It is the year 2005. And American people have never been busier, and more pressed for time. Several people feel they must accomplish multiple goals at once. A multi-tasker in corporate America might negotiate a multi-million deal via the cell phone, submit an order of materials on behalf of her vice president over the Internet and watch the final quarter of a Monday night football game. Although multi-tasking is a challenging and tiring method of managing workload, it builds stamina and resilience to environmental pressures.
But multitasking does not have to be limited to the office or family room; One can actually multitask during an exercise routine at the gym. For the purposes of this article, this phenomenon will be called “anatomical multitasking”, but it is commonly known as balance and stability training.
A modern-day gym no longer consists of oversized, gender-discriminating Nautilus machines, and a few bikes and treadmills. It is now a fitness amusement park with multicolored stability balls, Bosu balls, snake-like tubes, foam rolls, Dyna Discs, Reebok stability boards and other tools that can utilized to challenge the core musculature during a standard weightbearing exercise.
Each of these tools are different in size, shape, weight and form, but they can be positioned in a way that will not only enable a person to independently train a muscle, but also independently train the core musculature. For example, a standard weightbearing exercise for the chest is a two-armed dumbbell press on a bench. The primary muscle group being exercised is the pectoralis major, and the secondary muscle group being exercised is the deltoid region. Ten repetitions with 70% of a one repetition max can yield a sustainable burn. Let’s say the flat bench is replaced with a stability ball. Now, the primary muscle group being exercised is the upper portion of the core as one has to achieve stability in an unstable position to complete the second set. The secondary and tertiary muscle groups being exercised are the pectoralis major and deltoid region. What is the difference between the first and second set? First, the workout environment changed from a flat bench to a round ball. Second, the second set exercised three major muscle groups and the first sent exercised two major muscle groups. Finally, the caloric loss and metabolic rate is higher when one anatomically “multitasks” with different fitness equipment as opposed to one with less fitness equipment.
However, a flat bench is not as “boring” as it sounds. For example, one can set up on the bench, and come back down. This is a simple leg workout. However, one can hold on two dumbbell curls, come up to do a bicep curl, lift one leg up in a knee position, and both arms to perform a shoulder press. Once they are on top, the person brings down the weights into an isometric bicep curl position, and comes down from the bench in the original starting position. This exercise can be done in the front, sagittal and transverse planes, depending on which side of the person is the most weak. What gets accomplished in this exercise? First, the hamstrings and calves get stronger, leading to increased functionality with movement patterns. Second, the biceps, shoulder and tricep muscles are all activated. Finally, the core musculature is exercised through simply balancing on top of the bench with one leg in the air. SIX muscle groups are being exercised in one movement pattern – If this isn’t anatomical multitasking, what is?
So as one walks through the modern-day gym, they will see people doing acrobatic exercises with many different pieces of equipment. Some people are doing acrobatic exercises without any equipment. People will invariably fall off their stability balls, or roll of the foam. There are a few who just avoid them like the plague itself. As frustrating as the acrobatics are, stability and balance training are absolutely necessary for strengthening the core musculature needed to not only maintain the extensibility of the lower and mid back (one of the most overused muscles in the human body), but also to employ energy reserves from the core to engage in more advanced power exercises that could lead to a greater increase in fitness benefits. So, here’s a note for the American multitasker at the gym: If you think that talking on a cell phone, typing on a laptop and watching television will make you feel accomplished, wait until you do lower abdominals raises with a weight between your ankles as you do chest flys on a long foam roll for one, straight minute…and then do it three more times
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