Gravity is the great enemy of graceful aging. At an early age, generally in our 20’s, gravity begins to attack and attempts to drag parts of us to the ground. Most of the time, this results in a saggy stomach or butt. As we age, we get shorter, heads fall forward, butts disappear, stomachs protrude and breasts sag. Exercise can help, but sometimes it can actually exacerbate the problem.
Problem # 1: The Wrong Exercises
Why do so many training systems have us training sitting down or lying down? Maybe it’s easier to sell exercise if you put a person in a starting position that they perceive as comfortable. Most machines allow you to sit or lie. They attempt to isolate muscles and make exercise safe.
But here’s the thing: If we’re consistently becoming less healthy, do we really need exercise that’s designed to be easy or exercise that is designed to be hard? If we get injured by a simple activity like lifting a child or stepping off a curb, do we need exercise that is designed to be “safe”?
Another problem: Training the “mirror muscles” of the chest and arms may make you feel better and may make you think you look better, but they do nothing to counteract age-related postural changes.
Problem # 2: Your Job
Gravity’s effect is magnified by long periods of sitting. Unfortunately, for many people, sitting with poor posture is a way of life. Worse, it’s often followed by more sitting at home or going to the gym for spinning class and some weight work, primarily bench presses and arm exercises. But this does nothing to counteract the forces of gravity.
Seated posture will cause the hip flexor muscles to shorten and so will exercising seated on the bike in spinning class. Seated posture will cause the muscles of the upper back to become long and weak while the chest muscle get short and tight. Do you think our bench press workout will help to counteract these changes? Probably not.
The Solution: Anti-Gravity Muscle
An anti-gravity muscle acts to keep us upright. Examples:
These muscles are designed to keep us on our feet and in an upright position. Training them will help improve your posture and overall appearance. So which exercises are best?
Do more squats and fewer leg presses, more rows and fewer bench presses, and lose the fascination with crunches. Thousands of crunches just magnify postural distortion by pulling the ribs down, and most other mirror muscle training may actually detract from a person’s appearance by consistently shortening the muscles of the chest and arms.
Think about how you train and, more importantly, why you train. If you train to be healthier and to improve your appearance, start doing the right exercises.
Michael Boyle is one of the world’s leading experts in the area of performance enhancement and the owner of StrengthCoach.com. He is also the author of Functional Training for Sports.