From a very young age I had been training with my Dad on the beach in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. We would run the beach together and push wheelbarrows of concrete up my driveway in hope of me becoming the best athlete possible. I loved this style of training, but when I heard that my friends were lifting weights I felt left out and wanted to switch to weight training. So I started training with my oldest brother, Sean, during the summer leading up to my 8th grade year. I still remember sitting in the bleachers that summer talking to my friends about our max bench press. I was very weak compared to my friends, most of them were benching 135 pounds while I was only benching 95 pounds. I was embarrassed to say the least. This embarrassment started a fire inside me and motivated me to become as strong as possible.
During that 8th grade year I worked out with my brother as much as possible. He was an excellent teacher, and under his guidance I saw my technique improve and my strength increase. However, my brother was no fitness guru, he was a typical 18 year old senior in high school who had a love for fitness. Our workouts weren’t fancy, but they were effective. My brother helped me learn the basics, how to press, squat and lunge. I was amazed by the transformation that took place, I started seeing and feeling muscles that I didn’t know existed. After that year I was hooked and addicted to working out. Over the next four years in high school I fell more in love with weight training. I read every Muscle and Fitness magazine and trained every single day. By the end of my high school career I had increased my bench press from 95 pounds to over 350 pounds. I thought I was the best thing since sliced bread.
But here is the truth, I trained like a fool during my high school days and would never advise any of my clients to train like I did. And I am not blaming my brother, my Dad or anyone else, it was my fault and only my fault.
For starters, I only trained a couple of movements and cared way too much about how much I could lift when I should have cared more about the quality of the lift. The bench press and the squat were my favorite, but my main focus was increasing my bench press as much as possible. I was obsessed. Each week I would try to go set a personal record, and it worked surprisingly well. However, this led to massive imbalances in my upper body that I am still trying to fix today. It left me with rounded shoulders, tight hips, and a poor posture.
Doesn’t this sound familiar?
Currently, the majority of people have this posture. They suffer from rounded shoulders, tight hips and a weak core highlighted by a forward head posture. This is mostly do to our current environment where we sit eight to ten hours a day looking down at computer screens and cellphones. I joke with my clients that we are slowly devolving back to dinosaurs. Just take a look at someone while they are on their phone, they look like a T-Rex, short arms with a long forward head. But all jokes aside, having poor posture can lead to life changing injuries, especially if it occurs in the lower back. Most people don’t know this, but over 80 percent of Americans will experience lower back pain at some point in their life (1) and I was no exception to this rule.
At the age of 18, during my freshman year of college I injured my lower back while squatting. I suffered from a L4-L5 bulging disc. Squatting wasn’t the issue, my imbalances were, and they were the reason why I got injured. Since that injury I have paid much closer attention to my body and have strengthened my weaknesses. Remember, you are only as strong as your weakest link and the body is no different. The body will always find the least path of resistance. Thus, it is imperative that you train your imbalances and weaknesses. I believe that men need to train more like women and women need to train more like men. In essence, men need to improve their ranges of motion in the pectorals, shoulders, ankles and hips. While women need to improve stability in the mid back, shoulder and hips. Stay tuned for next week where I’ll go over a monthly program to do just that.
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