There are many individuals that train to gain however there is a significant amount of those who only train one area of the body. For most of us we like to train what we are good at or what we perceive to be best for our bodies. This however can lead to hazardous implications. Not only does this type of training lead to body proportion issues (i.e. huge upper body and stick legs or vice versa) but more importantly it can lead to serious acute and chronic issues due to overuse.
Here are the 5 top reasons to train the whole body:
- Muscles need rest – there is no point in repeating the same exercise daily if you are using an efficient load with it. Reduced rest can lead to overtraining which can cause over contraction of muscles leading to reciprocal inhibition of antagonist muscles. For example, if you continually work your biceps, your triceps lengthen resulting in an elbow that stays bent and cannot straighten. Furthermore, that continual bicep contraction will eventually lead to fibers shortening, meaning they will not be able to contract properly and will get weak, not stronger, as I am assuming most are wanting.
- Greater increases in “the gains” – Allowing yourself to work on different muscle groups will actually increase your strength. For instance, if you spend time on strengthening the stabilizing muscles of a joint instead of the bigger global muscles you will gain better recruitment of these larger global muscle fibers. This can be seen with increasing strength in the shoulders rotator cuff or the hips rotators. Each will lead to better alignment and as a result will increase strength more throughout the deltoids and glutes. You can even get more detailed and start using sling patterns which are the way muscles connect via fascia to create movement within our bodies. If you follow those patterns you will gain better outcomes as the body likes to move as a functional unit. For example, if you have issues with contracting your mid back (i.e. mid and lower traps), pair a squat with a row. The contraction of the glutes will actually increase and help contract the mid and lower trapezius muscles.
- Proportion is the key – for those of you only looking for the aesthetics making sure you are symmetrical is the key to beauty. Research has found that majority of the population likes symmetry and finds it pleasing to the eye. That means making sure both the upper body and lower body are in balance will help make you look more appealing to the general public.
- Functionality – By reducing the use of particular muscles all the time you are gaining functionality. I mean what good is it if you are never able to raise your arms all the way up or even allow them to drop fully down to your sides? Along with the pure fact that function is needed in everyday life, offloading muscles and using others increases neural plasticity in the brain. That is alternate patterns can be formed in the brain to complete the same task. This is really helpful as we get older since brain matter decreases and neural pathways can become blocked or lost.
- Injury prevention – overuse or overtraining always eventually leads to injury. There is no escaping it as overuse will create improper muscle activation due to synergistic dominance and reciprocal inhibition. This is then a domino effect which leads to poor muscle activation, thereby creating poor alignment at joints, which then increases stress and mal-tracking of bones causing pain and injury. Unfortunately it is an endless cycle that will continue unless something is changed.
In summary, making sure that you have a good program and plan to follow is necessary for a better body all around. Try not to double up on the same days too much and stop skipping days you deem unimportant because every muscle in your body deserves some love.
Ashley, BCPTI Instructor