We are creatures of habit. We like to do what we like to do because we like to do it…right? This is true for all ares of life.
We eat at the same places because we like the food.
We hang out with the same friends because we enjoy their company.
We go to the same grocery store because we like their prices/selection/proximity.
Runners run. Yogis yoga. Guys lift only chest, shoulders and bi’s (because who needs a leg day?). Women spend hours on the thigh adduction and abduction machines.
This isn’t always a bad thing. But if we become creatures of habit in the gym, it most certainly can be. The problem with things we like is we tend to “forget” about the things we don’t like. And when we continually do the same things over and over and over, something nasty begins to happen. It’s called “pattern overload”, which is simply an overload of the same movement patterns.
For example, if all you do is run, you only use muscles that are designed to propel the body forward at a moderate pace. And the rest of the body is left alone. If you only lift your chest, shoulders and bi’s you neglect your back, tri’s and legs. (As well as look pretty ridiculous.)
The body is designed to move in all kinds of directions. It’s designed to move athletically in various planes. So when we are constantly moving in the same patterns, we set ourselves up for incredible strength imbalances as well as injury. Runners are notorious for this. Ask anyone you know that has been running for a while and they most likely have experienced either hip or knee pain, if not both. The reason is simply: pattern overload. There is a huge percentage of their body that is being neglected.
Think about your typical male gym-goer. They’ve got rounded shoulders, a slouched upper back, forward head posture. This is very common due to the fact that the muscles that keep the shoulders and neck pulled back (upper/mid back) are forgotten and muscles that pull the shoulders forward are used too often. It not only looks bad aesthetically, but it can cause a lot of discomfort and injury.
All this being said, when it comes to the gym, it’s important to focus on the stuff you don’t like just as much (but probably more often) as the stuff you enjoy. In fact, I think usually the stuff we hate to do the most is the stuff we need the most.
For example, I naturally have little, weak chicken legs. And I really used to hate lifting my legs. Not only because it was tough and un-enjoyable, but it really sucked to squat with weight that other people were doing single arm curls with. (Only a slight exaggeration.) But eventually I decided that my weak point (legs) needed to become my priority. Since then I’ve noticed that I have greater strength in all my lifts and a back that doesn’t ache all the time.
If I continued to strengthen my legs very little and focused only on what I was good at and what I enjoyed, I know that I would be making my body, as a whole, weaker.
The great thing about (well designed) strength training is that it combats our natural strength imbalances as well as the ones we impose upon our bodies due to our “likes”. It should force you to move in different planes utilizing different types of movements to accomplish this.
When I’m programming for a client, I always assess them. This gives me an idea of where their bodies are breaking down and what I need them to do to correct that. I also ask about activities they enjoy. If I have a runner, I know that I need to hit the posterior chain (butt and hamstrings) a little harder than the quads due to the fact that running is a very quad dominate activity. If a client has a desk job, I can safely assume that there is a good chance they have hips that feel like a bag of garbage. So I program accordingly.
So look at your current training routine. There’s a good chance it is comprised of mostly, if not solely, the things you like to do most. Look at movements, are you moving through different directions? Take an honest look at your program and yourself and see if your not suffering from pattern overload. If so, make some corrections accordingly. If you need some help, feel free to contact me about program design and let me check yo’self before you wreck yo’self.