When you go to the gym, the worst thing you can do is to only work on certain muscles at the expense of others. For instance, most guys like to focus on the "vanity" muscles--the ones you see in the mirror such as chest and biceps. But what about the antagonist muscles such as back and triceps? By neglecting the muscles you don't see in the mirror you risk incurring chronic muscle soreness and possible injury. Remember, it's all about balance. Balance in terms of strength and and balance in terms of flexibility between opposing muscle groups (e.g., biceps and triceps). You'd serve your body well by training in a manner that's comprehensive when it comes to exercising your muscles. There are, after all, over 600 muscles in your body! Be sure to give equal treatment to the muscles in front of your body as well as the rear. Consider a push-pull split routine in which you train only the push exercises one day and then the pull exercises the next day. For example, push exercises include bench presses for chest and overhead barbell extensions for triceps. Pull exercises include barbell rows for back and dumbbell curls for biceps. We tend to gravitate toward exercises and stretches that we're familiar with and feel comfortable doing. The problem is your body most likely needs more than this in order to be pain-free and stronger. Your brain which controls bodily movement has learned to move a certain way in order to avoid pain. The problem is that this "certain way" of moving may not be conducive to your health and well-being. You've subconsciously learned to move in a way to avoid pain for better or worse. The end result: your brain has learned to process an abnormal movement as a normal movement as a means to prevent pain. The idea here is to step out of your comfort zone that your brain (and therefore your body) has adapted to for such a long time. The unfortunate aspect of training from one day to the next is that you most likely do not realize you're exercising within your comfort zone. You've become so used to training a certain way that your body has learned to adapt to an abnormal movement pattern. Remember, adaptation is the enemy of progress. A knowledgable personal trainer and/or a physical therapist may be an invaluable resource for you to realize and then learn how to break away from a faulty movement pattern that may be causing chronic muscle pain.
BOTTOM LINE: In addition to performing exercises you like such as the bench press (which precipitates anterior shoulder tonicity), be sure to include exercises you need such as the pec-dec flye (which encourages anterior shoulder flexibility) as well. In addition, be sure to work the core muscles (e.g., glutes, abdominals, lower back and hamstrings) of your body to lessen possible muscle imbalances which may precipitate joint pain and injury. Strengthen weak muscles (typically upper back, abdominals, hamstrings, and glutes) and stretch tight muscles (typically anterior shoulder, chest, abdominals, lats, lower back, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves). Heeding this advice will save you years of needless chronic pain due to muscle imbalances.
Brian Danley, CFT
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."
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I'm a personal trainer who loves to help others fulfill their health and fitness goals. I consider myself a bodybuilder in that I live the lifestyle of eating healthy food, working out regularly, and sculpting my body.