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Welcome to Day 4 of the BWF Primer Build-up!
Hey gang, Nick-E here for Day 4!
Hope you guys managed to get a hang of the rows or reverse push-ups yesterday. As with the rest of this 2 week period, you’re going to now have another day to practice those rows or reverse push-ups, and you’ll be reading a little bit of educational training theory information instead to help contextualise why you’re doing what you are doing and how it is going to help you to achieve your goals.
Anyway, today we’ll be doing:
– Some reading about the concept of muscular Balance and why it is important in training routines.
– Another workout of Push-ups and Rows (or Reverse Push-ups)!
Today’s Learning: Paying Attention to Muscular Balance in Exercise Selection
Now that your workouts are push-ups AND rows, today is the perfect day to talk about balance in the selection of exercises in your training routine.
Essentially this is making sure that your workout always exercises opposing muscles proportionally to eachother. Muscles that oppose eachother are called ‘antagonists’. Your biceps (front of your upper arm) bends your elbow, and your triceps (back of your upper arm) straightens your elbow. Therefore the biceps is the antagonist of the triceps, and vice versa.
Muscular balance is important for two reasons:
- If you only exercise one half of your body, you will look very lopsided and unusual
- If you only exercise the muscles on one side of a joint, that joint will function poorly and will be more likely to get injured (This is the more important one.)
To expand on point 2, muscles primary function is to move your skeleton around. You big ol’ bag of bones, you.
You can say its sort of secondary function is to provide additional stability to your joints on top of the job done by your ligaments, particularly in keeping the joints aligned and centred where they should be throughout their whole range of motion.
They achieve this by engaging in a constant tug-of-war with their antagonists, keeping the joint nice and snug in the middle where it should be. If one muscle is wildly, disproportionately stronger than the other, then they will very easily win that tug-of-war and the joint will be much more able to move out of centre (mostly, in the direction that it is being pulled by the very strong muscle), which opens the window for undue strain to the joint and surrounding tissues due to clicking, grinding and unnatural patterns of tension or stress on soft tissues such as tendons and ligaments.
There is a super high individual variability in what degree of muscular *im-*balance becomes troublesome. For some individuals, they can train in a very imbalanced way for months or years before seeing problems, whereas for others, it doesn’t take very much at all. Particularly for individuals with joint hypermobility, muscular balance is absolutely key, as a defining feature of joint hypermobility is laxity in the ligaments. This means that the muscles are actually the main joint stabiliser, since the “real” main joint stabiliser is off having a long nap in the corner. So if your muscles on either side of a joint are imbalanced and you are hypermobile, you are going to know, and right away.
However, even in those individuals who are more resilient to muscular imbalance related joint issues, just because those joint issues take years to develop, doesn’t mean you want them to develop anyway.
So the simple solution to this is always making sure to train in a balanced way.
For example, if you are training push-ups, you should always also train rows. This is because pushups train your chest and front shoulder muscles (pecs and anterior delts; for those that want the official names) which pull on the shoulder to towards the front), whereas rows work the back and rear shoulder muscles (lats, rhomboids, mid/low traps,and posterior delts; again for those who want the official names) which pull on the shoulder in the opposite direction; towards the back.
Too much of one without the other spells trouble!
Therefore, the volume of push-ups that you do should be (roughly) comparable to the volume of rows you do. By volume, I mean the total amount of the exercise that you do; 3 sets of one, 3 sets of the other (This does not have to be in the same day). As mentioned above with the individual variability, some people really do not function properly with any less than a 1:1 pushing to pulling ratio, some need even more pulling for their shoulders to be happy, whereas some inexplicably function ok with a lot of pushing but relatively little pulling.
However, only training push-ups will eventually result in joint issues down the road**.** The only thing in question is how long that road is, not where it will end.
This is true of more or less every area in the body, not just the shoulders. Hips, knees, ankles, the list goes on. In fact many joint injuries that occur will be in part, contributed to by some sort of “arthrokinematic dysfunction”, which in real-person words means ‘the joint not moving well and not staying in the centre when it should be staying in the centre, but instead going on a little adventure and knocking into some bones, tendons or ligaments’, as we’ve outlined.
This topic is pretty complex and I don’t think I can continue without becoming unhelpfully and increasingly reductive for the sake of simplicity so I’m going to stop there, and if people want to discuss this more or have any questions, feel free to shoot them into the comments!
(REMINDER: IF YOU ARE FAILING ANY OF YOUR SETS, OR EVEN PUSHING CLOSE TO FAILURE, YOU ARE WORKING WAY TOO HARD. PICK AN EASIER LEVEL OF INCLINATION/EXERCISE VARIATION THAT YOU COULD DO SEVERAL MORE REPS OF IF YOU HAD TO. THE FOCUS OF THIS PHASE OF THE PRIMER ROUTINE IS ON TECHNIQUE PRACTICE AND LEARNING, NOT PUSHING YOURSELF TO YOUR LIMIT OR EVEN CLOSE. IF YOU PUSH YOURSELF TO FAILURE 6x A WEEK FOR TWO WEEKS YOU WILL BE MASSIVELY OVERDOING IT AND BURN OUT QUICKLY.)
Ok, I did it!
If you want to chat about your experience so far, I’ve set up a new ‘beginners zone’ in the /r/bodyweightfitness discord server, so you can come chat with other new exercisers in a friendly environment, with friendly helpers with experience with exercise that have volunteered to answer any questions you may have!