How Flexibility, Balance & Posture Improve Your Workouts
In January, gyms are packed with people pumping away on barbells and machines using entirely the wrong technique. Lower backs look strained, hamstrings are at tearing point and knee supports abound. Down at Body Studio in London’s Shoreditch though, the 25-strong team of experts are busy correcting their clients’ posture, flexibility and technique before they get into any hardcore working out.
Founder/Director Margaret Pope and Director Tony Chin run “The Cave” and are all about flexibility, balance and full range of motion. Unlike many gym chain trainers who have one-size-fits-all workouts and barely tolerate their clients’ neurotic physical concerns and body complaints, these two are as interested as you are in your very personal postural quirks, self-prescribed health issues and genetic oddities (for me, elbows that won’t fully straighten out).
Training with Tony means a 6-8 week (3-4 sessions a week) programme just to correct your body’s imbalances. Only when he’s confident you’ve found the right balance will he start you on the more full-on workouts. Being out of alignment adds stress to the body and is not a strong foundation for future development, so he irons everything out from the get-go.
I worked extensively on the signature tight hips and slight curve in the upper back (kyphosis) that come with bad office sitting posture. By retraining the body to be aware of its postural position, strengthening weak muscles, lengthening short muscles and pushing you to do movements to the full range of motion, they’ll soon make a calisthenics pro out of you, skinning the cat, doing handstands and jumping into flag holds. This – combined with killer weight sled pushes and slider arm crawls – will have you shedding pounds, shredding fat and being in the best shape of your life.
It’s all about functionality, flexibility and “feeling the intention of every muscle” here. Margaret’s main ethos is about educating you about the body you live in. “Most people live in their heads and don’t think it’s connected to their bodies,” she says. She’s big on stretching and perfecting running techniques and has come up with her own genius moves (based on years of Ayurveda, yoga, strength and conditioning training), like rolling out the tissues on the crown of your head to ease restrictions on the jaw, neck and back of the hamstrings.
Margaret doesn’t want people just focusing on some imagined perfect physique – she wants them to feel their fingers, toes, hands, head and ears, so they’re really aware of their bodies. “There’s a place for weights, spin classes and all of that, but it’s important to educate the individual about their bodies and show them that they have choices.”
Just don’t go expecting a quick fix: unlike the 12-week transformations some trainers, magazines and gyms espouse, she reckons it takes over a year of dedicated work to bring about real change. Time to get working on your summer body…2018.