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  • Writer's pictureLudovic Curtet


Butch Harmon working with Tiger on his swing

Neophytes and aficionados alike, amateurs or hardcore gym-buffs, we are all limited to the extent of our own knowledge and experience when it comes to exercising. The vast majority of us have learned to use machines and free weights by watching and emulating others and collecting all-to-often-erroneous-information from visibly fit people. We’ve often asked the person with the nice arms what he or she did to get them that way and the ensuing information involved predefined numbered repetitions and intricate key exercises.

Fact: Muscles move bones.

Fact: Every movement should end with the FULL CONTRACTION of the PRIME MOVER (the muscle primarily responsible for moving the intended bone). In our example, the upper arm muscles either flex (biceps) or extend (triceps) the lower arm bones.

How many ways are there to flex or extend your arm?

One of each!

So is it what you do or how you do it?

Well-defined abdominal muscles are vastly considered to be the epitome of aesthetic perfection and are often the indicator of physical fitness. The common belief is that abdominal work is the answer to a rock-hard stomach so we gleefully adopt the ab routine of the person with the visible six-pack and engage in all sorts of sit-ups, knee-ups, leg-ups, crunches and other plank-based exercises.

Fact: the six-pack muscle is called the rectus abdominis and is responsible for spine flexion (bending your back forward)

Your legs are not attached to your spine and have no effect on spine flexion whatsoever, so do your legs really need to be involved?

Fact: Core doesn't just mean abs.

The 29 Core muscles are spinal stabilizers, flexors, rotators, and extensors as well as organ protectors and containers. The transversus abdominis (TVA) holds your viscera tightly into your abdominal cavity. As the TVA gets distended, your intestines are no longer well contained thus drop, forming a firm pooch on the lower part of your stomach. Doing more crunches (repetitive spine flexions) WILL NOT remedy that issue; extended contractions of the TVA such as plank-based exercises will.

There are between 650 and 850 muscles in the body -depending on whom you ask, all responsible for movements most of us do not understand; yet the average gym-goer can name and exercise two dozen at the most! My point: We may know our way around a gym and how its machines function but most people have no clue as to what our muscles’ functions are and what movement they produce.

Fact: The machines or weights don’t make you move, your body moves them, so your focus should be about moving body parts, not equipment!

A vast majority of us have read the many classics, best-sellers, and numerous articles dedicated to exercising and dieting, yet the same few questions beg to be answered. What is missing? We all are aware that knowledge is useless until it is applied but is it really a matter of application? I believe that the overwhelming amount of contradicting information being published commercially is responsible for the lack of proper understanding of HOW to perform an exercise, rather than WHAT to perform and HOW MUCH.

A magazine article dedicated to the development of a particular body-part may be useful in depicting what an exercise looks like but it is of absolute no help when it comes to proper activation of the muscle primarily involved in the movement it has been designed to initiate.

No matter how many repetitions are being performed or how much of a load is being displaced, if your targeted muscle is not activating properly or PRIMARILY, you will not get the results you are expecting and most likely will get injured overtime.

Fact: Do you know that the pectoralis muscles perform a horizontal action upon the humerus (upper arm bone) whilst the most common chest exercise (bench press) visually looks like a vertical motion.

We all have heard the adage, which claims that high reps with light weights get you lean and low reps with heavy weights get you big.

Why are there so few lean exercisers out there if that protocol is indeed realistic? And why aren’t all guys bulky? Yet the belief is still going strong and the protocols are still being applied! The bottom line is that one can burn a lot of calories performing numerous repetitions and light weights only can allow for high repetitions. Inversely, heavier weights can only be displaced a few times before fatigue sets in, but once again, if you are not utilizing the proper muscle to perform the exercise, you will have difficulty developing that muscle.

Your focus should not be on the completion of an exercise but rather on its execution.

The HOW TO DO instead of the WHAT TO DO and HOW MUCH. A movement or repetition is a matter of “feel” rather than “do”, so until you understand that, your progress will be minimal or moot. 10 good reps are more efficient than 30 perfunctory ones. Focus.

What about Tiger Woods then? Tiger knows how to hit a golf ball but he knows it is not about how hard or how many times he needs to hit the ball, but how to hit the ball, which is why he uses a swing coach to assist and give him feedback about his body’s placement, alignment, and movement. Tiger even proactively changes swings and coaches because he knows his muscles adapts to identical repetitive motions and that this simple fact alters the process and performance of the swing. He also revises his swing in order to continue performing as his body ages and falls victim to many limitations caused by injuries, surgeries, and overall tightness.

Are you doing what needs to be done or do you think you are doing what needs to be done? Do you have a coach? I do, and like Tiger Woods, I am a professional.

I know you have questions, I get bombarded at every single dinner or lunch so next time, ask HOW and WHY instead of WHAT and HOW MUCH, whether it’s about moving, eating, or life for that matter!


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