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Building muscle mass á la Gokhale Method by focusing on length and strength

September, 2018

Anyone who has studied the Gokhale Method is familiar with the length and strength that we promote in all our muscle groups. As it turns out, length and strength are the two key elements to increasing muscle mass.  

These benefits come to those who sleep, sit, stand, bend and walk — simply by using your body well, á la the Gokhale Method!

 

Benefits to increased muscle mass
Especially as we age, there are so many benefits to increasing our muscle mass. Increasing muscle mass

  • helps you maintain good posture,

  • promotes strong bones and decreases risk of osteoporosis,

  • builds strength of muscle and connective tissues,

  • increases endurance and strength, allowing you to perform everyday activities with less effort,

  • reduces risk of injury,

  • and provides metabolic advantages.  

I think that these first several benefits are well known and the relationship to muscle mass is obvious. But I’ve recently learned a lot more about the metabolic advantages of muscle mass that deserve attention.  

 

Metabolic advantages of muscle mass
Peter Attia, MD studies how to live a longer and higher quality life. He calls this increasing your “lifespan” and “healthspan,” respectively.

“Maintenance of muscle mass, the ability to move, and the ability to move without pain all contributes to that healthspan axis.” [1] Beyond healthspan, muscle mass is also an important measure of lifespan — longevity — due to the metabolic advantages.

To understand these advantages, Attia notes that the difference between a fasting blood sugar of 100 mg/dL (normal) and 200 mg/dL (diabetic) is less than 5 grams of glucose, “like a bite of an apple.”

How can this be? Attia explains that every time you eat a meal, there are only two places to put glucose to keep it out of your bloodstream — the liver and the muscle. The liver storage is relatively small and finite. However, muscle has a far greater capacity for glucose storage. And this is the “probably the difference across people. It’s certainly the difference between fit and unfit people.”

So muscle mass equates to more glucose storage after meals.  And less glucose in your bloodstream.

To review, this muscle mass comes in two forms: length and strength.

 

Creating good muscle length using the Gokhale Method
By practicing the Gokhale Method, you have the opportunity to lengthen and strengthen your muscles in everyday activities.  

  • We lengthen our pectoral muscles every time we do a shoulder roll

  • We lengthen our erector spinae and adjacent lower back muscles when we use our rib anchor

  • We lengthen our hamstrings every time we remember to hip-hinge

  • We lengthen our calves when we keep our heels down in walking

 

Building good muscle strength using the Gokhale Method
You may have heard your Gokhale Method Foundations Course teacher say “use your muscles, spare your joints.”  While we add length throughout our entire body, we also strengthen many muscle groups.

  • We strengthen all of our glute muscles, especially our gluteus medius, while glidewalking.

  • We strengthen our deep abdominal muscles: activating our rib anchor uses our obliques, and engaging our inner corset adds in the transversus abdominus and rotators

  • We strengthen our rhomboids when we bend without rounding our shoulders.

  • In addition to our largest and most stabilizing muscle groups, the Gokhale Method also emphasizes strengthening some of our smallest muscle groups. For example, we actively strengthen the muscles that support the arches and kidney bean-shaped feet!

 

Virtuous cycle of improved posture
Note that if you are also able to add strength training into your weekly routine, you can jump-start this muscle mass, which, in turn, will help you maintain good posture for extended periods.  It’s a virtuous cycle.

The lengthening and strengthening examples above have corresponding exercises provided in the Appendix of 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back.

Esther Gokhale has long used the phrase “Downtime Training®” to suggest that simply improving our posture builds up our bodies. Now we understand that this has a much deeper meaning — from stronger bones and reduced injury to actually facilitating the improvement of metabolic markers.

 

 


Find an alumni class near you or make the dive and finally sign up for that Foundations Course you’ve been eyeing. In fact, I find that my students that make the most progress take the Foundations Course multiple times, or even attend intermittent Free Workshops for little reminders. Practicing the Gokhale Method is not something that you can afford to delay — improve your well-being and posture today.

 

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Footnotes:
[1] How to Live a Longer, Higher Quality Life, with Peter Attia, M.D. [Invest Like the Best, EP.27]. http://investorfieldguide.com/attia/

 

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Comments

The profile drawing of the rib anchor is very enlightening.  I plan to print it out and put it on my refrigerator. I over arch my back and lift my chest to "stand up straight", as my mother would say, so this is my most difficutl Gokhale Method, even after following you for years!  Hope you make it to Louisville someday.  Thank you for these posts and your newsletter.  Always a good reminder.