Turning “curls for the girls” into life long health; Exercise Tips for Men

    With Men’s Health Week this week, I wrestled with several different paths to go for this blog.  Do I talk about the importance of exercise?  Do I talk about what I would have told my younger self? Or do I talk about the best way to do a bicep curl?  Then I thought about one of my favorite sayings by Yogi Berra, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”  So I will.

    It has been proven that exercise, in all it’s forms, when done appropriately, is beneficial.  From lifting weights to playing sports and participating in the martial arts, or even climbing trees (and falling out of them) as a kid, these are all forms of exercise.  All that movement using, and creating new muscle fibers, has made us stronger.  However, with those falls, all those hits in martial arts, and that not-so-good soreness after lifting, we are reminded that we need to pump the brakes and we are not invincible.  I would absolutely remind my younger self that you should pay attention to those “warning signals.”  When something hurts, like your shoulder from that deep bench press, or your elbow after an arm bar, you might not want to shrug it off and keep going.  These days, my workouts include some corrective exercises addressing those issues, as well as picking up something heavy.  When it’s a cardio workout, for me, knowing when to stop hitting the bag because that elbow is barking, is a good thing. This way I can live to fight another day.  If I would have added in corrective exercises for those warning signs back then, or if I would have taken my foot off the gas and slowed down a bit, it would have certainly paid dividends now. But you know what they say; “you don’t know, what you don’t know” and let’s be honest, when we’re young, we think we’ll live forever. 

    Exercise was important for our younger selves.  Working out, playing sports, and running around as kids, made us strong to absorb the beatings we gave ourselves.   Exercise, as an adult, is even more important.  When done appropriately, it helps us maintain our strength, improves our cardio respiratory function, lowers cholesterol, keeps our core strong to prevent back issues, and keeps our bones strong.  That way, as we age gracefully, we can still do the things we enjoy, maybe not as well, but we can still do them.  As we get older and qualify for that senior discount, exercising appropriately will still be important.  It will continue to keep us strong, help us maintain our balance, and help mitigate any of those nagging issues that creep up from childhood. (Such as that fall out of the tree for me.)  

    So yes, doing those bicep curls will help.   Using dumbbells, cables, machines, bands, kettlebells, jugs of water; all of that will help.  But which one will give me the best bicep ever?  Well, here is the secret; all of them.  When done appropriately, all those tools are effective, but not one alone.   The best way to do a bicep curl, is to be working the bicep through its fullest possible range and challenging it accordingly.  Knowing the best position of the elbow and the shoulder joint, the correct line of force, the appropriate load, and the amount of time under tension are all key variables.  I use this knowledge, combined with my previous workout, how that elbow is feeling today (is it fine or is it barking at me after that arm bar 15 years ago) and what I’m doing in my next workout.  Add all of that together, and that gives you the best bicep curl exercise.   

    Now, after collecting all my forks, understanding how important exercise is for my short and long term health, and knowing when to listen to those nagging warning signs, I realize that exercise is truly a lifelong journey.  Men’s health isn’t just a week in the year; it is a lifetime event.  Just because we were able to do the deep bench press, kick box and grapple for 5 minute rounds for 4 or 5 matches in a row, or climb a tree faster than a squirrel, doesn’t mean we still can.  Just because we can, also doesn’t mean we should.  Listen to those warning signals, adjust your exercises when needed, and keep doing those “curls for the girls”, and Men’s Health Week will turn into Men’s Health Life.