It’s no shock that we are quickly turning into a nation of sedentary individuals and that we no longer ‘need’ to be active to survive. We can quite happily wake up, drive to work, sit at a desk for 8 hours drive home, sit on the sofa, got to bed and repeat, with no danger of being eaten or not being able to find food.
Due to this, our bodies don’t function like they should or could. Our heart and lungs aren’t as strong as they should be, so they have to work harder to push blood around our bodies. This in turn pushes up blood pressure, increasing risk of premature death. Our muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons are weak, increasing the risk of joint problems, bad posture and bone disorders. There are many more things that come with not being active enough but for now I’d like to just focus on one everyday problem.
Our bodies no longer need to work to their full potential. Due to technology and basic necessity we can get away with using one side of our body more than the other. This one side dominance can lead to postural issues and injury due to a lack of balance.
A common question that is asked and you’ve probably asked yourself is ‘why is one side stronger than the other? You’ll usually find this when you are working with dumbbells or working unilaterally (one side at a time).
The most obvious reason is that you use your dominant side more often than the other and you’ve done so since you were very young. This will mean that the muscle size and strength will probably be slightly greater on the one side.
Another not so obvious reason is because of motor skills and how effectively the brain communicates with your muscles through the nervous system. You will normally have much better balance, coordination and range of movement on the dominant side and because there is rarely any need to use your non-dominant side it gets left behind. Take throwing a ball for example. I can throw really well(ish) with my right hand but with my left hand I’m useless. Not being able to throw with my left hand doesn’t really affect me in any shape or form but there are other similar things that could. When training it’s important that you, for at least a few exercises either train one side at a time or you work with a weight in either hand. This will iron out muscular imbalances and start to positively affect your posture.
You can start to improve these motor skills by using your other side more frequently in day to day tasks as well.
- Carrying your bag on your other shoulder
- Holding your phone in your other hand whilst texting/calling
- Kicking a ball with your left foot
- Playing tennis using your other hand
- Boxing in a southpaw stance and so on
You may never be able to get both sides exactly the same but you could make enough difference that it improves your posture.
My top five tips for turning your desk job body into a functional machine are,
- Train uni-laterally more often when in the gym or at home
- Perform exercises on unstable objects like, fit balls and Bosu’s
- Run on different surfaces
- Next time you’re performing squats or press-ups try and think which side is doing the most work and compensate
- Ask a training partner or personal Trainer to watch you perform exercise’s that require complex movement like woodcutters to see if you’re doing the same each side. If you’re really interested you could film yourself and analyse it.
Test your body so that it can cope with all scenarios not just the ones that appear in your life. Most of us can’t get ‘fit’ from our lifestyles alone so next time you workout do it with a purpose, train intelligently and improve on the little things to get bigger and better results!
Adam Coley is the At Home Fitness Personal Trainer in Wolverhampton