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Time Wasters in the Gym: Part 1

March 17, 2010

This guy has big traps! Do you want them, too?

This should probably be entitled Time Wasters: Part 2, since I’ve already ranted against using those abductor and adductor machines (usually performed after a long cardio workout) in the hopes of trimming your thighs. What a waste of your exercise time!

Now, I need to comment on another exercise I see women performing from time to time. Shrugs!

Yesterday in the gym, I watched as one woman “coached” a friend. They were doing DB shrugs, each sitting at the end of a flat bench, arms at their sides, DBs in hand. In unison, they lifted their shoulders to their ears while holding their arms straight (not bending their elbows during the movement), then released their shoulders to return their arms to the start position.

“Do you know what muscle you’re working?” I wanted to ask.

Shrugs work your trapezius, the hunk of muscle  running from your neck, across your shoulders and down your back. Bodybuilders prize the trapezius–and spend time building it with “traps” exercises, particularly shrugs– for giving their physique a “complete” look.

But MOST women do not WANT big traps–a triangular muscle that thickens the base of the neck and that, when developed, is visible from the front. 

Unless you are an advanced female bodybuilder, I just don’t see the point of developing your traps with trap-specific exercises. Massaging them when they are tight from too many hours at the computer, sure.  But build them, no.

The job of the trapezius muscle is to raise, rotate, or draw back the shoulders, plus pull the head sideways or backwards.

If you perform upright rows for shoulders, you’re going to activate the traps a bit (more or less depending on how far out you position your hands). I don’t think you need to spend more time on the traps than that!

What are your goals?

Your gym time is precious–so don’t waste it. You can avoid time-wasters by:

  1. deciding what you want to get out of your gym sessions. Consider: Do you need to lose weight? Firm up? Get stronger? 
  2. spending your gym time wisely so you can accomplish these goals

A word to the wise: Be careful when watching the guys. They may want big traps. I’m guessing you don’t! 

Both of these women I spotted working their traps yesterday were considerably overweight.  For them, spending time on compound exercises that burn more calories and work more muscles would have made sense. Spending time on building the trapezius muscle did not.

Flickr photo, by Posetopose

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Volencia Anderson permalink
    March 17, 2010 9:06 am

    Very useful Kathleen. Thanks. Any suggestions on ABS?

    • kafe55 permalink
      March 17, 2010 10:06 am

      Thanks, Volencia!

      For abs, I’ve always had luck with the basics. Good old crunches WILL work–even when you perform them on a mat on the floor (or on a flat bench). When you perform a crunch correctly, you minimize the distance between your sternum and your pelvis during the movement. And make sure you keep your spine aligned–don’t curl your neck or head forward. I like to keep my eyes on the ceiling and visualize an accordion through my midsection, with the ends squeezing towards each other, when I perform a crunch.

      I currently perform crunches along with hip thrusts, where you lie on your back on a flat bench, legs up in the air and perpendicular to your torso. Grip the edge of the bench behind your head for stability. Using the strength of your lower abdominal muscles, lift your hips up off the bench to bring your feet closer to the ceiling. Make sure you use control when lifting your legs up and returning them back to the start position–it will tax your muscles more than just speeding through the movement.

      Of course, you won’t see your abdominal muscles if there’s a layer of fat on top of them. A good diet and smart training will take care of that.

      I generally don’t like using weight (other than my own bodyweight) on the abs. Years ago, regularly using ab machines (which offer extra resistance) caused my waistline to get bigger. Not good!

      Of course, there are other things you can do, like rope crunches (keep the weight on the light side), knee-ups and leg raises (which also work the hip flexors, so don’t overdo these).

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