You’ll get the most mileage out of a training regimen if you incorporate multi-joint exercises to work more than one muscle or joint at a time. By working more muscles simultaneously, you not only build strength but also improve balance, coordination and control. When participating in sports, such as baseball or swimming, you use complex motions, which require more than one muscle. Multi-joint exercises can help boost your performance in a variety of activities even if you're a beginner.
When first starting out with multi-joint exercises, use light resistance such as a bar or a wooden pole. Concentrate on your technique and maintaining correct alignment and posture. Add weights when you’re comfortable with the technique. Establish a target range for the number of repetitions. Use trial and error to figure out the maximum load you can manage for your selected repetition range. In general, choose a weight that allows you to complete eight to 12 repetitions per set. Start with only one set so you’re not too sore after the workout. Perform each set to the point of fatigue and not failure.
Squats and leg presses are examples of multi-joint exercises.The squat strengthens your hamstrings, quadriceps, back extensors, buttocks and calves. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Point your toes outward. Hold the barbell behind your neck and across your shoulders. Slowly bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Gaze straight ahead, thrust your chest out and keep your back flat. Return as slowly to your starting position. Focus on proper alignment over a short range of motion. As you advance, you can deepen your squat. To do a leg press, adjust the seat on the leg press machine so your pelvis and knees are bent at a right angle. Position your feet shoulder-width apart. Press down into the platform, straightening your hips and knees. Avoid locking your knees. Slowly return to your starting position.
Exercise Sequence Order
Begin your training regimen with multi-joint exercises because they require the greatest effort. If your muscles are fatigued, you risk injury. For example, multi-joint exercises that employ large muscle groups, such as the bent-over row with a barbell or the overhead press, should be performed before exercising small muscle groups. In the bent-over row, you use your arms, legs, lower back and shoulders. Bend your knees at a 15- to 30-degree angle, lean forward at the hips and take hold of the barbell. Use a modified overhand grip in which your thumb aligns with your fingers. Feet and arms are shoulder-width apart. Pull the barbell up by retracting the shoulder blades, bringing the bar up to your breastbone. In the overhead press, your arms, upper back, trunk and legs must coordinate to press a barbell over your head.
Alternating Muscle Groups
Alternate multi-joint exercises between different muscle groups so each muscle group has more time to recover between exercises. For example, execute a lower-body exercise after you complete an upper-body exercise. Alternate pulling exercises, such as a seated row exercise in which you sit before a machine and pull a cable, with pushing exercises, such as a bench press. By giving opposing muscle groups a chance to rest between exercises, you can moderate the difficulty of your workout and give your muscles more recovery time.
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Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.