As we begin personal training sessions many clients request, “I want to tone my arms, abs, or lower body.” Female clients often refer to their “muffin top,” “flabby belly,” or “thunder thighs.” Where did we learn to fragment and insult ourselves like this?
Fitness magazines characterize the body with “trouble zones” and sell workouts to “sculpt” your booty or belly. Spot reduction, or fat loss to individual areas of the body, has been repeatedly debunked. Yet ThighMaster and Ab-lounger infomercials constantly promise to “fix” our supposedly flawed parts.
Exercise professionals (like myself) often perpetuate false delineations when using anatomical vocabulary. “The curl is for your biceps.” While the biceps may be the primary movers of a curl, an extensive network of stabilizing muscles keep you standing as you maneuver the weight. Muscular isolation is virtually impossible.
This splintering is artificial, emotionally damaging, and generates dysfunctional training. It’s reductionism infused with self-loathing.
The body organizes itself into movement patterns, not individual muscles. The current research on the fascial system contends that we have one continuous muscle with a vast network of insertions and origins. The contraction and relaxation of muscles depends on deep breathing and efficient circulation. Delineations between these parts and systems are actually quite contrived.
To exercise efficiently, consistently, and joyfully optimize the relationship between your parts and your attitude:
- Use isolation training therapeutically. An aching shoulder may need extra attention to “play well with the others.” Focus on one part to address the tensegrity of the entire muscular system.
- Practice full body movements. These days I’m loving crawling, overhead squats, and sun salutations.
- Re-establish deep breathing patterns and feel who you are under the muscular layer.
- Rediscover the functionality of your “trouble zones”. Find the locomotive capacity of your thighs and the strength in your belly.
- Understand your inner dialogue is a crucial part of your entrainment. Continue to tell yourself that you are weak, ugly, or broken and you will never become strong, beautiful, and whole.
Our health depends on the body-mind to function as an integrated system, not a collection of bastardized parts.