Walking and Running

WHAT THEY ARE: As I said earlier, you rarely need to train these movements in the gym. In fact, the idea of running with weights in a gym seems like a major injury or accident begging to happen. You may as well pull out your cell phone and dial "9" and "1" before you even start.

However, you can build good exercises around walking. One is called the farmer's walk, a staple of the Strongman competitions you see on ESPN. You hold heavy weights in your hands and walk a specified distance, sometimes with steps to climb up and down. Another, promoted by trainer Chad Waterbury, is a figure-eight movement, in which you hold a barbell overhead with straight arms while walking in intersecting loops.

MUSCLES USED: Your entire lower body gets involved in walking and running— in fact, walking and running are pretty much the main reasons you have a lower body. Your hip flexors (muscles on the front of your pelvis) lift one leg up and out in front of you, while your hip extensors (gluteals and hamstrings) and calves on your trailing leg push against the ground to propel your body forward. The muscle on the front of your shin, the tibialis anterior, lifts your toes up on your front leg so they don't drag on the ground.

Meanwhile, your postural muscles, such as your internal obliques and some of the small, strut-like muscles in your lower back and hips, keep your body upright and stable while you move.

You'll notice that I haven't mentioned the quadriceps, the big muscles on the fronts of your thighs. Their main job is to straighten your knees when they're bent, and that's not hard to do while walking or running. Runners are notorious for having tight hips and hamstrings and relatively weak quadriceps, while lifters sometimes are the opposite—they do so many leg presses and leg extensions for their quadriceps (the muscles they can see in a mirror) that they end up with relatively weak hamstrings. Either combination is bad for your posture and the health of your knees and spine.

REAL-LIFE USES: I don't need to belabor the importance of walking or running, since they're part of everything. I will, though, mention that running fast is one of the great neglected exercises in our world, even among those who are fit.

As with jumping, few of us have a need to approximate a sprint as we get older. And when we try it, it tends to be at a company picnic or some other occasion in which we go from zero—no warm-up, no momentum—to full speed in an instant.

Changing the Bodybuilding World, One Phrase at a Time

One phrase you won't see in New Rules is "body part." (Or, as the bodybuilding magazines say, "bodypart," as if making it one word somehow legitimizes it.) Bodybuilders love to talk about their routines for this body part or that bodypart (depending on their choice of reading material), as if their bodies were simply collections of muscles that could be assembled and shaped any way they choose.

Quick story: When I was fitness editor at a magazine, a junior editor there, a nice young guy who clearly wanted my job, told me one day about his front-shoulder routine. He had three different exercises that he did for the front part of his shoulder muscles, and he thought I could use the routine in the magazine.

I don't remember exactly how the conversation went, but I remember thinking how bizarre it was to do three separate exercises for a single muscle that's about the size of two fingers. That muscle gets worked pretty hard already in pushing exercises, so it's hard to imagine a universe of fitness-magazine readers who were truly underdeveloped there, relative to the rest of the muscles surrounding their shoulder joints.

But after I left and he succeeded me as fitness editor, sure enough, he ran his shoulder routine—three exercises for a muscle that hardly anyone needs to exercise in isolation in the first place.

To me, that's body-partism run amok. Bodybuilders develop entire routines for muscles like biceps and rear shoulders, which should get plenty of work from the basic exercises in their workouts. Certainly, bodybuilders are different from the rest of us—they're training for an aesthetic ideal and are willing to devote nearly unlimited time and energy to that pursuit. And the final product, if it works, is a physique in which all the "body parts" are in proportion to one another.

Of course, there are some problems with that approach. For one thing, when you teach your muscles to work in isolation, you run the risk that they'll forget how to work together. That's why you rarely see high-level athletes with bodybuilder physiques. And the ones who develop them often become more famous for their pose-worthy muscles than for their athletic accomplishments.

It's not that you can't develop a fantastic-looking physique while also training your body to work in harmony in sports competition. It's just that bodybuilding-type workouts accomplish the former while hindering the latter. If you get your six-pack abs and peaked biceps because you've taught those muscles to work and grow in isolation, you've developed the look of an athlete while diminishing your ability to actually perform like one.

That's why Alwyn and I advocate a different way to look at your physique in general and your training in particular. If you focus on integrated movements, rather than exercises chosen for their ability to isolate "body parts," you'll build the same muscles but end up with a body that actually knows how to use them, as opposed to a body that just knows how to pose them.

Granted, that full speed won't be very fast, but it'll be very tough on muscles that aren't used to it. Once I pulled a quadriceps muscle doing exactly that in the first softball practice of the season—with no warm-up, I tried to chase down a fly ball, and I pulled the muscle on the first or second step. I could just as easily have pulled a hamstring or calf. (I tore a calf muscle one time playing basketball, but that wasn't from being ill-prepared so much as playing on a cold night on a concrete court, and playing against an idiot who decided to throw the ball against my lower leg as hard as he could so it would go out of bounds.)

So, while running fast is great, starting off slowly makes it even better.

Body Building Secrets Revealed

Body Building Secrets Revealed

Ever since the fitness craze in the 1980’s, we have become a nation increasingly aware of our health and physique. Millions of dollars are spent every year in the quest for a perfect body. Gyms are big business, personal trainers are making a tidy living helping people stay fit, and body building supplements are at an all-time level of performance.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment