Three of the exercises that are featured in the strength training guide I recently put up here on Darwinian-Medicine.com are the standing high row, the pull through, and the plank (performed with contraction of the glutes). They are among my favorite exercises, for a couple of reasons. First of all, they can be performed almost anywhere. All you need is a resistance band and you’re set to go. Secondly, they are effective for increasing bodily, performance-related awareness and instilling and ingraining good movement patterns. I’ve used them a lot in my work as a coach/trainer for this purpose of drilling the body and the mind. Last but not least, they can bring about improvements of posture and health by counteracting many of the musculoskeletal problems that accompany modern, sedentary living.
Exercise-oriented mismatch resolution: A sensible musculoskeletal path forward
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much less interested in building muscle. These days, my primary concern is not to get really big or strong, but rather to achieve and maintain good posture and musculoskeletal health, avoiding pains and aches. The standing high row, pull through, and plank are great tools in this regard, as they help resolve issues resulting from a collision between our ancient musculoskeletal system and our modern way of life, thereby facilitating the endeavor of Darwinian medicine.
Much of the premise for this exercise-oriented aspect of Darwinian medicine lies in the recognition that we’re less physically active now than ever before. As we’ve gone from living out in the wild, as vigorously active hunter-gatherers looking for wild game, digging for tubers, and actively playing with the young, to sitting down, assuming a hunched position over a computer, we’ve significantly altered the activity/stimulation pattern of our bodies.
This has unquestioningly contributed in a major way to engendering and fueling the current epidemic of musculoskeletal woes – back pain, osteoporosis, and so forth. We’re simply not physiologically adapted for our current way of living. In the past, any issue that significantly hampered a person’s ability to move around and perform well, physically, would be expected to undermine the person’s ability to pass on his genes, as agility was important for survival back in the day. What this is to say is that it’s not ‘natural’, from an evolutionary point of view, to be physically compromised. Rather, the current state of things may be said to represent a deviation from evolutionary normalcy.
In particular the glutes and core and upper back musculature have suffered as a result of the modern lifestyle, in the sense that those parts of the body aren’t sufficiently stimulated by sedentary, seated living. Conversely, the chest, lower back, and hip flexors have a tendency to tighten in the modern, office-working individual. These issues, which are inherent to the conditions referred to as lower crossed syndrome and upper crossed syndrome can all be targeted with strength training. Actually, one may argue that resistance exercise is by far the most potent form of medicine for such postural deviations.
With respects to the “hunchback epidemic”, a sensible strategy is to focus on strengthening the upper back, something that can be achieved by performing row exercises, whereas exercises that target the abs and/or glutes, such as the plank and the pull through, can come in particularly handy for people whose glutes are in a state of dormancy.
The standing high row
Much of my motivation for acquiring a resistance band was that it would enable me to perform this exercise. Simply taking the occasional small break from computer-related work in which you engage the upper back musculature could potentially go a long way towards preventing postural decline.
Key point: Pull your shoulders back and down at the end of the concentric phase of the movement
The pull through
This is a great exercise for activating and strengthening the glutes, which are of critical importance when it comes to physical performance and musculoskeletal health. Not to mention that a strong, perky butt is great to look at. What really appeals to me about the pull through and the main reason I’ve employed it so often in my work with clients is that the trainee is pulled back. This aspect of the exercise makes it uniquely well suited for hip hinge drilling.
Key point. Sit back, not down, and drive through the glutes and heels
The plank (performed with glute contraction)
It makes a lot of difference whether one squeezes the glutes or not while performing the plank. When performed with a deliberate, static glute contraction, the exercise becomes a lot harder/more intense, but also more effective. It arguably also becomes safer, as the lower back is rigidly secured/stabilized.
Key point: Keep your glutes forcefully contracted for the duration of the exercise
More tips and exercises…
For more tips and exercises, see the strength training guide below…