Stand Up For Strength

gym sittingPeople sit too much. They sit at work, in their cars, at home watching TV, while waiting, while flying (like I'm doing now), and plenty of other times. It's become the default position in the lives of modern humans. This is bad for lots of reasons, some of which I've written about before.

But one of the most tragic things is seeing people sitting down while trying to get stronger. Seems counterintuitive, doesn't it? And yet if you go to a gym you'll likely find more people on their butts (or their backs) than on their feet.

In the "cardio" section (more on "cardio" in the near future), we find people on their feet on treadmills or ellipticals but many more on stationary bikes (even recumbent bikes that let them sit back). Interestingly, you're not as likely to see may people sitting on rowing machines (if your gym even has them), possibly because they're a lot of work.

In the strength training section, though, you'll once again find people sitting (or laying) on machines. The strength machine boom started with Nautilus (remember when there were Nautilus Fitness Centers?) but there are plenty of other brands now. Almost all of them involve sitting (sometimes reclining) or laying. This is one of the things that makes them popular: they're comfy cozy! But that doesn't quite fit with the concept of strength training somehow.

bench pressThe alternative, of course, is free weights: mostly barbells and dumbbells. What's the most popular barbell exercise, especially with guys? Surely it's the bench press…where you lay down on the bench.

Now the bench press is a fine upper body exercise; heck it's one of the "big three" powerlifting lifts (along with squats and deadlifts). But far too many guys do bench presses without doing the other two. Why? A good guess is because they're more comfortable, largely because you're lying down.

strength carryJust because people spend so much time sitting and laying in life doesn't mean those are the most important positions in which to get stronger. People don't generally break hips falling off a chair or out of bed. They break hips (and other things) falling down…from a standing position. Almost everything we do that requires real strength is done on our feet: lifting things off the ground (kids, suitcases, sacks of cats), pushing things overhead to put them on a shelf (or taking them down), pushing things forward (lawn mower, car stuck in the snow), pulling things (starter cords, kids on a sled), plus running up hills or stairs, jumping…all of these things require strength and being stronger helps with all of them.

Standing strength exercises don't just help with the targeted movement. For example, doing a standing overhead press doesn't just make your upper body muscles stronger for pushing. It also strengthens the muscles that help keep you standing upright: feet, legs, hips, and core, for example. Squats don't just help with squatting: they help with pushing cars, running up stairs, skiing down hills, jumping, etc.

Now none of this means that you should not do any seated or lying strength exercises. But I'd strongly (get it?) recommend you do at least some--and preferably most--of your strength training on your feet. There's a good chance it will help keep you on your feet for many years to come. And if you're doing curls, good gosh do them standing up, not sitting on a bench or even a bouncy ball.

Go ahead, stand up for strength!

Be seeing you.


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