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Old 01-23-14, 10:17 AM   #1
Noonievut
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Core and Upper Body Development

Been cycling for over 10 years. I ride 3-4 times a week in the summer, rides from 2-4 hours. I sometimes do 2-3 day tours with some of those days 120k+. I'm 39 and 140#.

As it's winter, I'm mainly riding indoors on the trainer, and have done some swimming (developed some shoulder problems though, so I'm taking a break from it), plus I bike outside when the weather isn't too bad. Given that I'm no longer swimming, I want to spend 1-3 days a week doing some work on my core, and on my arms/shoulders (I have a very weak upper body...I'm 140 and can only do like 5 pushups before I start struggling). I want to start a program now that I can do until the spring (may continue it after, but only so much time...and I have time now).

Few other things I'll mention - my bike has a custom made frame and I feel really good on it (i.e., weight distribution). But a long ride still hurts arms/neck/shoulders. Been to massage twice in past two weeks as my shoulders have been really sore (swimming related). While I do lots of stretching, some of these muscles were not effectively stretched in the past, but I now have some additional stretches to do. So assume that the bike fits, I'm stretching, but now I would like to build strength so that on those longer rides I'm more comfortable.

If you can point to any programs that are: easy to understand, consistent (I want to learn and remember it without constant reference to a book), and effective for what I've described...thanks!
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Old 01-23-14, 11:59 AM   #2
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For core, IMO nothing beats Core Advantage. For upper body, IMO nothing beats the gym. I do them both. In the gym, you could do back machine, bench press, straight legged deadlifts (light weight, high reps), dumbell shrugs, cable triceps extensions, Roman chair leg lifts. Don't do pushups: too much strain for you. Go for higher reps on everything to start with, 20-30, then gradually drop to 12, then 8 over a period of months. I do Core Advantage most days, gym twice a week after riding.

Many roadies have neck issues because their backs are rounded. Work on getting your pelvis rotated forward and back straighter.
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Old 01-23-14, 12:46 PM   #3
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I do private yoga (which is very expensive, so admittedly a poor solution for most, but I really love it). I found an instructor who is a former cyclist and told him from the get-go that I wanted to work on core & upper body strength plus hamstring and hip flexibility. That is all we do in our sessions and it really is pretty athletic/intense/hard work. I ride very comfortably for 5-6-7 hours with nothing but soreness in the back of my neck from holding my own head up. No neck pain, no back pain, no shoulder pain (admittedly I also improved my bike fit recently).

Im sure there are other approaches that would work as well, but I think yoga is pretty swell for cyclists.

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Old 01-23-14, 01:55 PM   #4
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CFB - thanks for the tips. I have Core Advantage and just started reading it a few days ago. I have some light free weights at home so I'll see what I can do without going to the gym. May get around to inquiring with a gym, but not right now.

Heath - I'm going to yoga tonight with my wife. I've only ever done it once, and it was good. This is a hot yoga though so not sure I'll like that (though it's like -20 something here so may appreciate it).
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Old 01-23-14, 05:07 PM   #5
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My favourite core excercises are ab wheel rollouts, hanging leg raises and kettlebell swings.. TRX is also fantastic for working the core.. Then there is deadlifts and squats both of which are excellent for your core and lower back..
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Old 01-23-14, 07:38 PM   #6
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CFB - thanks for the tips. I have Core Advantage and just started reading it a few days ago. I have some light free weights at home so I'll see what I can do without going to the gym. May get around to inquiring with a gym, but not right now.

Heath - I'm going to yoga tonight with my wife. I've only ever done it once, and it was good. This is a hot yoga though so not sure I'll like that (though it's like -20 something here so may appreciate it).
My yoga teacher (Iyengar style) says that the heat of Bikram yoga serves to loosen the tension of joints and enable you to stretch deeper. But at the same time it is possible, and here more possible, to over extend (probably not the correct technical term) joints and perhaps lead to injury.

