When you’re new to the gym, it’s best to master the basics first. Learn the standard elements of strength training, and build your form, agility and balance to keep you safe.
After you’ve gotten the basics down, it’s time to look for more complex movements, not only to challenge you, but to maximize your results. Think multi-dimensional—here’s how.
- Work Many Muscles: If you want to lead an active lifestyle, you should do more than sit down and move your elbow joint (biceps curl) or lay on your stomach and work the back of your leg (hamstring curl).
Working smaller numbers of muscle in isolation, like these two examples, is a fine way to become familiar with the tenets of strength training and to develop technical aspects like your tempo and control. But the way to advance your strength and burn more calories is to activate more muscles and nerves, with more involved exercises.
Here’s How: Move past those hamstring curls to conquer the dead lift, or take your chest presses to the floor with pushups.
- Use Many Angles & Directions: Your fitness level can progress even more with physical exercises that carry over into your everyday activities. Think about all the movements of your day—climbing stairs, carrying a child, or the after-work softball game. If you only move forward, or up and down, you create imbalanced muscles and mechanics.
To make your movements more realistic and effective, add angles and directions.
Here’s How: Step to 45 degrees, add an incline or decline, stand on one leg, add a reach or a twist to work different angles and move through different planes.
- Exercise the Way You Move: You elevate your exercise when you perform workouts that support the functions of your body as a whole, in the real world. Instead of just focusing on muscles, remember you have nerves, connective tissue and bones. And instead of just increasing speed or intensity, remember you are exercising your brain and stimulating other body systems, from glands and hormones to lungs and oxygen uptake.
With all that in mind, progressive workouts will take your goals past how you look to encompass how well you move. In other words, improve your skills, not just your shape. The good news is that increased skill levels will almost certainly improve physical appearance as well. People who rock a kayak, balance beam or crow pose have been working out in three dimensions for a while, and their bodies have responded.
Here’s How: Take your workouts into the next dimension by choosing one of these progressions at a time as soon as you’re ready. That means work more muscles, or work at different angles & directions, or add a real-world function to make your favorite strength move more complex. Master that, then add another. Machines and routines are helpful, but they will only take you so far…the rest is up to you!