Friday, February 15, 2008

Mirror Muscles

I’ve heard a good term to describe the fitness world’s obsession with the chest, abs, biceps, and quads: the mirror muscles. If it is seen in a mirror or from the front in a camera photo, then it gets the most attention to the point where all other muscles in the body are disregarded in favor of these. Such narrow-minded approaches to fitness yield poor results in real life application for a number of reasons.

Muscular tension is responsible for creating proper alignment of the skeleton. The bones of the body don’t have directly interlocking attachments. If they did, they would lack any sort of flexibility. Instead, they are held in place by the muscles. Each muscle pulls skeletal structure in a certain way. Another is responsible for pulling the same structure in an opposite direction. For example, the pectoral major muscles of the chest pull the arms and shoulders forward in front of the body. The trapezius muscle of the upper back pulls the shoulders backwards (among other things that it does) to create an antagonistic movement. This is what creates proper posture as well as stabilizes the shoulder joints.

Well, the mirror muscle fixation causes many to disregard the trapezius completely. After all, it is on your back and nobody looks there very much, certainly not most cameras. I once saw an article in Men’s Health that reminded the reader not to forget them. It’s a small wonder why the rotator cuffs of so many bodybuilders and weight lifters blow out so often. Without proper tension between both chest and back, the shoulders lack proper stabilization. Such is one of the penalties for mirror muscle obsession.

Another, more shallow (but in line with modern fitness demands no less) reason to not neglect the non-mirror muscles is size. When we take measurements such as arm and chest size, the bulk of the size of the arms and the chest are coming from the chest and bicep. The chest measurement is mostly lat and the arm measurement is 3/5 triceps. So, fixation on the chest and biceps won’t get the biggest yields at the measuring tape. Focusing on the front, back, and sides of your body will get you the best results.

Don’t get stuck on this though. I agree that looking fit is important. I’ve stated this before. Just make the same errors that the fitness world is making. Your physical health and strength lies more in just what you see in a mirror or a camera shot. Being able to use your body properly should take precedent over merely looking like you can. Otherwise, you’ll rob yourself of the joys and inner peace of having a marvelously functional body, capable of doing anything and everything that you please.

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