Wednesday, 18 April 2012

It's not helping...

(PHOTO VIA: @TommyFatFingers)
Despite its retro vibe (thanks Instagram) I came across the above picture online only recently, taken at a regular UK health club.

It was a Friday, which, in this particular gym, seemed to be specifically "Curls Friday". Of the 30 or so people in there, all were in big groups, all working upper body.

Anyway, that aside, watching these 5 guys take it in turns to bicep curls and look at themselves in the mirror while the others either chatted around them or over-spotted (discussed below) and gave a false impression of strength; I got thinking "I wonder how many people do things in the gym without realising it's actually not helping their situation/progress?" Here's a few:

Over sized Group Training...
Training with a partner or perhaps in a group of 3 with similar aims and goals can be beneficial for both motivation and safety/spotting on heavier lifts. Any larger than that and it becomes detrimental to your workout - too much rest, changing weights, social talk,distractions it just doesn't work.

I mentioned it in the intro. A spotter is there for safety purposes to make sure that you don't drop the weight in a dangerous way, to offer coaches cues during exercises, and at times to offer assistance when doing eccentric work or pushing for one last repetition. The spotter should NOT join in for more than 2 (MAXIMUM) repetitions! The Spotter should NOT join in unless 100% needed (don't spot for the sake of spotting!) The spotter should NOT be working hard every set! How many times do you see a guy bench pressing and his pal who's "spotting" is basically deadlifting the bar too! Double workout? I don't think so! If you need that much help, take some weight off!

Watch this example. The guy "spotted" him (horribly) for every rep for a set of 10! The "spotter" ended up doing some kind of isometric bicep curl by resting the bar on his forearm/inner elbow and poorly, hunched "good morning" exercise. In reality, the weight was too heavy. Ego trained:

Weights Belts...
I think I get more annoyed by this than most! If you have a bad back, get a better back, not a better belt. Weights belts for injuries do not fix an issue only mask it and more likely, offer unnatural support and cause you to recruit muscles from elsewhere for stability. Look after your back sure; and, if you really feel much happier, perhaps use the belt for additional support on your last, heaviest sets. but don't use a belt for the sake of using it and being lazy with your own core strength. Pet hate, bicep curls in a weights belt! Pardon?..

"Sports Drinks"...
Unless you're a diabetic or have issues with blood pressure and blood sugar levels, leave the "sports drink" at home. These are sugary, isotonic drinks designed predominantly for recovery, not, as many people drinking them mid session will say when you're "Feeling tired and need some instant energy". What you're likely to get is a sugar high and perhaps a feeling of energy - this is more likely to be a release of Serotonin than anything more productive for the gym. After this peak in sugar and accessible glucose, you'll get a drop, with that comes a crash in energy too. These sugary drinks will also cause insulin spikes and encourage fat retention. So your "Energy Drink" makes you less energetic so your workout is worse and your body is more susceptible to retaining fat too - how many would you like?

Protein Shakes...
While on the drinks front I thought I'd mention protein shakes. Not to say "they're not helping." But more, if your diet consists of cornflakes for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and KFC for dinner, it's unlikely the protein shake is a worthwhile investment in as much as it's a small piece of your currently, messy puzzle. Get everything else in place and don't rely on a miracle drink to make you the person you want to be.

Again, I'm not saying "Don't do cardio" but it's more exercise prescription in this instance.

TO LOSE WEIGHT: Slow, long duration cardio is boring and time consuming. Worse still, it offers slow results. Throw in as much variety and intervals as you can with cardio. Short sprints, mixed with resistance work, crawling, hill running, weight bearing, whatever! Intervals are a much more effective, fun and time effective way to cut body fat and retain hard earned muscle.

FOR SPORT: You see or hear people say "I need to get fit for..." and step 1 is go for a run. Be smart, think about replicating your sport. In no sport (other than long distance running) do you run continuously for a long distance. How long is a football or rugby pitch? 100m max? And how many times would you run the length of the field twice consecutively? So why do you need to be good at running any distance longer than 200m continuously. What you DO need to improve is your rate of recovery and ability to repeat exercises at a top standard over and over again with minimal rest.

Sweat suits...
I've mentioned this before but in short: Weight loss through sweat suits is temporary and is just a loss of retained water. Once you consume water after, the weight returns. Worse still, the dehydrated state you put yourself into means that your performance is worse during exercise, as a result, you burn less calories than you could have without the suit. Sweat suit AND a sports drink - NO!

Crunches for fat loss on the stomach...
Again on fat loss - ab crunches to lose stomach fat. You're just developing muscles under the fat - this will not strip stomach fat directly. Sure, work on core strength and stability as you lose body fat, but the issue isn't the lack of abs; you have the abs, they're just covered in fat.

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