Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Work Arounds


As promised, I want to go into more detail for those with disabilities or injuries that they think may prevent them from achieving their fitness goals.

In a previous article Here I gave examples of many, many people who work toward their fitness goals and even excel despite having some form of disability or injury (including my own). Lest you think these people are some type of genetic freak or have some superhuman form of willpower, I’d like to share some relatively simple examples of how many of them have accomplished this. While it is true that many of these people are exceptional individuals the methods leading to their success are not.

Step one in every situation involving any disability or injury is to discuss your plans with a qualified medical professional. Your first stop is your physician or specialist. First make sure that you are healthy enough to pursue your fitness goals. Then work out a plan with your trainer or physical therapist and present it to you physician for approval. Better yet, ask you fitness professional and physician to work out a plan together.

Let’s start with some amazing things the human body is capable of.

Most people are aware of the fact that when you lose the use of one of your senses the other senses become more acute. But most don’t realize that other functions of the human body have the same ability.

Now, everyone understands that if you lose the partial use of one limb the other gets stronger simply from the fact the good limb gets more use and must handle heavier loads. But did you know you can actually avoid total muscle atrophy (loss of muscle tissue) in the injured limb by working only the good limb? In fact, you can actually achieve some degree of hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) in the injured limb by only working the uninjured limb! In fact, you can avoid total atrophy and achieve hypertrophy in you upper body by working only your lower body! (And vice-versa to a lesser degree).
Remember the member in one of the gyms where I train who is missing his left hand and half his left forearm since birth? Though he obviously has limited us of his left arm, there is NO discernible difference in development of his left vs right upper arms, shoulders, chest or back! And this guy is jacked!

How? Your muscular system is just that-“a system”. It’s not a bunch of individual muscles operating in isolation. The whole system is connected by your central nervous system, your endocrine system (hormones) your cardiovascular system (which carries hormones, nutrition, oxygen, water, minerals, and everything else) to all cells of the body.  When your endocrine system produces more testosterone or human growth hormone (HGH) or insulin it goes to all cells in your body.

I’m not saying you can build strong legs by doing only bicep curls. Nor am I saying the guy with misshapen arm can maintain the perfect symmetry of his arms by only working his good arm. But using work- arounds can help prevent loss of size and strength.
And if the guy with the misshapen arm and missing one hand can find a way ……..what was your excuse, again????

Training Through an Injury

While it is true that many injuries require rest and lower use or no use to heal, it’s also true that some injuries can be best treated by rehabilitating the injured area through controlled and appropriate use.

Shoulder injuries are a good example. A complete tear in a rotator cuff will likely require surgery. But within a matter of days your surgeon is going to have you in rehab involving exercises for that shoulder.
A partial tear or strain (as determined by your doctor-not your trainer or yourself) gets you in rehab exercises almost immediately.

This is almost always a call to be made by a medical professional. DO NOT try to train through any type of major injury without professional guidance.

Program Planning

Unilateral exercises (one arm or one leg instead of two or one side of the body instead of both) are an excellent example of working around an injury or disability. Almost every exercise known can be done unilaterally. Almost all gyms have the equipment or other apparatus needed to do unilateral programs.

The most simple are the common dumbbells or kettle bells. Instead of barbell bench press do dumbbell bench press with one dumbbell or kettle bell of different weights using a lighter weight for the injured arm/shoulder. Do the same for standing press, curls, tricep extensions and so on.
An even more flexible apparatus is the cable station. And most commercial gyms have machines where you can either lower the weight and perform the exercise with one arm (or leg) at a time or select a different weight for each arm/leg.

Incorporate Alternative Fitness Strategies

I did not say change your goals. I said incorporate alternatives. Almost everyone at any given time has some portion of their fitness plan that seems to be “lagging” behind other parts of their program. Maybe it’s a body part or muscle group that seems to not respond as well as the others. Calves, forearms and traps (trapezoid) are notoriously slow to respond. Maybe you’re still carrying a little higher fat percentage than you would like. Maybe you would like be able to spend a little more time working on that “6-pack”. Would you feel better if you could increase you stamina, flexibility or mobility but just don’t seem to be able to find the time? Well, now, while you’re not at full speed is the perfect time to work on the lagging areas!

Spend extra time and energy on that lagging body part, spend some extra time on increasing your stamina or flexibility while your injury heals.

Want a huge bonus? Increase you stamina, flexibility and mobility or drop those extra pounds and when you return to your regular program, you’ll see an immediate jump forward in your original goals!

These are just a few examples of things you can do to overcome an injury or disability. Don’t let a set- back keep you totally sidelined. And whatever you do, don’t use it as an excuse! 

Let me know what your current restrictions are. If I can help you find a way to work around it I’ll do it for free.

SEND YOUR QUESTIONS TO alphaedgefitness@gmail.com  If I don’t have an answer I’ll find someone who does.

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