Friday, September 12, 2014

Modern Exercise: Taking the work out of workout

It is a sad state of affairs in today's modern world of exercise.  It seems in our attempt to make exercising safer and more efficient we have turned it into just another sedentary activity.  Machines are designed to keep you "comfortable" while you workout and gyms have movie theaters to distract you from the fact that you are moving your body.  Some gyms are even banning exercises that are deemed unsafe, distracting, and and unwelcome such as the deadlift.  Seriously!? No Deadlifting? The deadlift is the most basic, and most effective, strength exercise known to man.  It is completely functional, can be seen in almost anyone's daily life, and when done properly can lead to increased health and injury prevention.  To outlaw the deadlift is a huge step in the wrong direction.

This makes me die a little on the inside.

Todays's society has also turned exercise into just another sedentary activity.  People sit on the couch at home, sit in the car during the commute, and sit at a desk for work.  People should not be sitting while they exercise yet that is most of what you see at the gym.  Sitting on the bike while reading or watching TV, sitting at the machine that "tones your thighs", and sitting in the locker room updating your Facebook about your sitting...I mean workout.  If there is one place that you should stand and move your body it is at the gym.

Not an efficient use of your time or body.

This bring me to my next point, insisting on only exercising at the gym.  Can you imagine if you went back in time 100 years and told someone, "I leave my home and go to another place so that I can walk, without a purpose or destination, then I come back home when I have finished. And I pay money to do this."  They would probably think you are crazy.  Or what if you told a farmer back in the day, "I am going to go to a building and lift some heavy objects today but only with my chest muscles."  He would have no idea what that means, and for good reason.  It doesn't really make that much sense.  The "gym" has become synonymous with exercise, but exercise relates to what you DO with you body not where it is located.
This is not the only place you can exercise.

It has been said that complaining without offering a solution is called whining, so here are my solutions for combating the current state of modern exercise.

Focus on movements instead of muscles
Usually people do an exercise because they want to tone or shape a particular body part.  If they want to lose belly fat they hop on the stability ball and do crunches 'till the cows come home.  If they want to lose that pesky arm jiggle they sit on the tricep machine and "feel the burn".  And if a guy wants big guns he sits at the preacher curl bench and smashes his biceps into oblivion.  All of these exercises focus on specific muscles and have you sitting down to take all the other muscles out of the equation.  You would be better served to focus on movements that incorporate the whole body and work the muscles in a coordinated fashion.  If you just focus on moving your body in various positions, and moving heavy objects in a variety of ways, you will end up having a muscular body, low body fat, and minimal arm jiggle.  The primary movements you should focus on are pushing, pulling, squatting, and hinging at the hips.  You should also add in core stabilization, though technically not a movement.

Stop worrying about arm fat and focus on overall movement

Stand more, especially during exercise
If you focus on movements instead of muscles than you will most likely be standing more during your workouts.  But just in case try and find ways to incorporate more standing into your exercise routine.  Try to perform every movement on your feet and avoid seats, benches, or anything else that provides external support.  Force your body to support you in most exercises. Here is a list of exercises that you can trade out to make them more effective.

bench press --> all push up variations, overhead lifting
lat pulldown --> pull ups and bodyweight rows
leg press --> squats, lunges, deadlift
situps --> planks, weighted carries

Don't become dependent on the gym
There is nothing wrong with going to the gym to exercise but it becomes a problem when you rely on the gym to exercise.  Too often people say, "I don't have time to make it to the gym today so I will just skip working out".  You can literally exercise anytime, anywhere, and with anything.  You can do bodyweight movements in your living room, move furniture around your house, go up and down stairs on your lunch break, etc.  There is this very steep hill that I pass on my way home from school everyday and sometimes I stop and just go up and down it a few times.  Sometimes I walk it, sometimes I run, and sometimes I drag my wife and dog along with me.  I just make sure that I am moving and elevating my heart rate.

Better than a treadmill

Put the work back in working out
Don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.  In fact, you should push your body on a regular basis.  There are a number of established principles associated with exercise and one of them is the overload principle.  It simply states that in order to cause an adaptation, or improvement, with exercise you must continuously stress your body more than it is accustomed to.  That doesn't mean you should go all out in every workout, but it does mean that you should gradually increase the duration or intensity of exercise over time.  The only way to do that is GET OUT of you comfort zone and progressively go harder, faster, or longer.  This principle applies to all forms of exercise. 

Making a funny face is a good sign you are out of your comfort zone.

I know I just pointed out all the things that are wrong with current exercise trends but the fact remains that any exercise is better than no exercise.  Sitting on a bench doing arm curls is better than sitting on the couch eating Cheetos   I just wanted to offer some advice and tips on how to make your exercise routine more efficient, effective, and worth the effort. Until next time.

Stay Fit,

   Amerson Fitness