
5. Fix your movement pattern
Muscle imbalances, asymmetry and inflexibility around joints are the major causes of injury. Include corrective exercises specific to your needs, into your daily routine. It is always a good idea to speak to an exercise specialist to help identify problems with your movement and advise on corrective action.
6. Work your hamstrings
Chances are, your quadriceps are disproportionately too strong for your hamstrings, resulting in performance deficits and making the knee joint vulnerable to injury. Include more hamstring work into your exercise routine eg leg curls, dead lifts, RDL, squat and lunge variations etc.
7. Work your glutes (the unsung heroes)
They’re probably too weak. Strong glutes help stabilize the pelvis, help prevent lower back pain and injury, are important for good posture, and are essential for strength, power and performance. Do more squats and lunge variations, abduction (side leg lifts) and hip extension work.
8. Stretch your hip flexors
They’re probably too tight. Tight hip flexors cause postural problems, lower back pain, pelvic instability and hinder the activation of glutes.
9. Develop the core vertically
Most targeted core exercises are done in the horizontal plane (either on your back or stomach). Many of these exercises are very beneficial, but most of life and performance happens in the vertical plane. We don’t spend enough time developing the stability and strength of the core in an upright position. Add some rotational movements and stability work while standing.
10. Rest and Recover
Rest and recovery is an essential component in achieving results. It is during rest that we repair and grow stronger and more resilient. Plan your rest and recovery as meticulously as you plan your exercise schedule – it is a vital, yet largely overlooked part of your overall programme.