I don't have any evidence or even anecdotes about it, just the teacher's cautionary words.
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Old 01-23-14, 10:53 PM   #7
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your pain is most likely being caused by overstressing your trapezius muscles.

the position demanded by riding a bicycle (head up, back leaned forward) is common in few endeavors, and puts a premium on the trapezius muscles.

many believe that the position, in the extreme used by professionals, or less extreme as that used by amateurs, demands uncommon flexibility, but looking at the position when turned 90 degrees clockwise, and so looks as though one were simply sitting up against a wall with their feet on the ground, looking upward, and calves and thighs defining a 90 degree angle, is attainable, pain free, by almost anyone for long periods of time and demands little flexibility above that that is common to all of us.

the stress on the trapezius muscles is caused by the tilt of the head upward, in an attempt to see where one is going. with added stress coming from the leveraged weight of the head. which is usually supported by its alignment with the backbone. the head is essentially hanging on the end of a stick, and it weighs alot. trying to hold it up makes it even more difficult and it must be supported almost entirely by the trapezius muscles, which are connected to the back of our skull. hence the "neck pain" when riding distances that we are not accustomed to.

do what nature wants you to do. stop doing what you are doing (riding) until it doesn't hurt anymore. then start again after a day or two until it does hurt. repeat as necessary...

trapezius muscle strength (no, you won't look like the Hulk) and endurance will occur naturally with repetition. it may take months or years depending on a combination of genetics and application.

watch the pro's. on the track and on the road. when they tire, their heads drop, and they end up looking at the ground. but not for long. it's too dangerous to ride like that.
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Old 01-24-14, 12:35 AM   #8
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If you hurt your shoulder swimming, you may make it worse at the gym.

I had shoulder overuse injury as well, and it impacted my swimming. Physical therapist had me switch to resistance bands like these for shoulder-specific strengthening (rotator cuff work). Super easy to use at home.

Also, if you'd like to continue swimming, just switch to lower stress stroke such as taught in Total Immersion (YouTube it).
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Old 01-24-14, 07:12 AM   #9
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If you don't have a gym membership, just start doing the things you can do at home with a pullup bar, bands, and dumbbells.

Pushups, curls, db overhead press, db rows, db bench. Just look around on the internet/youtube and you can find a load of stuff to do.

I'd personally do an upper body routine 2-3x per week.

I know you said you can only do about 5 pushups now. Start with a couple sets of 5. next week go for a couple sets of 6 and so on. The key to getting stronger is to progressively increase the amount of work you're doing.
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Old 01-24-14, 07:34 AM   #10
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If you don't have a gym membership, just start doing the things you can do at home with a pullup bar, bands, and dumbbells.

Pushups, curls, db overhead press, db rows, db bench. Just look around on the internet/youtube and you can find a load of stuff to do.

I'd personally do an upper body routine 2-3x per week.

I know you said you can only do about 5 pushups now. Start with a couple sets of 5. next week go for a couple sets of 6 and so on. The key to getting stronger is to progressively increase the amount of work you're doing.
+1
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Old 01-24-14, 12:09 PM   #11
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The problem with coming in cold to bodyweight exercises like pushups and chins is that it may not be at all OK to do 5 today. The great advantage of using weights or bands is that one can use lighter ones and higher reps, thus conditioning the connective tissue without risk of injury. Even milk jugs with water or juice cans work.

The best weight training resource I know of is exrx.net:
http://www.exrx.net/
http://www.exrx.net/Lists/Directory.html
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Old 01-24-14, 12:39 PM   #12
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If you hurt your shoulder swimming, you may make it worse at the gym.

I had shoulder overuse injury as well, and it impacted my swimming. Physical therapist had me switch to resistance bands like these for shoulder-specific strengthening (rotator cuff work). Super easy to use at home.

Also, if you'd like to continue swimming, just switch to lower stress stroke such as taught in Total Immersion (YouTube it).
I'm a TI swimmer...but I think I hurt it on the "catch" part of the stroke...I haven't been spending time on this as part of my TI learning, so for months have been probably using a poor catch.
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Old 01-24-14, 02:35 PM   #13
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shoulder problems but you want to work on arms?
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Old 01-24-14, 02:54 PM   #14
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shoulder problems but you want to work on arms?
I also have weak arms and thought this was a good time to address several things. I also don't know where some of these parts begin and end in terms of the muscles connecting things. The upper arm is pretty close to the shoulder.
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Old 01-24-14, 03:56 PM   #15
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complex joint. you might be able to do curls and side lifts, even some back pulls but not straight up presses. you might talk to your Dr and get some physical therapy. they are experts in their field and can give you the best advice on what you can and can not work on

