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Lower Body

A meaningful exercise program will exploit the fact, even if it's not consciously understood, that the body can be divided into three large functional units: the upper, pushing-pulling structure of the arms and shoulders; the middle, bending-twisting structure of the trunk; and the lower, standing-stepping structure of the legs and hips. It's a FitWorks organizing principle -- a little thought should reveal its truth and usefulness.

Just a few words on the lower body. It steps and it stands. That's it, in terms of major functioning. By stand, we mean vertical movement -- standing, sitting, jumping, and anything else of this sort you can think of. By step, we mean horizontal movement -- walking, running, lunging and so on.

In terms of exercise, the simplest effective movements would be the squat and the lunge. These two functional motions address it all. How very very simple. Do these two things, and you're about 98% done with it -- using the tried and true proof of instant phony statistics. But it's only the stat that's phony. The overwhelming effectiveness is real. So what about toe-raises and calf-raises and heel raises and, uh, leg presses and donkey kicks and ham curls and all those other fancy machines we see in the chrome and glass gyms? Aren't they ever so useful and necessary too?

Yes, if you're undergoing physical rehab for an injury. Yes, if you're a professional bodybuilder looking to isolate that one odd little muscle in your posterior chain that hardly anyone knows the name of but the judges look at. Yes, if you're running a Curves gym and want to make a lot of money by luring people in with your glitz and manifest overhead costs.

But no, in terms of fitness and athleticism and functional movements and feeling and performing better -- no, they are not necessary. What's necessary is doing with purpose and directed intelligence what the human body wants to do because of the way joints move bones. So, squats and lunges. That's what the body does, and that's what you should exercise. Not only these, but these. And these, only safely.

There is a difference, almost never noticed, between kneeling and squatting. Kneeling is knees-forward -- you're going to land on your knees if you go far enough. Nothing wrong with that, per se. But it's not a squat. Squatting is behind-backward -- if you go far enough, you land on your bottom. So what? When we say squat, that's what we mean.

There is no power in kneeling -- it is, after all, the position we beg from. Whereas all the upward power of your posterior chain is accessed, in the squat. Again, kneeling bends the foot -- squatting grinds the heel. The ball of your foot is for transferring power forward -- the heel is for focusing power upwards.

Thus, a distinction between squatting and lunging, upward and forward, heel and toe, backside and knees. Different emphasis because of different purpose and function. This has practical importance because of safety issues. If you lift things upward (squat) while using a forward movement (lunge) -- well, it's hard on the knees. Injury. So that's why training properly is important.

No need to go into how the isolation machines place unnatural constrictions on the joints. We all follow a similar human pattern, but our joints have a lot of idiosyncratic variability in them, which the machines don't accommodate. They are pretty much a one-size fits all sort of thing, for all that there is a little bit of adjustability. No need, again, to go into that. Why would you use a machine? All strapped in and ready to let it do the work, battling alien giants maybe? Hm. Seems so scientific, if this were 1963.

So that's a general rundown on the lower body. Very simple, and yet sort of complex. Understand though how important it is. Two-thirds of most people's muscle mass is below the waist. We burn fat by using muscle. That's why they're always trying to get you to do cardio. You don't really care that you might be able to run a 5K. You just want to burn the calories. It's those big weight-bearing muscles that do it. But using them is only part of the picture -- the other part is building them. Strength training. Necessary. Safely.

Does any of it matter? Yes and no. Depends on how rigorous a steward we want to be, how faithful a custodian of the particular temple God has given us. Sometimes temples lapse into ruins in a single generation. Sometimes they endure through the centuries. Why? Because someone has demonstrated resolved stewardship, or its lack.  There really are so many responsibilities, so easy to ignore, to be ignorant of, and the consequences take so long to show up.  We can forgive ourselves of our guilt feelings.  But physics, and physiology, are unforgiving.

Be excellent.


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