As an architect, I was trained to think that design was approached with either Form following Function or Function following Form. Depending on your schooling, your personal beliefs and your client, you may practice both approaches during your career. This morning, in the gym, I had a true flashback watching several other gym goers.
You’ve seen them before: the beef-cake who pumps and grunts, lifting way too much weight than his brawny body can manage; or the fully decked out, fully-put together bombshell, who whips around a 1.5 – 3 lb dumbbells, barely engaging any muscle in her body and lastly the lady who gets on the stationary bicycle, reads a trashy tabloid and spins slower than she actually walks for an hour. These are three very different types of people, who actually have a lot in common: they are letting form follow function. Why does this matter? Because letting your form come second during a workout can be counterproductive, dangerous and a waste of time. Let’s look at each of these examples a little closer:
- ‘The Meat Grinder:’ Between the pumps, he grunts. And between the grunts, he looks like he is going to burst a vein. And at the end of each set, he throws the weights down on the floor because it is just too hardto put them down in a controlled manner. Lastly, he gets up at the end of each set ‘in disgust’ and walks around like an ape. (Sorry, this is what it really looks like.) It is hard not to laugh at this picture…for sure, I find this more hilarious than anything else.
- Clue: If the weight is so heavy that you have to throw the weight down at the end of a set, or even ‘drop’ it on the floor, so that everyone else in the room can feel the vibrations throughout the gym as if there was an earthquake measuring 5.0 on the richter-scale, there is a good chance you are lifting too much weight.
- Solution: Slow down…take a deep breath…and concentrate on your form and do the repetitions slowly enough so that you can actually feel the muscles working. You will avoid hurting yourself, popping a blood vessel and may actually see better results from the exercise.
- ‘The Dumbbell Diva:’ Using weights means working with weights. If you aren’t fatiguing your muscle, then you aren’t really working your muscle, which means you aren’t really strengthening your muscle….and that is the point of strength training.
- Clue: If you can lift the weight as if it is a small can of beans, and possibly can win the world record for shot putting it into another county, it is too light. Secondly, if you don’t feel any resistance, there is a good chance that your form is wrong…increasing your chance of injury.
- Solution: You should be doing each weight lifting exercise somewhere between 8 to 15 times (repetitions), 2 to 3 times (sets) a workout. And, even more importantly, the last one or two repetitions of each set should be really, really, I mean REALLY hard to finish.
- ‘The Passive Petunia:’ Sure, getting your flash and trash updates is a great way to distract yourself during exercise, but if you are more into your mag content than your workout, there is a good chance you aren’t actually getting your heart rate up to a point where it matters most: in the cardio zone. What honestly is the point of even going to the gym if you aren’t going to get any benefits out of it?
- Clue: If your heart rate is below 18 to 20 beats per 10 seconds, you aren’t getting anything out of your workout.
- Solution: If you need a distraction, try watching TV or listening to music. Music is a great motivator for working out…and it can actually make you workout harder if you select songs with a good beat and some drive.
In short, when you exercise, make it purposeful. Be mindful about the movement, your heart rate, your form…and you should be in good shape (pardon the pun). There is no point in exercising if you don’t make it a mental exercise as well. It takes concentration and thought…and with that, results are easier to come by.
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