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Going all in

Going all in

Fitness expert Sarah Cowley Ross explains the benefits of whole-body exercises.

We’ve all heard of people having a ‘leg day’ or an ‘arm day’ at the gym, but is doing resistance training exercises to isolate muscle groups really beneficial?

My answer is yes because, to me, any exercise is a win. However, to get more bang for your buck I strongly recommend focusing on whole-body exercises.

A whole-body exercise is when you work multiple muscle groups, stimulating as many muscles as possible with one exercise – for example a squat or plank. This is opposed to separating your muscle groups and maybe working just your arms on one day with bicep curls, followed by your legs on another day on the leg extension machine.

Whole-body exercises use greater amounts of energy and as a result burn more kilojoules. Using more muscle groups to do an exercise stimulates a greater hormonal response, which will help build strength and develop a more balanced body. If you’re struggling to fit exercise in, working as many muscles as possible in a short time through whole-body exercises is the key to get strength gains and body composition changes.

My favourite whole-body exercises include skipping, dead lifts and medicine ball throws. I like the fact that I’m engaging my core and building stronger, leaner muscle while having to work harder because I’m working more muscles at the same time.

There is a place for working muscles in isolation if you’re rehabbing from injury or if you’re competing in a body-building competition. Be aware, though, that when you strengthen one muscle it’s important to also work the antagonist (opposite) muscle group. For example, if you’re a fan of bicep curls try not to forget its antagonist muscle group, the triceps. With imbalances come unwanted injury.

Work your whole body more efficiently today through doing whole-body exercises.

Your step-up monthly challenge

  • During July, challenge yourself to switch one work meeting or coffee catch-up every week to a walking meeting. Have some walking shoes at the office or in your car ready to go.
  • Add mindfulness to the mix by paying attention to how you feel when you return to your desk after your walk.
  • Challenge yourself to add this extra 20 to 30 minutes of movement to your week and, in the process, inspire others to do so too!

We would love to hear how you’re going with your challenge, so feel free to share on social media (#HFGChallenge). And, if you’d like to suggest a challenge please email [email protected] with your ideas.

First published: Jul 2019

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