Share Pin Email
feature image
Live Fit

A Holistic Approach to Strength Training

Building strength is a big picture endeavor. It's not just about flattening your tummy or toning your arms, but also being able eliminate weakness from all angles—and it starts with proper alignment.

1 43
Author Image
Contributing Writer

As a teaching tool, Pete Egoscue used to show a film from the early 1960’s of athletes in the woods performing a mix of exercises, including jumping over logs, squatting under low branches, and bear-crawling up a hillside. His goal was to have viewers guess what sport this team was training for. Judging by their activity, it could have been anything from rugby to wrestling to soccer. However, the one sport that never came to mind was the actual winner: weightlifting.

All those men in that grainy, vintage footage mimicking playground-like maneuvers among the trees were members of the Polish National Weightlifting Team. Though their “workout” might not have looked like much other than fun, they were building strength, according to Egoscue.

To understand how Egoscue defines strength, first a quick anatomy lesson. The body has four pairs of load-bearing joints—the shoulders, the hips, the knees, the ankles. When the body is in alignment, those joints vertically line up. In other words, if you were to draw a line straight up from your right ankle, it would intersect with your right knee, right hip and right shoulder.

When a body is in alignment, it is balanced horizontally, too, which means that one’s shoulders, hips and knees would be precisely parallel. Feet should also never pronate (rest on the inside of the foot) or supinate (rest on the outside). While everyone is born with perfect alignment, we all get out of whack over time, and it’s not the result of anything specific we did. In fact, it’s likely something we didn’t do or didn’t do enough: Be active. A sedentary lifestyle causes joints to slowly move out of proper positioning, which can lead to pain, affecting the back, neck, head, and other areas.

Another issue that arises from misalignment is weakness. Even the fittest athletes are weak when they are misaligned. A guy who can bench press 400 pounds, for example, might not be able to side squat under a low branch. Think of it like a game of Jenga. When the blocks stack up seamlessly, you can build a pretty high and sturdy structure. However, when a few blocks are slightly out of place (picture some edges sticking out), stability is compromised, which means it won’t be long before that tower comes crashing down.

The same rules apply to your body. When you’re aligned, your joints can operate more freely, communicating with each other and working together as a unit to lift or support more weight. You have a full range of motion with your load-bearing joints, regardless whether you’re upright or in another position. Which brings us back to how Egoscue defines strength: The ability for ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders to talk to each other in a balanced way, regardless of the position.

If you want to get your body back into alignment, Egoscue’s Patch Fitness can help. The core eight principles behind its exercises recruit muscles to move joints back to their intended position for optimal function. Depending on your posture, it can take days, weeks, months and, in rare cases, years to realign the body through Patch Fitness. But, little by little, if done regularly, these key movements can help shift your joints back into place where they have full range of motion again.

Related: Unlock Your Body’s Fullest Potential with Patch Fitness

Much of modern weight training has abandoned the concept of full range of motion. It focuses on isolated muscles—which is a misnomer because no single part of the body can be divorced from the rest—in an attempt to promote a specific strength that is measurable. But that strength is incomplete as it tends to measure a specialized type of strength, such as how much you can bench press.

This myopic approach to fitness isn’t limited to just weightlifting. Running, for instance, is a great form of exercise, but if all you’re doing is logging miles, you’re promoting a tightness in the hips that will eventually affect the knees and lower back. Cycling is also great, but if you’re only pedaling, you’re reducing the range of motion in your shoulders and hips, which may eventually stiffen your spine, causing neck pain, headaches, elbow and wrist pain—all the result of the body no longer being allowed to work as a unit. Of course, some athletic trainers have learned this, and are still learning it, which is why there is more and more cross-training among our athletes. But many people in the fitness world still fail to comprehend the importance of the body as a single unit that needs to be aligned.

Changing load positions—compelling the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles to move across every plane of possibility—encourages full function of our bodies, which, in turn, enables for greater strength in every position. The fact that our training has gotten away from this basic truth has made people weaker, even the strongest among us.



Comments (1)

A 3-Day Clean Eating Meal Plan

Reset your diet to feel healthy and energized with Sonima’s free six-page guide designed to keep you satisfied as you cut back on calories, sugar, and processed foods!

Get the Guide

Load More

Find us on Instagram

  • Have you ever noticed that spas tend to smell of flowers such as lavender and ylang ylang? Studies show that these scents increase calmness, which is right for that setting. If you were to look for an essential oil that had the opposite effect—one that made you more energized and alert—choose peppermint. This distinct odor has the opposite effect of soothing essential oils, although it’s still a pleasant scent. Peppermint can even enhance your memory. #energyboost #boostenergy #essentialoils #memorybooster #naturalhealth #naturalremedies
  • If you find it hard to concentrate, try this practice from @alive.awake.empowered at least once a day: Count breathing cycles. Inhale, exhale, one. Inhale, exhale, two. Inhale, exhale, three. And so on.

You may be able to get only as far as two or three at first. But with practice, you will improve, and so will your ability to concentrate. Do what you can, and when a thought interrupts, go back to one.

#meditation #concentration #focus #mondays
  • Yoga is a therapeutic practice at all levels—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. When used appropriately, it has the power to heal, balancing each of the above aspects and bringing them into harmony with each other. Even for healthy practitioners, yoga is therapeutic, working to strengthen and refine all aspects of their system.

Although we can treat the symptoms of disease or injury in many different ways, healing is a process that comes from within. It happens as a result of the system’s innate intelligence, but this process can be adversely affected when we are out of balance. The aim of yoga and yoga therapy is to support the natural process of healing by bringing us back into balance on all levels.

Click the link in our bio to learn more about yoga as therapy from @andrew.hillam. 
#yoga #yogatherapy #ashtanga #yogaheals
  • Use the power of your breath to warm up naturally! Take a deep breath, but rather than consciously exhaling and pushing the air out, just sort of “let it go." Take 10 breaths like this in a row, trying to go a little bit deeper with each successive inhale, but putting no force behind your exhalation. After your tenth breath, take in one more deep breath, and this time hold it in. Engage the muscles in your chest, back, and shoulders, as if you were using them to give the air inside your lungs a firm hug. You may notice a warm, tingling sensation inside your chest.
#breathwork #winter #powerofbreath
  • #mlk #mlkday #quotes #happiness #behappy
  • Who doesn't love a quiz? Take our personality test to better understand the desires, fears, and tendencies that affect your relationships and personal growth. See link in bio. #personalitytypes #enneagram #quiz #knowyourself #liveauthentically
Receive fresh content delivered to your inbox every week!