Most people are familiar with cross-training as an exercise strategy. While cross training has its place, let us introduce the concept of counter-training. The purpose of counter-training is to counter, or undo, the negative effects of aberrant or repetitive motions common in life and sport.
Cross-training is the inclusion of alternative exercises into a fitness or athletic training program to improve performance in one’s main sport. This strategy commonly involves utilizing an alternate mode of training to improve performance in the primary sport but with less wear and tear. A runner, for example, might ride a bicycle or elliptical trainer to work out their legs without the same impact as running. Cross-training focuses on improving performance of the systems involved used in an athlete’s primary sport.
Counter-training is the addition of exercises that train neglected muscle systems or provide relief for excessively stressed muscles; it is therapeutic and corrective in nature. As a simple example, a right-handed golfer might take an equal number of practice swings left-handed. Similarly, cyclists will benefit from back extension and hip extension motions that counter the fixed-forward position of the bicycle. The goal of counter-training is to maintain balance and flexibility and build strength in unused muscle groups
Counter-training is important not only for athletics, but as an antidote to the rigors of daily life. Many of us spend the majority of our work days seated at desks, driving cars, or reading with our heads slumped forward. Chronic sitting can result in weakened muscle tissue and abnormal posture. Our shoulders, neck, back, hips, and legs can be affected by prolonged sitting. Reaching or leaning forward, often associated with computer use or other desk work, can lead to forward-rounding of the shoulders, the result of chronic constriction of the pectorals and biceps complex. Uncorrected, this posture can lead to curvature of the thoracic spine (or kyphosis) and, eventually, the condition known as dowager’s hump. Even mild postural abnormalities often produce pain or discomfort and can make sitting difficult.
The Foundation Five exercises represent an excellent counter-training strategy to the demands of daily life. This regimen rebuilds strength in commonly unused postural and stabilizing muscles and fosters accuracy of movement. The result is balanced musculature and the correction of abnormal posture.