Release Your Inhibitions!

Most of us know that summer bodies are made in the winter. Thus, January comes, we shout Happy New Year and the gym is filled with people embarking on the road to achieving their New Year’s resolution. Well, as we also know, “mission get snatched,” “mission beach body,” and the most common, “(Enter Celebrity Name) 2019 Body Goals,” are not easy journeys!! Quite soon, the early morning alarms on cold winter days  get snoozed, day 10 of the 30 day squat challenge starts to be ‘I’m going to just squat down and sit right here,’ and the alerts on our fitness app get dismissed.  In other words, by the end of February and the beginning of March, the newly crowded gym floor is no longer so. It has thinned out.

After 14 years as a personal trainer, I have become utterly convinced that the road toward true fitness is not for the faint of heart.  Yet, there are many each year who endure to the end.  One month of consistent workouts becomes two, two becomes three, and before we know it the weather begins to break and the clothes begin to shed!! 

And Aaaah the shed!! To me, it is the moment of truth.  It is where effort must match expectations.  Most of us have high expectations, and rightfully so!  We have sacrificed early mornings, late nights or lunch breaks hitting the weights to sculpt our bodies, and for greater accountability have even added a workout partner.  Now, we are headed out to brunch with our workout partner on the first weekend of nice weather and we realize our muscular development just does not measure up.  It’s frustrating and disheartening, and it can discourage us from continuing through spring and into the summer to achieve our goals.  I had one client come to me recently in this exact predicament. I will not soon forget her words. “I mean,” she said, “I was not looking for a Beyoncé booty”; but for her, what would have been nice would have been, “at least a little lift.”

I have a great deal of compassion for my client and cases like hers, because I know the physical and mental effort required to persevere with workout goals in the context of  all life’s other responsibilities.  In helping my client, my first step was to conduct a movement assessment. Through it, I discovered that she had a very common problem: my client had ineffective reciprocal inhibition  due to muscle restrictions. The best way for me to describe reciprocal inhibition is to begin with the fact that our muscles do not work alone.  They work in concert. For example, there are sets of muscles in which one set “turns on” and inhibits or “turns off” another. All this happens through the direction of the central nervous system.  This commonly overlooked function allows our bodies to move properly by allowing muscles to fire properly.  Between a pair of muscles working together for movement, when one fires, the other relaxes to prevent injury to the muscle.  If both opposing muscles are firing at the same time, this can cause a tear or diminish the function of both muscles and, in turn, alter movement.  

For example, in my client’s case, her desire was to grow and develop her gluteus maximus.  Thus she focused on exercises that were designed to work her glutes.  Due to her lack of understanding of reciprocal inhibitions because of muscle restrictions, she could not properly understand her situation.  She could not properly assess that she had tight hip flexor muscles, and, therefore, although she was performing the right exercises for the gluteus maximus, that muscle was being inhibited.  In other words, her gluteus maximus was not turning on or functioning properly to perform the primary function of extending her hip; the opposing muscles, her hip flexors, were restricted in their ability to relax and allow proper functioning of the pair.  Ultimately, this diminished the impact of the glute work being performed.  

The state of our muscles can be affected by many internal and external factors such as disease, trauma and occupation.  Occupation in this case, and in many other cases, was a key differentiator in the state of my client’s body versus that of her workout partner.  My client was an administrative assistant who spent more than 8 hours a day seated, whereas her workout partner was a waitress who spent the bulk of her day standing. Basically, my client’s occupation had contributed to reinforced postural distortions that impacted the range of motion of her hips and, in turn, restricted the reciprocal inhibition because of muscle restriction.

As a fitness professional, I can attest that my client's issue with her gluteus maximus was completely addressable, but improper handling had cost her three months of hard work. The reality is that the appropriate exercise selection cannot be based solely on the primary mover it is designed to target, but must include the current state of muscular relationships as they exist  in the BODY.  

In summary then, the first step to an effective workout is understanding our unique starting point in relationship to our muscular imbalances.  This will enable us to select and prepare for a program that will allow us to successfully achieve our goals while reducing the potential of injury and diminished results. A movement assessment is essential to make certain that the correct muscle groups are at work and to help us avoid what I call the hamster wheel--a lot of hard work that gets us nowhere.  An assessment informs us of what is impacting our ability to move and allows the proper program to be designed with exercises and stretches to restore proper muscle balance and, in turn, increase workout results!!!! 

So, BodyElevated community, don’t forget to release your inhibitions! 

5 Tips to Release Your Inhibitions:  

  1. Get an assessment!  Ignorance is not bliss. With a lack of understanding of the current state of our muscles, we are bound to waste valuable effort and time.  Let us create educated workout plans specific to our own unique body signature--the current state of our bodies.   

  2. Don’t skip the warm up!  Even when we are pressed for time because we are working out on a lunch break or trying to fit in a quick workout before hubby or wifey gets home, a proper warm up is necessary.  Jumping into a workout without preparing the muscles to move properly through the required range of motion opens the door to injury and diminished results.   

  3. Dynamic flexibility and joint mobilization are our best friends! We do so many things throughout the day that have unrecognized impacts on our muscles and joints.  Before placing intense expectations on body function, let us prepare for maximum efficiency.  We should mobilize our joints and move through the range of motions that will be taxed during the workout.  Our body yesterday is different than our body today. We must find out what’s going on each day to preserve function.   

  4. Move Frequently!!! With the prevalence of work that requires people to be in a fixed position for hours each day, the problematic posture that results in restrictive movement patterns are reinforced.  Our body is the only one we have, so let us take control and set a plan to get up and move throughout the day.  We can engage in stretching or action that counteracts the fixed activity of the day.   

  5. Rest!! Sleep, whether REM or NonREM, has essential restorative properties for both brain function and muscles.  A lack of sleep can cause inefficiency across our system. Thus, no matter the steps we take or goals we desire to achieve, rest is an essential piece of every healthy lifestyle.  So, let us turn the phone off early to prevent the LED light from restricting the release of the vital melatonin that keeps us asleep and let us get OUR rest!!!! 

Naeemah Brown