In a way, strength training runs counter to the neuromuscular and biomechanical tendencies that are ingrained in every human being.
We humans generally change our daily activities to make our movements more efficient, requiring less muscle activation and reducing pressure on the joints. Strength training does the opposite in every way.
When I look around my office, I see all sorts of conveniences designed solely to reduce the amount of physical exertion in my life. There are two wing chairs with plush cheetah print cushions and two leather chairs directly across from my desk. My monitors are all at a height optimized for the sitting position, and my desk chair swivels 360 degrees – to make it easier not to get up.
I even have a mouse pad to make my wireless mouse navigation more comfortable for my hand and wrist.
All of this is just in one room, and I haven’t even talked about all the technology that allows me to physically stay at home while conducting business meetings with clients across the country.
Before this morning, I hadn’t thought about how my environment contributes to less physical activity. It’s a little weird to think about, especially as my career has been built around helping people be more active. But of course the furniture and technology don’t go away, so it’s my responsibility to consciously lead an active lifestyle.
I’ve always enjoyed physical activity, so it’s ironic how any exercise forces me to do the opposite of whatever my house allows. But that’s what makes conscious effort so important. The amount of physical activity I “accidentally” do is shrinking every year. I walk less, travel less and exercise less throughout the day. On average, about 50% of my daily steps come during a 45-minute workout, which says a lot about how little I move otherwise.
And I think that’s where you feel committed to an exercise routine. Without this commitment, my daily physical activity would be minimal. I can imagine that this also applies to many readers.
This week’s exercise is a highly inefficient strength training move. It’s also an easy addition to any routine and perfect for improving shoulder stability. The shoulder Y-pulse is a movement that is almost never performed in daily life, so the shoulders really respond to the stimuli.
1. Choose a very light pair of dumbbells and set an incline bench at 45 degrees.
2. Lie face down on the incline bench while holding a dumbbell in each hand.
3. Keeping both arms straight, twist the dumbbells so both thumbs are pointing up.
4. Raise both dumbbells diagonally toward the front of your shoulders. When the dumbbells reach shoulder height, take a break.
5. From here, perform eight small “pulses” very slowly, small repetitions only about 6 inches long.
6. Once you have completed the eight, lower yourself back down to the starting position.
7. Do this pattern for three sets of eight pulses.
Don’t get me wrong, I love creature comforts as much as the next person. Hell, I obviously surrounded myself with them. But with each passing year, it feels like my daily life is becoming less active – and that means I have to double my exercise schedule.
Let’s do it together!
Matt Parrott, director of business development and population health solutions at Quest Diagnostics, began this column in Little Rock 20 years ago. He holds a PhD in Education (Exercise Science), a Masters in Kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.