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Old 01-24-14, 04:38 PM   #16
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If you really want to build strength in your core, arms and upper body then don't do isolation excercises. Bicep curls and tricep pushdowns are a waste of time and you're just burning up energy which could be used for more functional excercises...Focus on your core, and concentrate on compound excercises such as shoulder press, rows, pull ups, push-ups, deadlifts and squats. If you're weak then start with light weights and slowly increase resistance and intensity.
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Old 01-24-14, 07:01 PM   #17
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Mine also hurt on catch phase (regular crawl stroke, not TI) and I was exacerbating a biceps tendonitis issue (yes, it's part of the shoulder), but I have been training weights all my life, so shoulders are well developed. The injury likely started with years of overuse in the gym and just got worse swimming.

PT said to totally stop weights for 6 weeks! Only did a few seemingly easy exercises with bands and a 1 lb weight.
With that in mind, assuming you have a similar injury, starting a weight regimen seems like the wrong thing to do unless you see a doctor or PT first. In fact, it will likely cause further muscle imbalance, since many people at the gym only train their favorite muscles (biceps, presses, etc.) and neglect the stabilizing muscles in the shoulders.

Here's what my PT had me do to correct some inherent muscle imbalances (some of which were caused by normal weight training):

In all the below, keep shoulders down and back with shoulder blades squeezed together, almost touching each other (especially exercise 3 and 4!). Do not do these quickly. Twice a week is ideal.

1. "pulldown to front": band attached top of door, stand directly facing door, start with arm extended toward top of door and pull with straight arm (elbow locked) down to side. 15-20 reps. Switch arms.

2. "pulldown to side": band attached top of door, stand with left side facing door, start with left arm extended to your side toward top of door and pull down with straight arm (elbow locked) to left side. 15-20 reps. Switch sides.

3. "inward rotations": band attached waist height to door, stand with left side facing door, upper arm locked against side and elbow bent 90 degrees (away from you), left forearm starts from left and rotates inward across your belly, keeping elbow bent, don't let your elbow move away. You'll feel it in frontal shoulder and chest. 15-20 reps. switch arms.

4. "outward rotations": band attached waist height to door, left side facing door, upper arm locked against side and right elbow bent 90 degrees, right forearm starts from left (already crossed over belly) and rotates arm away from your body out to your right. You'll feel it in back of shoulder. 15-20 reps. switch arms.

5. "sixes": using small 1lb weight in left hand. Lie face-down on bench. If you don't have a bench, you can get into hands and knees position. Start position is with upper arm extended out to your left side, elbow locked at 90 degrees, forearm hanging down from elbow towards floor. Keeping your elbow and upper arm in same location, VERY slowly rotate the weight up until your forearm is parallel to the floor. Hold it for a bit, and then rotate it back down again.
(You should count "one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand..." up until "six-one-thousand" while rotating up. Again while holding, and again while rotating down). Do six reps. It burns! You'll feel it in back of shoulder and upper back. Wonder why she called them sixes?

Over time I was able to work normal weight exercises back into my routine, but I still always start with the rotator cuff work on the bands as a warm up. It was surprising how it actually balanced my overall physique as well.

These are the only isolation exercises i do (no more bicep curls or bench press, etc. as wolfchild says). A few weeks after you no longer have any shoulder pain, add some compound exercises back into your routine. Those bands can be used for standing rows, etc. Be REALLY careful about doing anything that presses over your head.

Oh, and please see a PT or doctor, in case your injury is different.

Forgot to add: the PT was able to stretch these little oddball muscles under my armpits way deep inside the shoulder joint to relieve some pain. It's something you can't do on your own. Go see one.

