Is today an upper body or lower body day?

A poll would probably reflect that you’ve heard yourself, or someone else, utter the words “upper body day” or “lower body day” when discussing a workout. Maybe Monday becomes “chest and back day” while Tuesday looks more like “leg day”. It’s logical reasoning, considering there’s a lot of muscle on the body. There needs to be a plan to address all of it, equally. Right?

Yes, but not exactly. The body doesn’t truly get stronger when you isolate muscle groups. Traditional machine-based exercise strengthens you in one particular movement for one particular set of muscles. Considering the body works as a system of muscles in movement and not as a bunch of individual muscles, it’s easier to understand why “upper body days” and “lower body days” don’t get the job done.

Training one muscle group over and over in single exercise environment causes that muscle to develop without the surrounding muscles, thereby creating muscle imbalances. Those imbalances lead to muscle and joint injuries. Why are the old school gym rats who work out every day always talking about their latest injury? Chances are, these injuries are the results of one-dimensional exercise without whole-body recruitment and strengthening.

What can you do?

Start exercising on your feet. Seated positions (while you exercise) rob you of activating other muscles, namely your abdominals and back core muscles. That deprives you of two benefits: energy expenditure from using those muscles and (more importantly) core strengthening, which prevents injury at home or in the gym.

Also, perform movements using Swiss balls, tubes, pulleys, medicine balls and regular body weight. A favorite term of mine is "free space." You don’t live your life on a track, so why would you want to strengthen your body in such a narrow environment? Perform an Internet search for "Functional Exercise" and select exercises with every body-group in mind. Your workouts will be more productive and will provide you with a better long-term investment in your body!

Oh, and every day is upper AND lower body day.

Jeff Howerton is a trainer and owner of LEAN personal training, where he and his trainers work with clients to lose fat, develop lean muscle and implement strategies for healthier living. LEAN (615) 279-1900 or

New personal trainer at LEAN offers complimentary session

Adrian Pentecost, Australian Certified Personal Trainer from Sydney, Australia, is new to Nashville and to LEAN Personal Training. He is interested in helping new clients improve their fitness and wellbeing and specializes in areas such as: core strength, flexibility, weight loss, toning, sports conditioning, lower back problems and other injury related rehabilitation.

Pentecost has traveled extensively and trained in Australia, England and the United States throughout the past six years. He would like to use this experience to help modify your lifestyle and improve your overall wellbeing. As a result, he is offering a complimentary personal training session, so give him a call at (615) 279-1900 to schedule your free session.

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