Is This Exercise Right for You?
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There are ten questions I always ask prior to performing any exercise. These questions help to assess and analyze the risks and benefits of an exercise. It is not about determining if an exercise is "bad", just whether or not it is right for you based upon your limitations and goals. We will highlight five of the ten questions this week and the remainder next week. As always, please consult your physician prior to beginning any exercise program.
Question #1 - What is the purpose of this exercise?
Prior to performing any exercise you should know the purpose or goal of the exercise. The purpose of standing French curls with one dumbbell, which would cause momentary muscle failure within 8-12 repetitions, is generally to strengthen the triceps muscle group.
Question #2 - What muscles/muscle groups are targeted?
In the example of standing French curls, we have identified that the triceps muscle group is targeted. However, due to the standing position of this specific exercise, we must also understand that the abdominals and core muscles are engaged to stabilize the body in a standing position and the shoulder stabilizers are also involved to keep the arms in the proper position throughout the exercise.
Question #3 - Why do I need to strengthen this muscle group (i.e. what are the benefits)?
Strengthening the triceps muscle group is important to enable us to extend the elbow joint safely and effectively and also to assist in shoulder joint extension. Triceps are involved in pushing/pressing motions at the elbow/shoulder joints which are common in daily life as well as sports/recreational activities. Strengthening the triceps is also important to prevent imbalances between the stronger, more often utilized biceps muscles and the triceps, which might lead to dysfunction of the elbow/shoulder joints and injury.
Question #4 - What are the potential risks of this exercise?
In a standing French curl, we need to be cautious of the elbow joint, making certain that the arm is as fully extended as possible without hyperextending the joint and that there is no pain at the elbow joint. Additionally, in a standing position, if the abs/core muscles are not kept engaged throughout, this might create hyperextension of the lumbar spine, leading to potential lower back issues.
Question #5 - What are the possible modifications of this exercise?
Possible modifications span the spectrum depending upon the limitations of the individual. If the body position is compromised at the shoulder or elbow joint where the individual cannot manage to keep the arms in position by the ears or cannot manage to extend the arms fully at the elbow joint, the most immediate modification is to lighten the level of external resistance. If this does not allow the individual to perform the exercise with a full range of motion at the shoulder/elbow joint, then this exercise may not be the exercise of choice. There are dozens of triceps exercises, consequently, perhaps choosing a different triceps exercise that does not require the over-head position, would be warranted, such as a triceps pushdown or triceps kickback.
Click here to read the remaining five questions to ask when assessing the safety and effectiveness of an exercise.