This is the essence of my training philosophy, and since I’ve never heard anybody else use this term, you can tell your friends I coined it! After eight years of training, the biggest part of my job has been to always bring your body back to a more neutral position, or often to counter-balance the positions you find yourself in every day.
I use neutral or homeostatic to describe what I mean because many people have the false assumption that the body should be symmetrical, or that we should make the effort in our training to obtain symmetry. I realize that the whole point of a sport like bodybuilding is to obtain a certain level of symmetry, but your body is not actually symmetrical. Your heart is on one side, your liver on the other. Your left lung is bigger than your right lung and there is a hole in your diaphragm only on the left side to make room for that larger left lung. If you are right handed chances are good that you have more internal rotation on your right hip than your left and more external rotation in your right shoulder than your left. One shoulder probably sits slightly higher than the other, and one leg is longer than the other.
Aesthetically speaking, all bodybuilders can do is attempt to limit the obviousness of these asymmetries. That is also effectively what homeostatic training aims to accomplish; Use training in a manner that effectively supports your objectives.
If you’re overweight, or think you are overweight and want to be lighter, then homeostatic training’s role is to bring you back to a more neutral weight, or to reduce your body fat to a less physically taxing level.
If you’re injured, see a physiotherapist or athletic therapist before you undergo this training program please, but many of the people I work with have a history of chronically getting injured. If you’re always injured, you can’t train! That’s why learning to train well is so important. When it comes to injury the role of homeostatic training is to identify the faulty patterns of movement that are contributing to those repetitive injuries. Then we use counter-balancing techniques to bring them back into better body positions to reduce or avoid re-injury.
If you sit all day with a slouching forward posture, your body, in an effort to conserve energy, moulds itself more and more to that position. The role of training for most desk workers then is to pull them into taller, better posture positions. We want to choose exercises that best compliment the physical situations we most often find ourselves in. If you work a physically demanding job as a firefighter or a police officer, then fitness serves to keep your performance at your job high.
It doesn’t stop there, so before you begin this program, before you get into the topic of posture, or postural strain, I want you to consider how your body spends the majority of it’s time. Do you sit a lot during the day? Do you lie on the couch a lot at home? Do you shovel a lot during the day? Do you use tools a lot during the day? These are good things to consider and know before getting into designing effective training programs. The objective of the program you create, is to find and maintain your homeostasis.
“We are what we repeatedly do.”
Since the overwhelming majority of people I work with are lovingly referred to as ‘desk jockeys,’ or at least spend the majority of their day sitting, a major theme of this book is training the movements and musculature that best correct that position. Most of the suggestions I will make are made based on the issues I see most frequently. Note that this may not always include you. Do not assume that everything I mention in this book is relevant to you. If it’s not relevant, send me an email, there is something for you too. Rarely do people have very unique needs that I’ve never encountered before, but it does happen, and it is almost always attributed to lifestyle or some previous trauma/illness.
For instance a small percentage of the population may have had surgery for compartment syndrome in the muscles of the calf. Basically compartment syndrome is a swelling condition that occurs within the muscle and can exert significant amounts of pressure against nerves and blood vessels potentially even leading to a need for amputation. It can occur acutely, as in, from a car accident, or chronically, as a result from overuse like too much running. In many cases surgery is necessary to relieve the pressure and the muscle never quite feels the same again. For anyone with experience in this condition, any amount of running or jumping I may suggest later in this book may not be appropriate for you. At the very least you may have to use them in a lower volume. Otherwise you run the risk of making things worse.
Fortunately, compartment syndrome is not all that common, so my chances are good that not many of the people who read this book will have it. Better still, there are a lot of really easy workarounds you could easily implement to get all of the effectiveness of this program, but without straining your unique issue. I love running and jumping, they are fantastic exercises, but not appropriate for everyone, all the time. And for people with compartment syndrome, they can often only be done at low volumes before they are problematic.
