All of the music we enjoy, from simple childhood jingles to the most complex symphonies, all originate from a small number of notes. Wikipedia has it that, in our Western world, there are eight notes in the “C-major” scale, and arguably seven, as the eighth is a repeat, but one octave higher, than the first. It is also mentioned that this scale is the source of most musical chords. Thousands of tunes composed from only a few notes.
Thousands of exercises are available to those who exercise, and that can make for a confusing proposition. With so many moves from which to choose, and all of us with different goals and physiques, how does one know if a certain exercise is appropriate and productive? In order to choose exercises wisely and create programs that meet the varied requirements of diverse individuals, we can look to fitness pros. Like musicians using only a few notes, they pull from a mere handful of principles.
In the broadest sense, our bodies really only do four things;
- Change levels
Some might argue a further point. That being, twisting is simply a pull on one side and a push on the opposite. But, like that eighth note, we’ll leave it on the list. From these four movements come hundreds of exercises.
Some exercises consist predominantly of one of the above principles. One example is that of an overhead press being predominantly a push. If you perform that press with one hand, you introduce a twisting element to the push. Add a level change to that, and we begin to see quite complex combinations; progressing into those found in dance, martial arts, and yoga. But no matter the complexity of the exercise, it boils down to some element of push, pull, level change, and twist.
If you exercise regularly, you may notice that you’re better in one direction than in another. Some people can perform push-ups easily, yet struggle with pulls. This is not uncommon. But we all gravitate toward movements at which we’re good, sometimes to the point of imbalance and injury. To avoid those setbacks, and restore balance to the body, an athlete who is naturally good at pushing would introduce a pulling aspect into their regimen. That’s great in principle. But which pulling exercise to introduce, and how much?
Just as sharp and flat notes can embellish the C-major scale, we can fine-tune a restorative exercise program with a few more principles. Following are the immutable seven. These principles are espoused by Dr. Fred Hatfield. Using these principles, Dr. Hatfield, aka “Dr. Squat”, succeeded in being the first person to squat 1000 lbs. Now that…is a push.
- The law of individual differences – we all have different strengths and weaknesses.
- The Overcompensation Principle – the body needs a stimulus to get stronger.
- The Overload Principle – that stimulus must be constantly increased.
- The Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID) Principle – the body adapts only to the exercise performed. Bicep curls don’t strengthen glutes.
- The Use/Disuse Principle and Law of Reversibility – “use it or lose it”.
- The Specificity Principle – do the activity at which you seek improvement.
- The General Adaption Syndrome – the overall ability of the body to respond, adapt, and subsequently fatigue.
You’ll note that there is some overlap of the above principles from one to another. The overall idea is that an exercise program, particularly one that addresses imbalances, needs to be specific to the person performing it. It must be directed toward a definite outcome and present a constant challenge, but never to the point of fatigue.
If you exercise, or are looking to begin an exercise program, remember the simplicity of the basic four principle moves; Pull, Push, Level Change, and Twist. You ought to be doing at least one version of all four. Similar to a simple, catchy tune. Adding the “sharps and flats” of Dr. Hatfield’s principles will enhance your program, and in time, your workout will be a performance you’ll be proud of.