Friday, April 29, 2011

Contradictions and Controversies in Exercise

We can ALL agree that this is just plain AWFUL!
We have the High Intensity Interval Training Group, the Crossfit gang, the Runner/Endurance competitor crew (runners, spinners, cyclists, etc.), the pilates/yoga bunch, and people who just enjoy taking a couple of Group X classes a week.  There are also people who just like to lift weights and get in shape as well as people who like to lift the heaviest things possible and push themselves to their physical limits.

So what is the best form of exercise to get in better shape?  There are so many answers to that question, but there are more opinions on what forms of exercise not to do, than what is the right thing to do.   Some people who perform one form of exercise are quick to bash another group because they feel that certain forms of exercise are stupid, worthless, and just plain awful.

It's common to hear things like - "Crossfit sucks",  "Yoga is stupid", and "lifting heavy weights is just for showing off".  It's almost like one fraternity against another- you hardly ever find a person who lifts heavy, does pilates, and every once in a while does a Crossfit class. 

If you drive up to a commercial gym and walk inside, it's pretty crazy to see the Group X(ers) on one side, the "Spinners" on the other, the Cardio groupies somewhere in the middle, and the people "strength training" on the outskirts.  If you drive a little further down the street you'll probably see a Crossfit studio.  People are lined up and psyched to do the "W.O.D", and ready to get shredded.  At the other end of the shopping center, there is a Pilates studio where a group of people are going to "activate" their core and get long, lean muscles. 

I have to admit I haven't tried some forms of exercise that are pretty much considered "In" or "Mainstream".  I have yet to enter a Pilates Studio, a yoga studio, or perform a Crossfit session.  So maybe I'm not entitled to give my opinion on those forms of exercise, so I won't.  I just have a problem with people assuming that what they are doing is the "Holy Grail" of fitness.

I've had some clients tell me that they would love to watch me struggle through a Pilates class, or see me in agony during a Yoga session.  They're right, I probably would have a tough time on that reformer, keeping my body in perfect alignment and keeping my core tight.  And doing "the king pigeon " pose in yoga would probably an uncomfortable feeling and test my flexibility.  I just don't feel that those things are worthwhile of MY time to accomplish MY personal goals.
Yeah, I would look like a train wreck trying to do this!
I get a little offended when Pilates Instructors tell their classes that they will change the "shape" of their muscles and achieve a "lean" and "toned" appearance after spending several hours on the reformer.  I've also heard of the same instructors tell people that lifting heavy dumbbells and barbells will make you "big and bulky".
This doesn't really interest me......

Some spinning instructors I've encountered  love to preach to their classes that their legs will "balloon up" with heavy lower body resistance movements and that peddling away on the bike will get you slim, sexy legs.  The Crossfit gang is so into their style of workouts that everything else is just for sissies!

There is no doubt that there are some people with excellent strength and conditioning levels that are part of the Crossfit posse, but once again it's not the "end all, be all" form of exercise.  Neither is lifting heavy things, pilates, yoga, spinning, boot camps, or distance running.  People tend to perform what type of exercise the are good at, as well as, what "group" they fit in with socially.  They also tend to drift to where they think they'll have the most fun, ever see a Zumba class or "Strip Aerobics"??

So what is the RIGHT way to exercise? I wish there was one correct answer that everybody would agree on.  There are so many "right" answers, so where do we begin.  First of all, your body should be able to perform basic movements.  I've trained so many people who spin and take pilates that can't even perform a  lunge with correct form, posture, and body alignment.

I've worked with Crossfit folks who can't perform an overhead squat without some movement deviation, such as their heels lifting off the ground or their knees caving in.  A basic movement such as a squat, a lunge, a push-up (with the shoulders even), and a chin up or inverted row are all things that ANY and ALL people should incorporate in their exercise ritual.  As a society, our movement patterns pretty much suck.  Why don't we improve our ability to move correctly before we perform barbell snatches for 50 reps or crank away on a spinning bike for 60 minutes?
Is this really necessary?
Any internet forum designated to one specific form of exercise will have several posts dedicated to bashing people who do something else.