Last edited by f4rrest; 01-24-14 at 07:09 PM.
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Old 01-25-14, 04:54 AM   #18
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If you really want to build strength in your core, arms and upper body then don't do isolation exercises. Bicep curls and tricep pushdowns are a waste of time and you're just burning up energy which could be used for more functional exercises...Focus on your core, and concentrate on compound exercises such as shoulder press, rows, pull ups, push-ups, deadlifts and squats. If you're weak then start with light weights and slowly increase resistance and intensity.
From a weight lifting standpoint, I completely agree with this. I have been off-and-on with hitting the gym throughout my life. I might hit it hard for 6 to 15 months and then barely use it for a year or so. So when I do get back into it, I am smart enough to start off slowly. Doing pure core work is a waste of the time that I have available. Instead I do these compound exercises as mentioned above. And if there is anything that can be done standing instead of sitting, do it. Example: do dumb bell shoulder presses standing up. You might have to lower the weight compared to what you could press while sitting with back supported but that is actually the point -- you are now working more muscles.

Also, concentrate on form. Don't worry what anyone else in the gym has on their barbell. Once you have the form right, you will likely see a quick jump in the weights you can use.

I also have been doing more work with kettlebells (or similar movements with dumbbells). And I do series of push-ups using things like bosu balls or stability balls that force you to use your core a lot more.
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Old 01-25-14, 07:10 AM   #19
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CFB - thanks for the tips. I have Core Advantage and just started reading it a few days ago. I have some light free weights at home so I'll see what I can do without going to the gym. May get around to inquiring with a gym, but not right now.

Heath - I'm going to yoga tonight with my wife. I've only ever done it once, and it was good. This is a hot yoga though so not sure I'll like that (though it's like -20 something here so may appreciate it).
Yoga strengthens both core and shoulders, it also involves mostly static resistance which is exactly the type of stress put on your upper body when cycling. Added flexibility will take some stress off your upper body. And unlike weights, gym, classes, etc., it's something you can do by yourself every day, anytime, anywhere. Even 10 minutes a day can make a drastic difference.

Last edited by sprince; 01-25-14 at 07:11 AM. Reason: speling
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Old 01-30-14, 09:09 AM   #20
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Mine also hurt on catch phase (regular crawl stroke, not TI) and I was exacerbating a biceps tendonitis issue (yes, it's part of the shoulder), but I have been training weights all my life, so shoulders are well developed. The injury likely started with years of overuse in the gym and just got worse swimming.

PT said to totally stop weights for 6 weeks! Only did a few seemingly easy exercises with bands and a 1 lb weight.
With that in mind, assuming you have a similar injury, starting a weight regimen seems like the wrong thing to do unless you see a doctor or PT first. In fact, it will likely cause further muscle imbalance, since many people at the gym only train their favorite muscles (biceps, presses, etc.) and neglect the stabilizing muscles in the shoulders.

Here's what my PT had me do to correct some inherent muscle imbalances (some of which were caused by normal weight training):

In all the below, keep shoulders down and back with shoulder blades squeezed together, almost touching each other (especially exercise 3 and 4!). Do not do these quickly. Twice a week is ideal.

1. "pulldown to front": band attached top of door, stand directly facing door, start with arm extended toward top of door and pull with straight arm (elbow locked) down to side. 15-20 reps. Switch arms.

2. "pulldown to side": band attached top of door, stand with left side facing door, start with left arm extended to your side toward top of door and pull down with straight arm (elbow locked) to left side. 15-20 reps. Switch sides.

3. "inward rotations": band attached waist height to door, stand with left side facing door, upper arm locked against side and elbow bent 90 degrees (away from you), left forearm starts from left and rotates inward across your belly, keeping elbow bent, don't let your elbow move away. You'll feel it in frontal shoulder and chest. 15-20 reps. switch arms.

4. "outward rotations": band attached waist height to door, left side facing door, upper arm locked against side and right elbow bent 90 degrees, right forearm starts from left (already crossed over belly) and rotates arm away from your body out to your right. You'll feel it in back of shoulder. 15-20 reps. switch arms.

5. "sixes": using small 1lb weight in left hand. Lie face-down on bench. If you don't have a bench, you can get into hands and knees position. Start position is with upper arm extended out to your left side, elbow locked at 90 degrees, forearm hanging down from elbow towards floor. Keeping your elbow and upper arm in same location, VERY slowly rotate the weight up until your forearm is parallel to the floor. Hold it for a bit, and then rotate it back down again.
(You should count "one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand..." up until "six-one-thousand" while rotating up. Again while holding, and again while rotating down). Do six reps. It burns! You'll feel it in back of shoulder and upper back. Wonder why she called them sixes?

