When it comes down to it, there are many reasons why we decide to make a healthy change in our lives. In last week’s article, I talked about what it means to find the right “why” for you so that you stay motivated when things get hard. If you want sustainable change, I recommend you read the article and take the time to figure out why you’re really doing it. On the surface, however, the reasons why most people want to start exercising and eating better can be lumped into one of 3 categories:
#1) Move better & feel better
#2) Increase performance
#3) Look good naked
Now, clearly, most people wouldn’t state their reasons in this way (although, I have had a handful of people mention that they want to look better naked…awkward!). But, the point is that most surface-level “whys” can be dropped into one of these categories.
Today, I want to take some time to figure out the best types of exercises you can utilize in order to achieve your goals that fit within these categories. Of course, it’s important to understand that there is never a “best” if you will. After all, as the saying goes, there a thousand ways to skin a cat.
What Kind of Attributes You Should Look For in an Exercise
There is no shortage of workout options when it comes to getting started on an exercise program. And, to go along with that, there is no shortage of fitness professionals who are ready and willing to convince you that their form of exercise is the only for of exercise you’ll need to achieve your goals.
The truth of the matter is, there are many variables that comes into play when it comes to picking the right type of exercise for you: where you are in your fitness journey, what your goals are, how much money you have to spend (as a side note, I’d like to point out that the average person spends about $50 a month on improving their health, and yet the average car payment is $250 a month. You can always buy a new car, but you can never buy a new body), how much time you have available, what type of exercise you enjoy doing.
Although these variables all matter, there is some truth in knowing that there are certain types of exercise you should do more of and other types you should do less of, depending on your goals. Let’s break down each category from above to see what form of exercise fits where…
Move Better & Feel Better
This is the #1 reason that I hear from most of our Members when they first start working out at Thriveology. They want to move better and feel better about themselves again. In other words, they’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. To move better and feel better means focusing primarily on eliminating aches and pains, and gaining more energy.
The latter is relatively simple. If you’ve decided to start walking on a regular basis, you probably noticed you have more energy. Therefore, simply moving more often will gain you the energy you’re looking for. Eliminating aches and pains, on the other hand, is slightly more complicated.
Most people would simply say that stretching more often would get rid of aches and pains. However, stretching for the sake of stretching does little to improve those aches over time. There are countless numbers of people with low back pain who are constantly stretching, yet get little to no relief from their pain.
With that being said, being more flexible is certainly a desirable trait when it comes to feeling better. However, instead of primarily focusing on stretching, which is essentially attempting to lengthen a muscle, you should want to focus more on joint range of motion, or ROM. When you think about where you feel aches and pains, you typically notice feelings in the knees, hips, shoulders, and back. Save for the back (which is indirectly a ROM issue), most of these aches and pains feel that way because you don’t move them enough, I.E. you put them through a full ROM on a regular basis.
This is why, when it comes to moving better and feeling better, you should put your efforts into exercises that are going to work the fullest ROM of a joint possible WHILE ALSO building strength in that ROM. There are many Yogis who can bend over and put their hands flat on the floor. But, if you can’t pick a 20-pound box in process, what’s the point of being able to do that?
One example of an exercise that utilizes great ROM and overall body strength is the Turkish Getup, is simply the getup as we call it at Thriveology. This is a great exercise that requires only your body and a light kettlebell, or other weighted object, to hold overhead. It’s important to practice each step intentionally so that you don’t lose control of your weight and get the most bang for your buck from the exercise.
Increasing performance means different things to different people. Some people want to improve their marathon time. Some people want to improve their bench press weight. And other people want to be able to jump higher and run faster. However, most performance-based increases can be narrowed down to one thing: strength.
For instance, when it comes to powerlifting, it makes sense that you would want to improve your strength because, after all, that is the goal of powerlifting…to lift heavy things. Marathon running, on the other hand, seems to be much different. Which, on the surface, it is much different. Which is why you don’t see 300-pound powerlifters running marathons. They just couldn’t do it.
However, although a marathoner doesn’t necessarily need overall strength, what they do is endurance strength. Their muscles need to be able to hold up over 26.2 miles without fatiguing and causing issues. The better your muscles hold up, the faster you’ll be able to run for a longer period of time. Therefore, focusing on building strength is still a primary goal of an endurance-based athlete.
So, in order to improve strength over time, you must be able to choose exercises that are going to maximally assist you in recruiting the most muscle possible. In this way, you can improve whatever performance abilities you desire. A great example of this type of exercise is the kettlebell swing.
Now, I’m sure many people expected me to say something more powerliftery (just made that word up…I like it) like squats or deadlifts. Those are wonderful exercises, to be sure. However, research has shown that you can achieve similar strength gains as you would with deadlifts by doing proper kettlebell swings with a fraction of the weight. It is important, though, to focus on the deliberate hinge and snap when performing the swing. Otherwise, you are not utilizing this exercise to its fullest potential.
Look Good Naked
Okay, so this is only a fun way of saying “body recomposition”. Basically, body recomposition is changing your body in a way so that you have a different look to you, either with less fat, more muscle, or a little bit of both.
Most people who want to lose weight are really looking for body recomposition. When you see that lean, tone swimsuit model in a magazine, you might be surprised at their actual weight. But body weight and body composition are 2 very different things.
For instance, when my brother in law filled out his paperwork for life insurance, you had to put his height and weight down, which at the time was 5 foot 9 inches (I may be giving him an inch or so) and about 200 pounds. When the insurance company saw these numbers, they labeled him as obese because, well, that’s what their charts said.
However, if you saw my brother in law, you would certainly not label him obese. He walks around with single-digit body fat. He’s one of those guys whose chest is so big, he almost needs a bra to help them in place. The insurance company had to send someone out to his house to verify that he, in fact, was not an obese 200 pounds, but a lean, muscly 200 pounds.
This is what I mean by body composition. Now, that doesn’t mean you want to be a muscly 200-pound white guy. However, it’s not unusual for our Members to reach a satisfying body composition that is higher than their initial goal weight. Therefore, when choosing exercises for body recomposition, you should be looking for exercises that help you to burn fat WHILE ALSO maintaining or, even better, gaining lean muscle mass.
A great exercise to achieve this feat is the squat. See, I through you off there. You expected me to say that squats were good for being strong, but now I’m saying that they’re good for body recomposition. Well, they’re good for both (as I mentioned above, there is no “best”). For recomposition purposes, the squat helps in 2 ways: it utilizes the full-body, from top to bottom, which means it requires a lot of effort and, therefore, burns a lot of calories. This, of course, is great news from a fat-burning standpoint. Second, because the primary muscles it uses just so happen to be some of the biggest and strongest muscle groups in the body, it also recruits the most muscle to help you perform the exercise. Which means, the squat will not only burn calories but will help you maintain or gain lean muscle mass over time.
So, there you have it. A general synopsis of what you should be looking for as your pursuing your health and fitness goals. Just remember, at the end of the day, you have to do SOMETHING in order to become your best self. So, don’t overthink it. Get up, and get moving.
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