Instead of the negativity, think about the positive things that you will achieve through whatever form of exercise you are currently doing.  Does it relate to your goals?  Will it improve your daily life? Is the instructor/trainer educated and qualified to teach this form of exercise in respect to the way the body should perform a specific movement.

Once you decide what fits you best, start kicking ass and taking names.  You should be focused on getting results and reaching the goals you set out to achieve.  If you are not getting closer to your goals, switch it up, what you're doing might not be the most appropriate form of exercise for what you are trying to accomplish. You have the freedom to stop spinning and start lifting heavy things, and your legs will probably start looking a lot better once you do!


Anonymous said...

It wasn't always like that, Damon. Bodybuilders, Powerlifters, O-Lifters, and Football Players all hung out and learned from each other at the Y I trained at in the early 70s. However, we did kinda make fun of the Yoga guys. However, I now wish that I had paid more attention to flexibility when I was younger. Such is life. :)

Shannon said...

Did you really just say that Crossfitters can't do an overhead squat without lifting our heels, because of one idiot that you trained that did? So, doesn't that make you just as presumptuous as the people who say that their way is the best?
I don't ever tell anyone that Crossfit is the best, and their way is crap. I just know what works for me, and I've never been pressured to do incorrect reps.
Yesterday, I wasn't touching the floor on my push-ups, and my coach instructed me to do only 3-4 the correct way, instead of trying to get 10 the wrong way.

Damon Brobst CSCS said...

@Shannon. The majority of people that I've come across who are "crossfitters" have inefficient movement patterns. It's great that you have a knowledgeable coach, but some people are in ALL realms of fitness just to make a quick buck.

If you have time I recommend you listen to Mike Boyle and Gray Cook (two of the most intelligent minds in the fitness industry discuss Crossfit. check it out:

Anonymous said...

CrossFit may not be for everyone but when it applied correctly, it prepares you for everyday fitness. That is the reason it is popular. Law enforcement, Air Force, Army and the Marines have adopted it, as well as many NBA and NFL teams. Not because it is a fad but because it is proven and works.

Cassy said...

Hi! I'm a new follower + also a crossfit-er. Thanks for sharing that audio clip because I agree with the majority of what they say and I think it's important. My gym requires you to do an onramp program in which you spend 45 minutes in 10 classes learning and practicing one of the main crossfit exercises, and at the end do a 15 minute W.O.D. that incorporates the exercise so the instructor can evaluate your movement. Ideally there are only one or two people in a class but the max is four. On the 11th day you do a test of the 10 main moves and if you don't pass it you have to do more classes to practice if you want to move on to the full classes. The max in a full class is 10 people, less if the majority is beginners, so that the instructors can watch and correct form. Also, every workout is scaled and the instructor will discuss with each non-'professional' which they should be doing. I share this because I would never have done crossfit without these beginner classes and I think it's dangerous for anyone else to. I think what you said is right - like many trainers in many different programs, for some crossfit gyms it's all about squeezing as many people into classes as possible to make a quick buck, and these people can't possibly get the attention needed to perfect their form if they're new to olympic weight lifting. The key, in my opinion, is the same with any other workout. Finding a gym that is dedicated to their patrons + passionate about their program, with properly training people being priority over the bottom line.

I hope you can rest a little easier at night knowing that some crossfit gyms are doing things right, haha.

Anyways, I find your blog really interesting + look forward to reading more from you!

vanessa said...

A common misconception is that you can't do CrossFit without doing it in an official box. The truth is, it's super easy to do CrossFit-inspired workouts at home without all the fancy equipment that you find in a gym.

Damon Brobst CSCS said...

@ Cassy - That's great you found a good CF facility. I recently entered the "Crossfit Total" competition at a gym in Ft. Lauderdale. I really like the intensity and the encouragement from all the lifters (some crossfit, some not). Keep doing your thing, and keep getting better! Thanks for the comment.

Damon Brobst CSCS said...

@ Vanessa- you're absolutely right, there are a lot of things you can do at home or a part which will provide an adequate training stimulus. As long as your working hard and being consistent great things will happen!