Insights and Healing with Patrick Moore

How our Culture Over-Strengthens Certain Muscles and lets others Atrophy
May 1, 2014, 12:16 pm
Filed under: exercise

Culturally Weak and Over-Strong Muscles


Our culture tends to overstrengthen certain muscles and neglect others. You always see people in the gym strengthening their “pecs” or pectoralis major, and biceps. You hardly ever see people using the machines for shoulder retraction. Gym equipment hasn’t even been invented that can strengthen the wrist extensors, foot dorsiflexors, hip rotators, shoulder rotators, head rotators, foot rotators and internal abdominals. Even if you wanted to exercise these muscle groups, there are no books about how to do it, and very few personal trainers who know how. (they may learn how to strengthen some of these groups through Paul Check Seminars.)


What is gained by making pecs stronger and stronger? What is lost? People with over-strong pecs, tend to feel muscle tension between their shoulder blades. The reason is, when their tension increases from normal stresses of life, the pecs have a lot more horsepower than their antagonists, the rhomboids and lower trapezius. So with every increment the stress increases, those huge pecs pull their shoulderblades farther and farther forward, because the weaker muscles cannot hold the shoulderblades where they belong. The weaker muscles become overstretched, and this makes them tighten even more, like a person who is up against the wall with no options will fight harder. This is how people who over-strengthen their pecs, cause the quality of life to decrease.


Our culture seems to not emphasize all-around balance, but to emphasize particular strengths, like bench press and curls. My strengths in the gym happen to be squats and dead lift. But I have a different value than the culture does. I feel my quality of life will be far better if I identify my weaknesses and bring them back to at least their natural levels. This is why I completely avoid squats and dead lift when I am in the gym. Why bother strengthening the areas where I already exceed the natural norms?


Instead, I exercise those things I know I am weak in. My right leg is weaker in knee extension and flexion than my left, so I do knee extensions and flexions only on the weak side. My foot and hip inward rotation is weak so I strap my foot in tightly to the rowing machine and stationary cycle and attempt to inwardly rotate my foot against the strap as I am pedaling and rowing. My scapula retractors are weak, and I have a head-forward posture so I try to emphasize the opposite motion while I am rowing and using the upright row machine.


In the gym the only way I know to exercise the foot dorsiflexors (tibialis anterior and peroneals) is to strap your foot into the rowing machine and the stationary cycle, and emphasise your foot pulling up (toward your head) against the strap as you row or pedal. Ways to strengthen this action outside the gym are hiking and jogging on uneven terrains where you often need to lift your foot higher than normal.


While I was rowing and cycling this morning at the YMCA, I slowly rotated my head left and right in a comfortable range. I would take two row-strokes to move my head from straight-ahead to looking-left, then two strokes to return my head to straight-ahead, then two strokes to move into looking-right, then two strokes to return to straight-ahead. I continued this eight-stroke pattern for many minutes. I also do this when I jog outdoors. I also find this naturally occurring when I jog outdoors because I am curious about the trees, bushes birds and other things I see, hear and smell when I am jogging outdoors. It seems most exercises that we do these days, leave our head facing straight ahead. Our computers are always facing straight ahead. (Someone should invent a system using three monitors that gradually shifts your window to the left and right, in one-minute increments. This would reduce a huge amount of neck strain from computers). Shifting more of your exercise outdoors, naturally entices you to look left and right. However, many people who go outside, bring the indoors with them in the form of headphones. They focus on the task and basically ignore the beauty and vitality of the outdoors they are jogging or walking through..


I have found ways to exercise hip medial and lateral rotators that I have posted to youtube under the heading “hip chi.” These exercises, modified from Tai Chi and Chi Gung warm-ups I learned from Willie Lim in Phoenix, also exercise the foot medial and lateral rotators. I believe that hip-medial-rotators and foot-medial-rotators are generally weak in all people, and these two strengths are very important for those who wish to jog more efficiently, or return to jogging after decades away (like I did).


Our culture has stopped belly-exhaling, and the muscle that does belly exhaling, the abdominis internis, has grown so weak in most adults that they can no longer consciously contract this muscle. Singers have learned to “sing from your diaphragm,” but the diaphragm is only an inhaling muscle, not an exhaling muscle. I describe this problem and how to restore one’s belly exhaling muscles, in my eBook, “Breathing Naturally,” available at .


How did our culture get this way? What is it our culture believes is gained by the appearance of huge pecs and biceps? Is humanity benefitted by over-strengthening muscles that are already plenty strong, or is this a dis-service to humanity? Why have we stopped exhaling? Why have we stopped looking side to side? Does what we do in the gym, symbolize how we operate in society, and the world? I’d be happy to read your comments and responses…


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