You should never risk putting yourself out of homeostasis just because I (or any other training book for that matter) highly recommend an activity. Many of us do better with certain activities that are suited to our natural tendencies, our body structure, or our previous experiences. Assuming no history of injury, and no underlying condition, pretty much everything I reveal in this book should be worth considering. On the other hand, doing too much of something I recommend can also throw you out of homeostasis, so please be mindful of how your body feels and reacts to the training. Everyone is a little bit different.
The role of any good coach, is to get at the heart of the specific needs and the implementation you — yes you, as an individual — may need. As you read this book, I may not have had an opportunity to address every issue I’ve seen come up, or every issue that could potentially become a problem, so be mindful of your own body and how my recommendations can fit within a framework of training appropriate to your needs. What follows in this book is more of an overview of broad concepts that I believe apply to most people, not necessarily every person.
Homeostasis as a Definition
“The tendency towards a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained in physiological processes.”
Homeostatic Training then refers to training that works towards equilibrium within the neuromuscular system and energy systems as they are relevant to the individual and their objectives. It is important to remember that equilibrium is different based upon need and context. What’s important for an elite level athlete, might not be important for a thirty-five year old software developer, and vice versa.
Exercise as a Definition
To put much of this into context, it is useful to come up with a definition of just what exercise is. Many believe that walking, gardening and cleaning the house is exercise. I believe falsely for the average healthy person. That doesn’t mean that doing those things aren’t still good for you. It’s just that in modern society where we sit a lot and do not engage in much physical activity, we need to be more deliberate with exercise to achieve homeostasis. Unless you do manual labour and get a good variety of movement already, chances are good that you need some kind of deliberate form of exercise to enhance your quality of life in the modern western world. Exercise is:
“Activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness.”
“An activity carried out for a specific purpose.”
Let’s look at that first definition. Does walking really require real physical effort for most people? Is cleaning your house or doing gardening particularly difficult or challenging?
For some it may be and in that case, those activities may be a good way to maintain a fairly low level of physical fitness. Otherwise we need to be constantly aware of progressions that require new physical effort, stimulus is what forces adaptation and if the stimulus is below or matches current ability, you’ll get no adaptation. I don’t want to discourage you from moving, I just want you to be intentful with your plan to move and improve. Sometimes low level stimuli just enhances your mood, helps you manage stress and brings a little satisfaction to your life.
I just fear we cannot sustain or improve health and fitness, and reverse the trend of obesity through walking, gardening and cleaning the house alone. This means that walking around the block at the same pace does not meet the first criteria after a period of adaptation has occurred and walking, no longer is considered physical effort. It’s good for active recovery, and a good habit to form, but you need to kick it up a notch and challenge yourself with it for it to be effective over the long-term. Walk fast some days. Dare I say walk in a weird way, like a monster! Maybe even a jog. Mix it up and give your body a stimulus it will have to adapt too though.
If you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always got. Always be mindful of this saying when it comes to physical activity and progress.
The second aspect of that definition is that the activity is carried out for a specific purpose. If you are exercising to get faster at walking, then walking could be considered exercise, provided you are progressively walking faster and faster. If you wanted to get faster at cleaning the house or faster at gardening and you were timing your progress, then you could consider this exercise as well. However, many people don’t, and most people do not exercise with these methods in order to improve on them either. For instance, if weight-loss is the purpose, then does walking or gardening, really meet this criteria if it is not challenging enough?
Doubtful. It might be enough of a stimulus initially, as some of the low level activities in this book will be, but I’ll always give you a progression that makes it harder. If you want to see results with gardening, walking or house cleaning, make sure you’re doing those things with purposeful intent. Time yourself. Seek to get better at them. Otherwise, they are leisure activities. Again, nothing wrong with that, their enjoyable. I walk every single day, it’s therapeutic.
At the end of the day, I think the purpose of exercise is to help bring your body back to neutral, no matter what. In order to do that, we must provide an adequate level of stimulus, so as to force the body to create an adaptation response. That’s why you can’t do what you’ve always done, and expect different results. That’s why once you establish a consistency in your training, you have to change the intensity. May homeostasis be with you.