Learning To Exercise More Efficiently And Safely

Robert Rickover talks with Malcolm Balk, an Alexander Technique teacher and author in Montreal, Canada.

I interviewed Malcolm a few months ago after taking one of his running workshops.

Malcolm: “Alexander Technique is a method of becoming aware of unnecessary tension in everything we do. In this case, with our workouts, so we can learn to do them more easily, more freely, with less chance of injury and maybe even more enjoyment.”

“Often, when you see somebody doing a curl, it looks like they are doing it with their neck muscles. This is unnecessary tension. When someone is doing it well, you don’t see the head pulled forward and the neck muscles sticking out and the back rounding. You see a continuous state of poise with a person putting more energy into lifting a 30-pound dumbbell.”

“If you’re tightening up your neck, you are misdirecting your effort. It’s not going where it should go. By tensing your neck and pulling your head out of alignment, you are now putting a lot of compression and distortion into your spine and you’re going to [belabor] your breathing.”

“Trying to get fitter, you’re taking one step forward and four steps backward.”

Robert: “If you develop a habit of tightening your neck in weight lifting, that could carry over into other activities in your life.”

“Tightening your neck interferes with your coordination and balance.”

Malcolm says he gets his student to slow down and to lighten the loads they are lifting so that they can pay attention to how they’re lifting. Are they tightening their necks?

“Don’t just try to get through the set any way you can without paying attention to what is going on in your body.”

“In the Alexander community, there’s this idea that you shouldn’t pick up your pencil in case you tighten your neck. My feeling is so what. It doesn’t matter if you tense your neck. What you need to do is to learn to untense it. If you work out and tense your neck, you can learn to improve that if it is important to you.”

Alexander teacher Sandra Bain Cushman tells Robert that “for every personal trainer out there trying to get someone to strengthen their quads, there’s an Alexander teacher trying to get someone to release their quads. Quadricep strength is not the whole recipe for coordination of the body. It needs to fit into the coordination of the whole.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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