The fitness industry has plenty of science to back up its recommendations, but there are still “to infinity and beyond” ways to get results. That’s one thing that makes weight lifting great fun, but it also means there are a lot of voices – saying rather authoritatively – that you should lift weights this way or that.
I have even heard a few people saying that you should not spend a lot of time lifting weights – you should spend your time doing things that are fulfilling, like throwing Frisbees in the park with your kids.
This bothers me a lot, because I love spending my time weight training – it’s my special little nirvana. And yet I still have plenty of time with my family even with six hours a week in the gym.
People are often speaking based on their own past demons and abuses from which they have learned, and we need to differentiate this. Often their advice is conveyed as though it’s fact – that they know better. But once armed with real factual data, only you know how often you should work out. And that will depend on your goals and what your own nirvana is all about.
This goes for lifting techniques and workouts as well. For example, many people will tell you to do only compound (multi-joint) exercises. However, there is a place for isolation movements – they are useful for supersetting and burning out a muscle and targeting a weak area. There are no “all or nothing” maxims in weight lifting, unless it’s to go all out or go home.
Train “This Way”
With all the choices out there, I’m also not sure why certain ways of training are pushed as the best or smartest. One example is “keeping your training simple.” Sure, there is value in keeping your workout simple: You spend less time (if that is a concern for you) and a simple routine may not be as intimidating as, say, one that entails a lot of different exercises or techniques.
But more complex training plans can also be fun and rewarding. They can help beat boredom and increase your knowledge. To quote an article from StrongLifts.com, “Weight lifting is a technical and intellectual sport.” That means that if you want to do more than deadlifts, squats, and presses, then you have a vast array of choices. There’s nothing wrong with that and you will still meet your goals, providing you follow basic weight-lifting practices, such as general repetition and set ranges.
The bottom line is that if you’re time-crunched, don’t enjoy lifting weights, or if you believe that it’s a better training philosophy, then go right ahead and focus on only five basic exercises to your heart’s content. Otherwise, do it your way, which may include some isolation exercises, new exercises from magazines, equipment that interests you, or anything else to keep things red-hot interesting.
“Do This or You’re Not a Bad Ass”
A lot of people are caught up in “challenges” that become very popular in which to participate. A web site, a blogger, or brand or company, or just somebody will tell you that you need to lengthen the amount of time you can do a plank or that you need to be able to do 100 pushups or burpees within a certain time period. If you can’t, well, you’re not a bad ass like everyone else who can!
Now, personally this type of thing bores me and if someone tells me I should be able to do something, I usually push back. But the main reason I have never participated is because these types of repetitive movements can cause injury and burnout. If you’re doing 300 crunches a day, not only are you overtraining your abdominal muscles and risking low-back and other injuries, but you’re risking mental fatigue that could eventually cause you to stop exercising altogether. And your elbows or shoulders might not be too happy about doing 100 pushups, either.
It’s dangerous to follow “programs” that are one-size-fits-all. Although a 23-year-old with no previous injuries may do great with a six-minute plank, someone with shoulder inflammation will only exacerbate the problem trying to beat an highly unusual time frame.
You know I’m all for pushing yourself to achieve higher goals, but instead of trying to do 100 pushups, I’m for accomplishing pectoral strength via a more well-rounded training approach that hits the pectoralis minor and major evenly, without stressing one area too much.
There’s also plenty of epic fitness challenges out there being hyped – P90X, Insanity, you name it. Often the people selling these products do the workouts themselves in order to promote them. So, you say, I must do these too – they are the “best” way to lose weight, build muscle, etc. In truth, that remains to be seen. These are highly promoted programs that may have many benefits. But they are not the only way to achieve results. Not everyone can or should do high-intensity programs that squeeze so much into a short amount of time.
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear.