Quick list of some things I feel are 98% useless when it comes to strength training.
1) Isolation Work: I’m not a fan of isolation work at all, with the only exception being if it is for rehab or pre-hab. The way that the body reacts to strength training makes “isolating” muscles a complete waste of time. I put isolating in “sarcasti-quotes” because it’s damn near impossible to isolate any muscle in the body. Having sex to keep your virginity intact is a more worthwhile adventure than trying to isolate a muscle.
The human body is a system and works best when used as a system. Building up one part of the system does not make the rest of the parts magically get bigger/faster/stronger. Big biceps don’t lead to a thick back; a thick back leads to big biceps. Huge triceps don’t lead to a massive chest; a massive chest leads to huge triceps.
Solution: Step away from the dumbbells and for the last damn time, stop doing curls in the squat rack. If you want to trade in your peashooters for a MK-19 you better start doing some pull-ups (palms turned away from you) and chin-ups (palms facing you). A chin-up is the exact same motion as a biceps curl anyways, and I guarantee that most of you can’t curl your body-weight. As for your triceps, try improving your bench press form first (elbows flared out = bad, elbows tucked in at a 45 degree angle = good). Add in some close grip push-ups and you’ll soon have “higher caliber weapons” than Barry Biceps Curls. No more isolation work, ever. Isolating biceps and triceps is the most common example, but this applies to every muscle.
2) All Exercise Machines: EXTRA EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! NO NAME FITNESS BLOGGER CALLS EXERCISE MACHINES “WORTHLESS PIECES OF SHIT!”
I still don’t understand how people can think a circuit made up completely of machines can be considered a worthwhile workout. But that’s why there is a small army of fitness bloggers and enthusiasts here to “spread the good word”. This point ties in to point number one, all machines do is isolate the muscle. (The only machines I will ever use are the Glute-Ham Raise and possibly the Jammer since they are more pieces of apparatus similar to a bench or power rack.) Machines lock you into a pre-determined movement pattern and do nothing but exhaust the muscle.
Anything that locks you into a pre-determined movement pattern isn’t going to help in anything but that movement pattern. Every action of everyday life is done in multiple planes of motion and not determined by pulleys, cables or the piece of metal the weight plate is locked into.
Solution: Free weights and body weight exercises. Instead of machine row do bent over rows. Instead of machine crunches do planks. Instead of doing cable crossovers stick a rusty nail in your eye multiple times in vigorous succession. Every machine exercise is based off of something you can do with free weights or body weight. If you can’t figure out what the “non-machine” equivalent of a machine exercise is leave a comment below.
3) Steady State Cardio: I’m a sprinter at heart, running anything over 200m makes me curse like a sailor. Whenever I run the 2-mile portion of the Army Physical Fitness Test I rotate through the seven dirty words every time my left foot hits the ground. It’s like a pace count that measures how pissed off I am. I won’t spend too much time on this one because it’s always a pain in the ass to get distance runners to believe they can burn more fat doing sprints of 20m-400m than you can running 30 minutes at a steady pace.
Steady state cardio will help you lose weight; I’m not arguing that point. What most people don’t realize though is that you are losing lean body mass (including muscle) as well as fat. In order to attack the fat while sparing the muscle, short bursts of high intensity movement is much, much more effective. The “afterburn effect” is the amount of calories you continue to burn after you stop working out. With steady state cardio the effect fizzles after only a few hours. With 30 minutes of interval strength training the effect can last upwards of 38 hours.
Solution: All an interval entails is a period of high intensity work followed by an incomplete rest period (30-60 seconds). This can be a kettle-bell circuit, sprints (on foot or on a bike), jump rope, dynamic body weight exercises (jump squats, plyo-push-ups etc.) or a full-body circuit workout (don’t you dare try to do this on the machines). These types of workouts are hard, fast and over finished before you know it. (Insert sex joke here)
4) Not Resting: I love sitting on my ass doing nothing, who doesn’t. However, most people who sit on their ass doing nothing sit on their ass and do nothing all day. They don’t need to be resting because they haven’t exerted themselves in any capacity that day, unless you count that huge crap they took this morning as exerting themselves.
The whole point of resistance training is to stress and break down the muscles fibers so that when they recover they can handle the increased stress. That’s why progression is key, doing the same, easy weight for every workout will not make you bigger or stronger. The re-building and repair of the muscles takes place after you’ve left the gym, mostly when you’re asleep. While you’re dreaming about Megan Fox under the hood of your car playing with your engine (which, by chance, happens to be the nick name you gave your penis), your body is hard at work repairing the damage you did to your muscles.
Solution: Sleep dude. If you want your body to build itself up, give it time to do so. You don’t need to go home immediately and pass out, but staying up all night playing Halo and Call of Duty isn’t going to help you get “sick abs bro”. Adequate rest is just as important as having a challenging program when you are looking to make gains. Getting 7-10 hours a night is ideal. If at all possible try sleeping without an alarm clock, that way when you wake up on your own you can be fairly certain that you’re body is fully rested.
I don’t feel like writing a conclusion…so…uh…The End?