Holiday fitness banter to get you through the Christmas party season

With the holiday season around the corner, does the prospect of standing around at parties with little or nothing to say make you a little Grinchy?

Try working one of these topical fitness statements into your next festive conversation.

If you don’t exactly embody muscle and vigour, simply preface your insightful quip by stating, “My trainer feels that…” (followed by one of the riveting statements below). Then state, “I find his/her sage advice is really upping my golf game.”

Not only do you sound cool for having a trainer but you don’t have to understand anything about the statement that just free fell from your mouth. When pushed for details, politely excuse yourself and mosey over to the bar to sample some of that delicious tap water, which I believe is included in the price of admission.

Statement #1: Years of sitting has weakened my posterior chain. Closed kinetic chain exercise has opened me up to a whole new world of flexibility and function.

Most of us have lost the flexibility and strength that allows us to bend over or squat down. Our hamstrings and glutes have tightened up from years of sitting. The reason we can no longer squat stems from that first miniature chair you were assigned in kindergarten. As we grew, so did the chair and with it our inability to move as designed. We’ve been sitting ever since.

Want to pick up the morning paper without grunting? Simply break the pattern. Start squatting down, a little deeper every time. Heels down, back straight, eyes forward, hold onto a door if necessary. Things will feel more fluid if you perform squats after warming up with a brisk walk or climbing a few stairs.

Statement #2: I find if I decelerate during an eccentric contraction I enhance strength and promote safety.

Most people train way too fast, especially males. Sorry guys — hate to pick on my own team. (Somewhere out there a concerned wife is yelling to her husband, “See, Harold, I told you! He said you are lifting too fast.”)

If you’re pumping away with the dumbbells at the speed of light, you are missing more than half the benefits. The lengthening aspect of resistance exercise (a.k.a. the negative, eccentric or return) should take you at least four seconds – not “1, 2, 3, 4” but rather “one Mississippi etc.”

A slow negative forces the muscle to work harder and promotes stability and safety. A stronger eccentric equals a stronger concentric phase (that’s the part you are currently worried about).

To be clear, when you bench press, the push is the concentric phase; lowering the weight (slowly) is the eccentric. When you squat, going down (slowly) is eccentric; standing up is concentric. When you do a chin-up, the pull is the concentric and the return (slow) is eccentric.

Statement #3: To promote hypertrophy I find that taking a set to the point of fatigue forces the muscle to respond through adaptation, enhancing strength and shape.

Sorry ladies, your turn. In my experience, and of course I’m generalizing, women tend to have better form than men, but they often underestimate their own strength (although this is fast becoming less common as women take their rightful place in gyms and sports).

When a client says she can only perform 10 reps, I can often pull out another three or four simply by distracting her from her rep count. The problem is, the final two or three reps (taken to failure with good form) are the reps that your muscle remembers. The other day, a client claimed, “I can’t lift that, it’s 60 pounds!” When her girlfriend stepped up and lifted the weight 12 times, she did the same without as much as a grunt.

Mind over matter.

Statement #4: I’m not a fan of mirror muscle. That’s why I’ve been hitting my rotators, rear delts and rhomboids. Can’t you tell?

We often train the muscle that we see in the mirror — chest, bicep, anterior shoulder, quads etc. Avoiding the muscles that counter these groups can lead to imbalance, poor posture and injury.

Conditioned rhomboids (the muscle between your scapula) helps you hold your shoulder blades together, which helps prevent slouching.

Conditioned posterior delts (rear shoulder) offset the often-overdeveloped anterior head which, along with the chest, tends to pull your shoulders forward.

Strong rotators keep your thumbs facing forward when your hands hang at your sides. Unopposed, overdeveloped anterior muscle (again, chest and anterior delts) rotate your arm medially so that your palms face backwards, causing your knuckles to drag along the ground as you walk.

Don’t let holiday banter get you down. Happy partying!

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