Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Lifting Your Own Weight

All my life, I've pondered the question, "What is the most essential movement (exercise) to do?"  Obviously, that would probably be a movement one takes entirely for granted -- but shouldn't.  That is the key to their entire well-being, and differentiates those thriving, from those retreating and withdrawing from life.

The question can also be rephrased, "What is the most efficient way to lift one's own bodyweight?" -- which many offhand will dismiss as impossible, only for world-class athletes, rather than something everyone needs to do daily -- as many times as possible, and doing so, will ensure their good health.  It defines their good health -- and capabilities, all things being equal.  That is the simple act of raising one's (own) bodyweight from a chair or bed, and also lowering one's bodyweight with grace, ease and safety.  

This is particularly important, the older and weaker one gets -- to do this very well, and those who lose this ability and faculty, lose their mobility and basic competency that makes all other movements possible and practical.  Those who lose this facility, are called "incapacitated," or "disabled," even if the capabilities exist, but are never exercised anymore -- at some point in life.

One simply decides at that point, that one can no longer do it -- for one reason or another.  Often, it is for a concern of safety -- that one is too weak to stand up any longer, or one has feet, knee, hip or back pain that makes any movement (change) painful and difficult -- which obviously won't get any better if it is never articulated and exercised anymore.

Yet if there is only one thing a person does, that is the movement that will make the greatest difference in one's health and well-being, and so if a person does nothing else, that would be the movement to master -- and the key to their health, well-being and fundamental strength.  Not coincidentally, the best form for lifting one's bodyweight off of a chair, is the identical movement employed in Olympic weightlifting-- to lift the heaviest weights humanly possible.  That is the movement of greatest economy and efficiency -- and as such, is the fundamental movement that should be mastered by everyone -- whether it is their intention to do a little or a lot.

Learning the proper mechanics and dynamics, also solves most of the back pains and problems of alignment resulting in the abuse and misuse that results in destructive wear and injury.  By using the major (largest) muscles of the legs and back, ensures the proper priority of strength and development, and all else can then be done from this position of underlying, fundamental, "core" strength -- much more so than merely developing six-pack (ornamental) abs.

That (latter) is not an essential development in any practical or useful movement or activity.  The only function is for "show," or display.  Otherwise, it has no useful function -- and may even be counterproductive in producing a development without a usefulness -- as the actual ability to get in and out of a chair or bed easily, competently and gracefully, conveys.  Before one is completely bedridden, they may spend many years being helped into a chair in which they never leave all day.  That is the condition known as infirmity -- or the weakness and inability to do normal things without assistance.

But way before we get to that point, what can one do about it?  That answer is simple and obvious: that is the strength and ability we must cultivate as a priority -- and doing so, will prevent most of the problems of increasing immobility -- from the comfort, familiarity and safety of one's favorite chair.

The beginning position is exactly like that taken to lift the heaviest weights possible -- leaning forward with arms hanging to one's side until one is basically falling out of the chair onto one's legs, and then standing up and completing the movement with a shoulder shrug -- rather than stopping the movement at the lower back, allowing the upper back to remain rounded.  The completion of the lift is achieved when the force generated by the legs is allowed to traverse through the spinal column -- rather than stopped at the lower back, absorbing that force -- causing many people to walk around painfully all day with rounded backs, rather than exhibit a healthy, pain-free arched back as their basic posture.

That is obviously the difference in the healthy posture and a poor one.  That has been the observation, study and practice of yoga -- primarily to develop that flexibility in the spine that allows them to move into an arched position.  The problem is that that is achieved by only using half of one's body -- either from the waist up, or the waist down -- and not wholly and integrally, from the feet on through the neck that restores the fundamental integrity of the body structure to always move completely in that manner.

That's why most "back" movements are ineffective -- for relieving pain and building strength -- because back strength cannot be developed only from the lower back up, or the lower back down -- which are all the exercises we traditionally think of as "back exercises."  The back has to be exercised completely -- from the feet on through the neck -- to revitalize and restore that fundamental strength and functionality of the human design.

That is the quintessential weight-lifting movement of the human body -- just to lift its own bodyweight into the position it can do the most good and be the most effective.  One doesn't have to buy and lift any additional weight -- besides one's own, in the most efficient, economical and effective manner that ensures their mobility and fundamental capacity to recruit the muscles of the entire body -- all at once, every time.  That is the fundamental dance of movement -- to get up and down tirelessly, effortlessly, gracefully -- as long as one lives.

One doesn't have to run, swim or lift a marathon -- until one can't, and then never gets in and out of a chair or bed anymore.  That is their mantra -- what they must become good at.  Getting in and out of a chair as the most fundamental weight-lifting movement -- and doing so, will ensure one perfects that skill all one's life.

In Memoriam,
Tommy Kono, 2016.

From a seated position, feet flat on the floor, head up looking forward, arms hanging alongside the legs, shift the weight forward until it is in front of the toes, raising the hips and straightening the back with a full shoulder shrug -- in a smooth, continuous motion. 

Slowly lower the hips until one is seated again. Repeat ten times.

Repeat throughout the day as often as one is mindful -- but at least ten times to begin each each day, and ten times before retiring at night.  One has just lifted their entire bodyweight in the most useful manner possible.


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