“A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” – Gertrude Stein
I stood in the hallway of my office having a conversation with an orthopedic surgeon. We had just finished giving a lecture on rotator cuff surgery and physical rehab. The audience was a mix of physical therapists, a few physicians, and some athletic trainers. I thought the talk went well.
That is until I asked the surgeon what he thought.
He said, “You know, I don’t know what the big deal is about rehab really. It’s just not that hard. All you need is some surgical tubing and a few simple exercises. You guys way over complicate stuff.”
Then I just had to hit him.
In my mind.
Well sort of…instead I did something that was the equivalent of a business upper cut.
I said, “Would you agree that the best outcome from your surgery depends on what people do after the surgery?”
The surgeon replied, “Well, yes. Of course that matters.”
And then came the upper cut. “So, you’re okay risking a $8 to 10,000 procedure on a $2 rubber tube and a sheet of exercises from the 50’s?” I said.
So, you could say I hit him and myself at the same time.
I’m smarter now but I still think I was right. Could have said it differently for sure.
But his attitude still exists today and it’s not just in rehab. It’s everywhere in the world of “exercise”.
Exercise is exercise. How hard can it be?
When I was in my teens, I could do just about whatever I wanted to do and paid a small physical price for it. The power of hormones, quick recovery, and a high metabolic rate. But now, in my 50’s, I have to train smart (and I still mess that up from time to time). And training smart means understanding two things: why and how.
Is it to change the way you look? If so, then some people use body building drills and muscle isolation drills (stuff like biceps curls, leg extensions, hamstring curls), and set up their training to work, for example, upper body Monday, lower body Wednesday, Back And Chest on Friday and Saturday and Sunday might be “cardio” days.
And that can work. But what it won’t do for you is build a wide functional base or what’s called general physical preparedness. Your body gets good at what you do repeatedly. So, you might be able to lift 100 lbs on a leg extension machine but it won’t help you much in your ability to jump or run or snow ski for example.
Or maybe you’re thinking you need to just “get in shape” so you join a Zumba class or a spin class (and a lot of people use this to burn fat). And that works too. But you just left off strength, stamina, and power. Three things you must have if you want to not feel your age as you age.
Exercise helps you whether you use machines or free weights or run. But HOW you exercise – a better word is train – makes a difference.
And not just in your muscles or joints.
It’s in your brain.
Drills that challenge your balance cause your brain to change; to create vital connections that grow stronger with use. And it doesn’t take much. For example, by making a small change to a commonly used movement – the reverse lunge, you can transform it into a drastically different drill that improves balance, core strength, and lower body strength all at once.
I’ve written a few articles deconstructing commonly used drills pointing out the safety risks and offering substitutions (here, here, and here). The thing is, a training routine is very much like a recipe where the drills are the ingredients.
If you want a broad, deep functional base then you need to train through multiple planes of motion, a variety of movements. The fringe benefits of this method are lower body fat, more muscle tone, you’ll move more gracefully, and feel way better.
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cayusa/2602616491/