Sunday, November 23, 2008

If You're Not Injured Or A Bodybuilder

A few days ago in my Collected Wisdom post, I included the following from Paul Scott:

"Most of us are neither crippled nor on the verge of entering the Mr. Olympia competition, so why do we train as if either is the case? The answer is a combination of the gyms' desire to maximize profits, and our own desire to find workouts that don't involve work."

I realize that some readers may have been confused by that so I wanted to elaborate on it today.

Many, probably most, gyms have a machine circuit that contains exercises for different body parts. Typically, some of the machines you'll find are the Leg Extension, Leg Curl, Hip Abduction and Adduction, Pec Flye, Lateral Raise and Bicep Curl.

The object is to move through the circuit and when you're finished you will have worked all the major muscles of the body. The problem with this approach is that the majority of circuit machines work your muscles in isolation, which is rarely how our body works in real life.

Unless you're physically disabled, a bodybuilder or rehabbing an injury you will get far more benefit from performing compound exercises, which work multiple muscles at one time. Regardless of whether your goal is strength or fat loss, compound exercises are the way to go.

Too many people who are trying to drop fat spend way too much time doing exercises that are not the best use of their time. Bodybuilders may need to add some isolation work into their routine because their goal is too make their muscles are large as possible. Rehabbing an injury usually involves a lot of isolation work.

Are you injured? Is your goal to look like a bodybuilder? If not, and your goal is weight loss, Bicep Curls, Hip Abduction/Adduction, Tricep Kickbacks, Leg Extensions/Curls, Crunches, etc. will not give you the bang for your buck that Squats, Presses, Kettlebell Swings, Pushups, Rows, Deadlifts, etc. will.

I think Mr. Scott is right. Many gyms don't want to bother teaching members how to correctly perform free weights exercises; they use the excuse that machines are "safer". I also agree that most people will look for the easiest option when exercising. Of course, they'll also be the people who complain about not getting good results.

Remember, it's called working out for a reason.

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