When I meet new fitness clients they often request, “I want to tone my arms, abs, or lower body.” Females often refer to their “muffin top,” “flabby belly,” or “thunder thighs.” Where did we learn to chop up and insult ourselves?
Fitness magazines describe “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 persistently promise to “fix” our supposedly flawed parts.
Exercise professionals, like myself, often use anatomical vocabulary that can perpetuate false delineations of the body. Around the gym you’ll hear, “The curl is for your biceps” of “Squats are great for your glutes.”
While the biceps may be the primary movers of a curl, an extensive network of stabilizing muscles keep you standing as you lift 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 only one continuous muscle with a vast network of insertions and origins. The efficient contraction and relaxation of muscles depends on deep breathing and effective circulation. Distinctions 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 optimal 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 instead of hanging self hatred on these areas.
- Understand your inner dialogue is a crucial part of your training. 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.