Monday, 30 September 2013

Exercise: Going Through The Motions

Today i woke up and reflected on the past few weeks of my fitness journey. Ever since stepping into the gym and deciding No More "i wish i could look like this... i wish i didn't have this... i wish i could do this.." i have learnt so many things about my body and mind. It really is a journey. For the past few days i have been daydreaming about the day i have firm glutes. It is my weak spot, so i am going to turn it into my STRONG spot. I started to think "WHY didn't i start doing squats the moment i learnt how to walk as a baby", but in actual fact i HAVE tried to work on my bum in the past. I mean, okay maybe not as hard/many times as i should have but it's not like i NEGLECTED it. Now with my perspective in the incredible benefits of lifting weights i realise my approach to how to use exercise FOR my body was a bit off the mark. Let me explain.
NB: I am going to group Leg/Glute exercises as just 'Legs'
-I was very hesitant about working out my legs because all my life i've had muscular legs. I used to walk for 8 mins up a hill from the bus stop after school to my house, and within 5seconds of this routine my calves were so muscular. My friends all had skinny legs. I used to be so envious, so i used to WANT the muscle to waste in my legs. I avoided going too heavy with weights and using a very challenging gradient/resistance on machines for this reason.
-In August i started to not give a * about other peoples legs, and just focus on mine. Once a week i started incorporating exercises that weren't going to really bulk up my legs, but would work my glutes. I started doing squats and lunges on a bosu ball without heavy weights (8kg if anything), glute bridges, leg bands, squats without heavy weights. And started incorporating the stair/stepper into my workout.
-Overtime, i started to want to use heavier weights, and so began using the Leg Press, Lunges with a 10kg --> 15kg bar, [deadlifts- back and hamstrings but also glutes], Split leg squat. etc. My gym at the time didn't have a squat rack so i couldn't really squat heavy.
- Truth is, i never TRULY felt my glutes working. I did these exercises with the mentality of just going through the motion. Now i did sweat, i did find certain reps and certain sets challenging, and occasionally had DOMS the next day, but i just assumed that by doing these exercises, i was inevitably working out my glutes. 
-This isn't the case. Anyone can pick a weight that's really heavy. Anyone can walk up high gradients on the treadmill, use the stair machine.
I realised that i used to get the ache in my Quads. My Quads had built up over time because even when i was doing exercises to target my glutes, my quads fully took over. Now even now when i work with my trainer i feel it in my quads aswell, but i ALSO feel it in my glutes. I have never really felt it in my glutes before. My quads are strong, which means any stress on my legs, the quads are quick to take over. Even with squats and leg presses, my quads would take over.
-If you want to work a muscle, you need to FEEL the muscle working. You have to put it under stress. This means using the correct form and using a weight that feels challenging. I think when people say "lift heavy" it actually is confusing. Like people used to say this to me, and i used to think WHAT IS HEAVY. what do they MEAN. To make it simple, just lift a weight that feels like its a challenge. That makes you breath out and sigh and even make funny faces after a few reps.
-If you want to grow that muscle, you need to repair the damage you've done to it by putting it under the stress of the exercise. This means eating enough protein. The recommendation to build muscle is 1.5g protein per kg of body weight per day. You are NOT going to get big and bulky. TRUST ME. Muscle takes TIME to grow. And if you are getting bigger, then it's most likely fat gain, so reassess your net calorie input (i.e. are you eating more than you are burning off).
-I almost... ALMOST.. put the blame on genetics. i thought WHY WHY can some people work out less hard than me, or even actually have the same approach and just go through the motions, yet still reap the benefits. But genetics or NOT, it's not an excuse. Your attitude and consistency will ALWAYS triumph genetics. 
-If you are like me and your quads take over your glutes, 'Pre-fatiguing- the quads before you start your glutes-focused exercise help. This means doing heavy and high rep training of an exercise that will just work the quads, till the point where they feel weak. This will help prevent them from 'taking over' when you move onto exercises for your glutes.
-FEEL THE MUSCLE. This may mean doing a more focused exercise routing with fewer exercises. This may even mean dropping the weight to a lighter one so your form is perfect. This may mean squeezing at the top of an exercise, or keeping the muscle contracted by doing pulses/half reps. This may mean using a machine and instead of strictly obeying the picture drawing/instructions it has on how to use it, and tailoring it to how it works for YOU.
I hope this helps, because i really wish someone told me this sooner. Just saying "lift heavy" means nothing. Stay focused, and keep your eyes on your goal. Don't give up, you've got this 

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