Personal Trainer and Coach at Infinite Fitness
When I originally wrote this post I was pretty much ranting and raving all over the place. Not really sure why I was so upset, but I've since calmed down so today you get a calmer, more logical Karl. However, there is something I'd like to get off my chest.
I'm sure you've heard the expression "work smarter, not harder"? Well that's exactly what I want to talk about.
We can break exercise into two basic components - stress and recovery. As we all know, building muscle, losing fat, increasing endurance etc. is an adaptation to a stressor placed on the body.
To sum it up in simple terms, when we break down a part of our body, within reason, it adapts and rebuilds stronger - the law of adaptation.
Now, I'm a fan of hard work. It's really the only way to make progress in your workout life, regardless of how you personally define that - be it cycling, strongman, running, or fighting grizzly bears with your bare hands. So before I start I'm going to make sure you understand this:
Consistent, hard work is the only way to make a lasting and sustainable change in your body
There's just no way around it.
Now that we have that out of the way, the whole "no pain, no gain" mentality should be left in the smouldering dumpster fire that was the 80's (Not Rambo though - he was badass).
How sore you are the next day has almost no correlation to how good of a workout you had the day before. You did something your body wasn't used to, but that's about it - if you consistently feel like a husk of yourself the next day, something is definitely wrong.
It may not always look like it, but there should be be a point to every exercise you're doing - you should be moving towards a goal or checkpoint. I see so many fitness "workouts" that literally have no rhyme or reason, no attention to movement quality and quite frankly, are just poorly put together. They're just a bunch of stuff. It's certainly better than doing nothing at all, but that's not really a great benchmark, now is it?
And before you say it, no, I'm not talking about Crossfit, I'm actually wearing Crossfit shoes right now as I write this. This can apply to any kind of training - bodybuilding, powerlifting, Crossfit and yes, just general fitness and group exercise classes.
If someone has tight ankles, poor thoracic mobility, hip flexors of steel, and doesn't have a great idea of how to brace properly in their core (which is actually the case for a large number of people) it isn't a fantastic idea to get them to do burpees, pushups, jumping lunges, or even, gasp, planks, with little rest for time. At that point in their fitness "career" they just don't have the work capacity. Give it a few months of consistent practice, get their general conditioning (cardio) and strength up and then we can really get the ball rolling with some more exciting workouts.
I've been training people for seven years now, so I can tell you that when most people start it's not pretty. It doesn't take long to get competent but almost everyone starts out with poor movement skills and kinaesthetic awareness. But it doesn't matter whether you're starting out, or if you're experienced, you need to know proper movement patterns and what kind of range of motion you currently have. Not the people in your exercise class, not your friend, not what you saw on YouTube - you.
For example, I have terrible mobility in my right ankle. I've seen several people to try and get it fixed but I've never been able to get it to completely normal. This does affect my workouts. Running hills, pushing a sled, walking lunges and high bar squats are all awesome exercises, but I have to be careful not to overdo it because there will be consequences.
Don't think you have to devote all your time to this - it is very possible to work on increasing mobility and mechanics in a safe and progressive manner, and do it so in a way where you actually get a good workout. I completely understand because when I go to the gym I want to do cool stuff (relatively speaking), not a million mobility drills.
Quick point - don't get me started on people who yammer on and on about having to go "ass to grass" when squatting. Ideally, yes, everyone should be able to squat deep below parallel but unfortunately, we live in the real world where people are exactly how I described above.
Your average joe doesn't have the ankle or hip mobility, so when they try to get as low as possible, their feet turn out, the low back rounds, the pelvis tucks under and the whole thing just turns into hot garbage. Never mind adding a load and the "git r done" mentality to this - you're begging the universe to put you out of commission. And don't worry, it will oblige sooner or later.
While time has mellowed me...still not a fan
I'll be honest with you - 8 good reps of an exercise will be far more effective than 8 good reps, 6 shaky ones, and 6 horrendous ones.
I feel this is may seem obvious but I keep seeing it again and again. People need to do a workout that is appropriate for their level, not something you've seen on social media. I like posting when I do cool things too (I think) - but I've been doing this for almost ten years. And I still screw up and hurt myself from time to time (or frequently - Editor). There's a fine line between bravery and stupidity, one that I've crossed more times than I'd like to admit, and more often than not, I've paid for it.
So to sum it up - do what you can do at that point in time. Do ten perfect squats to a high box rather than 20 horrible ones "ass 2 grass".
If you are interested in these ideas and are lucky enough to live in Edmonton area I've got some things planned so stay tuned for details and dates. If you're looking for a resource that you can use on your own, I highly recommend any of Kelly Starrett's books (especially Deskbound) or website (mobilitywod.com). His concepts and mobility work took my understanding of movement and training to the next level, so I will gladly give credit where credit is due.
Until then, have an awesome day and may the force be with you.