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Colin from talks us through exercising with a limited time frame and just how to prioritise certain movements.

The nature of being human means that we organise the (free) time in our lives by what we deem important, with clearly the most important of those topping the scale. I'd like to think that most people, at least, strive to put time with their family and children at the top of this list. The one resounding reason for neglecting health and fitness we hear is time. Over and over again it's the most common response, and this really shouldn't be the case.

Let's look at it this way... Neglecting your health and fitness directly affects the quality of the activities you've ranked of higher importance. The benefits of exercise have a crossover into almost every other corner of life. Better energy levels, better concentration, better movement, better posture, better endurance, better strength, decreased stress levels and all the other subsequent health benefits, I'm sure you're getting the idea.

So what can you do with limited time? Well as with the rest of your life you'll have to rank your exercise in order of importance. This is where it will differ slightly from person to person. Some of you will undoubtedly want to lose some weight; some of you will want to get stronger and fitter, ultimately though, as is the focus of this article you'll want to be able to keep up with your kids.

So how do you prioritise? Well there are certain commonalities that ought to run through any well designed programme. You may well have heard certain buzzwords touted within the fitness industry, one of which being 'functional training'. In essence this means training to echo the movements that are seen in everyday life, or in a sporting context on the pitch, track or court.

The focus in the fitness industry currently seems to be in the right direction, moving away from bodybuilding type isolation exercises, to full body or 'functional' movements. So out go leg curls and hamstring curls and in come lunges, squats and deadlifts. Squatting is arguably the most functional exercise there is. You and I squat all the time - sitting and standing - at it's most basic level. These movements are what are commonly referred to as compound movements, in that they utilise more than one joint. To illustrate this compare a bicep curl only moving at one joint (elbow) and a squat moving three (ankle, hip and knee). Not only are these exercises more functional, they also recruit more musculature, which in turn need more energy.

These movements are not only superior for building more balanced attributes but also helping us move better. Another way to explain this is to watch your children play and move, we all used to use these movements and have a better postural awareness when we were younger, before years of hunching over a desk, driving and sitting watching TV started seizing up our muscles and joints. If you watch a young child pick up something heavy from the ground, they naturally utilise the advantages of the larger musculature, squatting down, taking the object into the chest and standing up.

Ok so you're getting a picture on what 'functional movement' is referencing here. A responsible programme will also be balanced, so there will be other movements in there too, such as deadlifts, upper body pulls and upper body pushes. In fact with just those basic movements we can develop a pretty decent programme without any frills, covering most, if not all the musculature in the body. As with any exercise it's important to underpin these movements with correct technique from the start to help prevent injury and to keep you progressing.

In Part 2 we'll work on how to put these together and look at how we might go about structuring a short workout. If you've any questions so far, feel free to leave a comment here or post a question directly on the irishfitness forum here

Colin McEndoo


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