Why do all old people look the same?

I usually like to throw in a little of my own strange sense of humor into my posts, but today is a bit different.  For those of you who are used to eagerly waiting for my post to arrive in your inbox or to show up on Facebook while drinking your morning coffee, only to spit it all over your computer screen from the hilarity of my musings…not today. 

However, I think the concept I’m talking about is incredibly important to understand if you want to move and feel better.

As the title implies, there is a reason that so many older folks have similar bodies.  You know what I’m talking about-slouched shoulders, head jutted forward, unable to stand up straight and a pelvis that tilts forward. 

There is actually some pretty interesting science behind the reason.  But aside, from it just being interesting, it can also help keep the same thing from happening to you.

Dr. Vladimir Janda was a neurologist and physiatrist from Czechoslovakia who discovered two muscle groups to have different propensities over time.  These are phasic and tonic muscles.  Phasic muscles tend to be extensors, while tonic muscles are flexors.  The interesting thing is that phasic muscles have a natural inclination to weaken (become inhibited) over time, while tonic muscles have a tendency to tighten (facilitate) over time.

From this discovery, Janda developed two concepts known as Upper and Lower Crossed Syndrome.

The interesting thing about this is the relationship that phasic and tonic muscles have with each other.  As you can see above, when phasic muscles weaken, they have a counter part which just so happens to be a tonic muscle.  So one gets weak, the other gets tight, and the body gets funky.

In Upper Crossed Syndrome, the pectorals, sternocleidomastoid and upper traps tighten while the cervical flexors and lower traps weaken.  This causes the head to move forward and the shoulders to round.

In Lower Crossed Syndrome, the hip flexors and thoracic/lumbar extensors tighten, while the abs and glutes weaken.  This causes the pelvis to tilt anteriorly (forward).

Then, we spend most of our time in positions (sitting, hunched over computers, commuting) that further weaken phasic muscles and tighten tonic muscles, making the situation even worse.

Then to top it all off, we walk into the gym a spend our time giving even more strength to tonic muscles (bench press, crunches, leg extensions, jogging) while ignoring the phasic muscles (rows, squats, deadlifts, lunges). 

Is it any wonder so many people feel and move like garbage?

When nature is already working against us, wouldn’t it make sense to do everything we can to combat it?

It’s not as easy as simply “working out”.  You need be intentional about things.

If you sit a lot at your job, you need to get up and move throughout the day, as well as spend time stretching your hips and chest out.

If you like to jog, you need to spend more time strengthening your glutes and hamstrings then you do your quads.

If you love to bench press, you better be spending a good amount of time rowing.

Simply getting your “sweat on” isn’t going to cut it in the long run.  There’s much more to being healthy then just being lean or strong.  What good is it to have low body fat if you feel like crap all the time?  And what good is it to have a huge bench if you can’t even stand up straight?

This doesn’t mean you totally ignore training tonic muscles, but rather, you need to keep yourself balanced.  Be purposeful in your training, and, as always, I’m here if you need any help.


3 thoughts on “Why do all old people look the same?

  1. Man, I was doing exactly that. Feeling bad about my posture and doing all the wrong exercises!! Switching my push/pull ration to three to one!!! ML

  2. Pingback: The Best Of! « Michael Gray

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