A little known fact for guys slaving away in the gym to get the perfect physique: the mirror may be your worst enemy.
Sure, we're all understandably encouraged when we can see the results of our hard work in the gym. However, if the reflection in the mirror becomes the sole yardstick for measuring your health and your physical achievement, you may be doing yourself (and your body) a disservice.
Unfortunately, the mirror can only tell half the story when it comes to assessing your strength and fitness. Your reflection generally only exposes the condition of the "mirror muscles," or the muscles that are most apparent from an anterior view of the body. Those muscles include the pecs (chest), biceps and triceps (arms), the front deltoids (shoulders), the abs (stomach) and the quads (thighs).
Guys who experience "mirror muscle syndrome" focus on these muscles with exercises like bench pressing, curling, crunches and leg presses, but neglect the opposing, posterior muscles, such as the back muscles, the rear shoulders, hamstrings, and glutes.
To be fair, any efforts made in improving one's health and fitness should be commended, but if you're serious about your physical wellbeing, broadening your exercise routine to target all your muscle groups in a balanced way is imperative. The following information explains why focusing exclusively on the mirror muscles could be your downfall in the gym.
Avoiding the Hunchback
By focusing only on the mirror muscles when lifting weights, many guys don't take into account that these muscles are balanced by other posterior muscles. When someone works only one set of muscles, those muscles get stronger and stronger, while other sets of neglected muscles get longer and weaker. This phenomenon can result in your shoulders rounding forward, leading to slouching and poor posture. To reverse this trend, consider focusing more on your upper back muscles, which can help pull your shoulders down and back, thus improving your posture.
Preventing Avoidable Injuries
If poor posture wasn't bad enough, neglecting muscles located on your backside can lead to chronic neck and upper back pain. In addition, those with mirror muscle syndrome often experience pinched nerves in their shoulders and have an increased likelihood of injuring shoulder muscles.
Back pain can also ensue as a result of one's failure to adequately work the hip muscles. In addition, strengthening the abdominal muscles improves balance, which can help you avoid putting too much pressure on the lower back and prevent the onset of lower back problems. Furthermore, hamstring injuries often occur as a result of neglect in the midst of excessive quad workouts.
The Ladies Don't Like It
Regardless of whether we like to admit it or not, for most men who spend a lot of time in the gym, our primary motivation is to enhance our appearance. Sure, the potential health benefits are great, but those hours sweating away in the gym are usually intended to impress the ladies. But there's bad news for guys who concentrate only on the mirror muscles and don't make efforts to balance their muscle tone throughout their bodies.
To put it bluntly, women don't think it looks good. Most women would agree that an enormous chest, coupled with chicken legs, is not an attractive combination. Indeed, if your biceps are ripped but you have huge love handles, you're going to look ridiculous. Instead, most women report attraction to men that look fit – not necessarily bulky in certain areas.
The Boredom Factor
While extremely vain folks may never get tired of looking at themselves in the mirror while working those biceps and pecs, most people find that varying their exercise routine helps make the chore of exercise seem less monotonous. If you hit the bench press day-in and day-out with no variation in your exercise regimen, even if you're seeing results in the mirror, chances are you'll eventually experience burnout.
For most people, working out can become boring, so mixing up your routine can help you stay energized and focused about getting fit. Therefore, consider using weights that target an opposing non-mirror muscle each time to work your chest or biceps. In addition, make it a point to step out of the weight room and really get some diversity in your workout. Yoga, for example, can improve flexibility and relieve stress. In addition, running and other forms of vigorous activity can help improve cardiovascular health. And swimming has long been lauded as one of the best forms of exercise for addressing almost every area of the body.
Eyes on the Prize
Resisting the temptation to concentrate exclusively on the mirror muscles and injecting variety in your workout routine can help you gain perspective on the real purpose of exercise. Creating a balanced exercise routine will lead to a balanced, fit physique. And a balance, fit physique is a sign of a healthy body. And, after all, regardless of what the ladies think, that should be our primary motivation each time we hit the gym.
About the Author: Brett Warren is a biochemical engineer from Boston, Massachusetts who develops sports supplements for Force Factor. He has done extensive research on nutrition and is an expert on nutraceutical science. He also has a passion for fitness and health. Brett's work at Force Factor is supplemented by an active family life with plenty of gym time and outdoor recreation.