Thursday, July 23, 2009

Primal movements and resistance exercise

Good resistance exercise routines should include "primal movement patterns". The concept of the “Primal Movement Patterns” was developed by Paul Chek. These movements have been common to mankind for millenia. Without them our early ancestors would have never been able to fight animals, to build refuge, to climb trees, to harvest agricultural products, to escape a predator by swimmig across a lake etc. Paul Chek's methodology is based on whole body approach focused on functionality. As a chiropractor, I understand that that is how we get stronger and stay away from injury.

The Squat: This basic movement involves bending at the knees and the hips, while keeping the back relatively straight, and lifting a weight from the ground or pushing a weight that is placed on the back or chest. Exercise examples include barbell or dumbell squats, machine squats, squat to press, plyometric jumps etc. Have a professional take a look at your squat. Squats are great exercises when performed correctly, but they become hazardous if you don't perform them with good form. An easier, less complex exercise in this category include the leg press. This might be a good exercise to start building up leg strength while you perfect your squat form.

Lunges: This exercise involves stepping forward with just one leg, and bending that leg down. From your point of you, when you look down to your feet while performing the exercise, make sure your knees do not go past beyond your toes. Keep your torso as straight as possible. Add resistance only when you have good balance and can do the exercise with proper form. Exercise examples include the lunge, the walking lunge, lunge with a twist (using a medicine ball or a resistance band), lunging into a step, etc. The single leg press is a good preparation exercise.

Bending: This movement involves flexing and extending at the waist, preferably in a standing position. This movement doesn't usually exist in isolation in our daily lives unless we are at the gym exercising doing countless crunches. It is usually combined with the first two movements (squat and lunge) in real life. Examples of this exercise include crunches, deadlifts, sit ups, back extensions, throwing a medicine ball forcefully to the floor, etc.

Twisting: This movement involves turning and rotating the torso to apply force. Racquet sports players are very familiar with this movent, especially tennis players. As a primal movement, it combined other movements like throwing, lunging, pulling or pushing. At the gym, we can apply it when we do medicine ball throws to the side, cable torso twists, bicycles or oblique crunches and woodchop exercises.

Pushing: This movement includes using the arms, chest, and shoulders to force a weight out and away or up from the body. Exercises in this category include push-ups, bench press, standing cable crossovers, military presses, dumbbell shoulder presses etc.

Pulling: This movement involves using the arms, back muscles, and posterior shoulder muscles. Examples of gym exercises include seated rows, chin-ups, lat pull downs, rear-deltoid flies etc.

So how do you use this information? Well, if you are a beginner who is in good physical health, you can pick one exercise per category. My favorite exercises to start with for beginners are dumbbell chest presses (push, horizontally), shoulder presses (push, vertically), seated row (pull horizontally), lat-pull down (pull vertically), the leg press (squat), reverse lunges (lunge), the frontal plank (endurance, bend sagittal plane) and the side plank (endurance, bend on the coronal plane), I find they are a good foundation from which you can build more complexity in later routines. Perform 1 set 8 - 12 repetitions (10 - 15 if you are an older or sedentary beginner). A good weight is one that you can lift at least 8 times or 12 times AT MOST. Increase the number of sets as you get stronger. Planks (side and frontal) are timed. Make it your goal to hold the position for 30 seconds and build up to one minute.

Make sure your form at these exercises is impeccable. Sometimes we think we are performing an exercise correctly from our point of view, but from a couple of meters away, your form might look like a trainer's nightmare: the injury express. So, if you can afford it, hire a personal trainer to watch your form. If not, research the exercises, instruct a friend on how the exercise should be performed, and have him or her watch you perform the exercises so that you know you are doing them correctly.

NOTE: You should always get medical clearance before starting any kind of exercise regimen.

NEXT: A word about Cardiopulmonary Exercise or CARDIO for short.

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