Over time I was able to work normal weight exercises back into my routine, but I still always start with the rotator cuff work on the bands as a warm up. It was surprising how it actually balanced my overall physique as well.

These are the only isolation exercises i do (no more bicep curls or bench press, etc. as wolfchild says). A few weeks after you no longer have any shoulder pain, add some compound exercises back into your routine. Those bands can be used for standing rows, etc. Be REALLY careful about doing anything that presses over your head.

Oh, and please see a PT or doctor, in case your injury is different.

Forgot to add: the PT was able to stretch these little oddball muscles under my armpits way deep inside the shoulder joint to relieve some pain. It's something you can't do on your own. Go see one.
Some good info here others not so much.
Why limit to upper body and core?
Full body work is the best route. As long as you have good form and have a good idea of what to do lift big!
Most of the time this thing wirh high reps and low weight is a waste of valuable training time and doesn't really accomplish much.
Also push up are very good when done right and most don't, they can be modified for subjects with shoulder issues. But as cyclists we should be doing more "pulling" exercises then pushing. Pushing exercises overly done promote anterior sholder rotation adding 2 "pulling " exercise for each "push" will counter act that.
Lastly a doing Deadlifts for low back is a good way to hurt your low back A very commom misconception. Deadlifts are for Hamstrings, glutes.
Train hard rest harder!
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Old 01-30-14, 10:24 AM   #21
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Some good info here others not so much.
Why limit to upper body and core?
Full body work is the best route. As long as you have good form and have a good idea of what to do lift big!
Most of the time this thing wirh high reps and low weight is a waste of valuable training time and doesn't really accomplish much.
Also push up are very good when done right and most don't, they can be modified for subjects with shoulder issues. But as cyclists we should be doing more "pulling" exercises then pushing. Pushing exercises overly done promote anterior sholder rotation adding 2 "pulling " exercise for each "push" will counter act that.
Lastly a doing Deadlifts for low back is a good way to hurt your low back A very commom misconception. Deadlifts are for Hamstrings, glutes.
Train hard rest harder!
Agreed here.
Deadlifts are gonna hit your lower back and make it stronger regardless, IMO.
But I do light SLDLs when I want to focus on extra lower back volume.
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Old 01-30-14, 11:17 AM   #22
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If you can point to any programs that are: easy to understand, consistent (I want to learn and remember it without constant reference to a book), and effective for what I've described...thanks!
I work out with a boxing coach once a week, then with the bag solo or listening to a boxing MP3 training routine other days. It may not be right for everybody but it is a very fun and satisfying way to engage your core and shoulders, plus generate power from your hips and legs. Just don't stand in front of a heavy bag and blast it with hammer punches, that accomplishes nothing good. Speed, combinations, balance, footwork - you'll get a heck of a work-out in 45 minutes. I found boxing has loosened up my shoulders, allowed me to get passed a torn rotator cup. I try to do swim training after boxing. Run, cycle, box, swim, all seem to complement each other.

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Old 01-30-14, 11:29 AM   #23
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[QUOTE=bmontgomery87;16453200]Agreed here.
Deadlifts are gonna hit your lower back and make it stronger regardless, IMO.
Only when done with poor form!
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Old 01-30-14, 11:59 AM   #24
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Agreed here.
Deadlifts are gonna hit your lower back and make it stronger regardless, IMO.
Only when done with poor form!

show me someone with a 600 pound deadlift that has a weak lower back....
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Old 01-30-14, 02:58 PM   #25
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[QUOTE=Coachtj Cormier;16453439]
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Agreed here.
Deadlifts are gonna hit your lower back and make it stronger regardless, IMO.
Only when done with poor form!
Deadlifts definitely strengthen your lower back, but perhaps the confusion is due to the fact that it's essentially an isometric exercise for the lower back. The lower back muscles need to engage to keep the spine straight throughout the movement, which strengthens them.

I totally agree that proper form is critical to avoiding injury.
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