The idea of GRACE and workouts seems to be most often left to gymnasts, ballet dancers, or figure skaters. But the idea of graceful movement must start for each of us at the most basic of levels and then slowly progressed as our muscles gain stability and our movements become more complex.
For each of my clients, I recommend 2 ideas for maintaining grace in movements in their workouts. Our initial goal is to restore muscle balance to their bodies. This muscular balance is achieved through stretching, strength work, or often a combination of the two. Basically the body is a series of lever systems (i.e. the biceps and triceps work in opposition of one another to control elbow flexion). Each lever system has an ideal alignment where muscles at their ideal length and strength keep the length-tension relationship of that lever (or joint) efficient for all movements. If for some reason one of these opposing muscles is far tighter/stronger than the opposite long/weak muscle, the lever system works at far below its capacity. This can cause improper joint wear, muscle strains, and often injuries. Each of these definitely leading to less than graceful movements during your workouts. So the number one priority in any workout program, use corrective stretching and strength work to restore your body’s muscular balance before progressing into advanced and complex movements.
Secondly, after completing your corrective work, FORM becomes each client’s focus as they proceed forward using proper exercise progressions and periodization. Whether you are simply marking a movement without weight or doing a powerful clean and press movement with a barbell, proper form will always be the key to not only maintaining grace in your movement, but keeping your body safe and working properly at all times. This idea of form is often forgotten as clients progress too quickly with higher weights or even worse into quick movements of speed and power. If you know that you cannot correctly perform a movement at a slow pace, it is more than likely that your form is even worse when performing that same movement at full speed. A perfect example of this would be a lunge movement. If you know for a fact that you cannot perform smooth lunges in control, then how do you think your body handles the control of your lower body joints when you are running up stairs? So please keep this second goal in mind: FORM supersedes speed, weight, and reps. Always try your best to stop sets BEFORE your form breaks.
By keeping these 2 simple guidelines in place as your begin or progress your workout routine, you will not only maintain grace in your movements, but you will maintain muscle balance and keep your joints safe and strong in the years to come.