Strength Training Philosophy Part #2 (Neutralizers)

To first determine the type of training that will best suite your needs we need to discuss 2 very important components of training. This is one of the best lessons that any trainer will receive. When I was first starting off in training I was a super set guy. I went form one exercise to another without a break. I had no idea why at the time. Well, I thought it would burn more calories (which it did) and people seemed to like to intensity of training that way. As I continued to train I learned various combinations of exercise that would work well with one another. Needless to say my mentality was the more the better (while working within the ability level of the client) and I was always focused on all the positive benefits of the exercises I was choosing.

Here is where that key lesson comes in. The best trainers out there look at it the exact opposite. They are always focused on what the negative side effects of each exercise they give their client and more importantly what needs to be done to neutralize these negative side effects. The first trainer I encountered who did this was Brian Cassidy. He helped me to understand the concept of a neutralizer. It is an exercise or series of exercises you would do immediately following an overload exercise. 

Here is an example, lets use an easy one, Bench Press. The move every guy has done at some point in his life. A typical bench workouts consists of doing a set, then sitting around for a few minutes, maybe spotting your buddy, then doing it again. After all you want your muscles to have a chance to recover and new oxygenated blood to filter into the muscle so you will have maximal effort on the next set. But if you get away from the thought of a big barrel chest and the other positives of the bench press, it actually can be a very costly move.

First the act of the move is to strengthen the muscles of the chest which are involved in posture and the alignment of the shoulder joint. If you only do bench press, which many people do, you will slowly pull your shoulders forward due to the strength imbalance you create. We talked in the philosophy sections about the relationship of the muscles in the body and how in a balanced efficient muscular system your muscles will keep the joints in perfect alignment. Well bench press by itself is going to pull your shoulders out of alignment. If you do not believe me look at the guys doing bench press at the gym. Examine their posture and see if their shoulders are rounded forward. If you want to have some fun with it, ask one of them to scratch their own back. 

Why is this such an issue you ask? Well lets say that you were someone who only did bench press and maybe some curls and abs in high school weight training class. Typically male gym workout I would say. After training this way you start to pull the shoulders out of alignment and your posture begins to change. Your shoulders start to round forward and this starts to cause tightness in your upper back. Now you graduate college and get a job working as a computer programmer. You sit at a desk all day long causing you to have even worse posture. To make up for this you go to the gym with your new membership and do what you have always done, more bench press. Only now you mix in some cardio and play some rat ball on the court. Now you are thirty and are unable to throw a ball without pain in your shoulder and even doing basic jobs around the house are starting to cause you pain. 

I rambled a bit there but I hope you got the idea. Again we are living adaptive organisms that constantly change based on the stimulus we receive.If you train certain muscles more than others, thus supplying more stimulus to them you create a strength imbalance. With strength imbalance comes postural issues. With postural issues comes pain.

One solution to this problem is to neutralize. Do an exercise or 2 immediately following each set of the bench press. I would need an entire post to go over the many negative side effects of bench press but lets just chose the one we talked about, pulling the shoulders out of alignment. So to counter this we need to do a move that is the exact opposite. We need a move that causes you to use your upper back to pull and lengthen the chest muscles out and return the shoulders to a neutral position.

Here is 2 examples of a move you can do following the bench press. The first is done by laying on your stomach and lifting your arms off the floor. The second is done by bringing your arms back behind you at shoulder height and holding.

 

Next post will be a discussion about integrators. The second key component to proper strength training. Following that we will categorize all of you into various body types and explain how to best train your body.

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