When we think about resistance training, we often think about its importance for long-term health through having stronger muscles, tendons and joints. Or maybe for its ability to speed up metabolism and improve body composition. Or maybe even for its role in ensuring hormonal health.
But one of the most important reasons to resistance train is simply to improve your movement in everyday life, so each day is a little easier, especially as you age, and you’re less likely to get injured.
“When we break down resistance training into primal patterns, we can start to connect the dots on how proper resistance training can improve everyday movement, explained OPEX Fitness CEO, Carl Hardwick, a man with almost two decades of coaching experience who learned directly from the late strength expert Charles Poliquin before becoming an OPEX CCP coach.
From a neurological standpoint, resistance training leads to neural adaptations on a muscular level, which helps with the synchronization of muscles and the ability to accomplish movement patterns through an appropriate range of motion, Hardwick explained.
Second, it helps with the recruitment of muscles and the ability to use multiple muscles at the same time, as well as helping increase the firing rate of muscles, which leads to more strength in that movement pattern, he added.
Bottom line: Resistance training helps improve coordination—first through intra-muscle coordination, and then inter-muscle coordination—which leads to more efficient movements in life.
How Resistance Training Translates to Everyday Movements
Let’s take the squat: Gaining strength in, and becoming more efficient at, a squat—all the while ingraining the squat movement pattern in your mind so it becomes second nature—will translate to sitting onto a couch, getting into and out of our car, and on and off at toilet at 80, Hardwick gave as an example.
Lunges and split squats, on the other hand, will translate to walking up and down the stairs without pain, while bending, such as a deadlift, will translate to “picking up your newborn from the ground,” Hardwick said.
Similarly, building strength in a bench press, or some other type of press, will help you maintain the ability to push yourself off the ground from a prone position, while a dumbbell row will allow you to maintain the strength to “start your gas lawn mower without assistance.” And keeping your core strong, such as through planks or hollow holds, for example, will ensure you can continue to “safely carry heavy objects or groceries without injury or pain,” he said.
Incorporating Everyday Movement As a Training Priority
While many of us are back at the gym, many others have not returned to the gym since COVID-19. This does not mean you can’t continue to resistance train at home.
That being said, it might require you to rethink the way you think about a training program.
We often tend to think about training programs as being movement specific. For example, maybe Monday’s priorities are a back squat and bench press, with Tuesdays being deadlift and bicep curl days.
Regardless of whether or not you’re back at the gym yet, it’s better to think about training as being movement-pattern based, as opposed to exercise-specific based, Hardwick said.
This means Mondays are a squat and push day, while Tuesdays are a bend and pull day. This provides you with the ability to substitute the back squat and bench press on Monday for another valuable squat and push movement, and substitute the deadlift and bicep curls with another useful bend and pull.
Not only does this help you avoid freaking out because you can’t back squat—or programming the back squat if you’re a coach—because you or your client doesn’t have a heavy barbell, it also allows you to preserve the intended stimulus of the training program.
Bottom line: Resistance training movements can generally all be categorized as either a squat, a bend (or hinge), a push, a pull, a carry, or a core (or midline) movement.
When you “look at these two plans, you can see how many more exercises can fit into the pattern-based plan compared to the specific exercise plan,” Hardwick said. Making your time working out at home not just more effective, but also more varied and interesting.
Featured image: @avikjm