Fitness Follies

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Fitness Follies

By Charles Staley, B.Sc, MSS
Director, Staley Training Systems

Don't expect the usual "beginning, middle, and end" format for this one. I just need to vent. I didn't invent this concept— just want to add another chapter to the ongoing saga. And before I unleash, I want to make one thing clear: I'm far from perfect. I sometimes sacrifice perfect form to get another rep.

I continue to train muscles which I know are already too developed, I should stretch more, etc., etc. I'm very much like everyone who's reading this: I love to train and am trying to learn everything I can along the way.

But what I'm about to get into is beyond occasional lapses of bad judgment.

It ranges from people who should know better, to people who do know better.

It covers the gamut from stupidity to unethical conduct.


Denise Austin on Hamstring Training

OK, Last week, I'm in the waiting room of my massage therapist. So I pick up an issue of Total Fitness magazine. Fitness superstar Denise "You can do it!" Austin is answering a question from a reader who is trying to reduce the cellulite around her thighs. After a few perfunctory suggestions, Ms. Austin advises "And be sure to work your hamstrings (the muscle which runs from your ankle to the top of your rear"). OK, I'm not looking for origins and insertions, just maybe try to get somewhere in the same universe! Wow!

My training partner (at the time) Phil LeClair had been egging me to train with him in a commercial gym (I train myself and my clients in private settings, and hadn't been in a gym for a few years). In the course of one 55 minute workout, here is what I observed:

1) The floor trainer has a client performing upright rows. He's wearing a massive powerlifting belt which is about 8" thick in back. Struggling to lift 35 pounds, the client is rounding his back, shrugging, and flexing his neck to the point where he's looking at his feet. The bar never gets closer than 5" from his body. He has so much trouble balancing himself, the trainer puts his back up against the wall "to stabilize" him.

2) Another lifter is performing a movement I have never seen— a pseudo dumbbell alternating front raise, but with maximum body English and fast, fast, fast. He carries the dumbbells to arm's length overhead at the top of each rep. Phil explains to me that this particular person does this exercise "every day."

3) A woman is performing stiff-legged dead lifts in a manner which will grind her spine down to a fine powder in 8 weeks. She has hyper-extended knees, a round back, and is looking through her legs at the bottom of each rep. She's using light weights, apparently so she won't "bulk up."

4) At the squat rack, two guys in their early 20's are squatting, I think. Every known technique recommendation is violated— round backs, heels off the floor, looking down, light-speed descents, knees bowing inward, industrial-strength belts, you name it. You'd think the fact that their arms are bigger than their quads would clue them in to their poor habits, but no such luck.

5) Another trainer is overheard telling his client "High reps are for definition, low reps are for bulk." (Please pause with me for about 20 seconds for the full effect to set in). Another gem: "Never do more than one set."

People, has anyone ever heard of the International Sports Sciences Association? Please call 800-892-4772 and enroll in a certification program. Please, please, please. And don't stop there— educate yourself in any way you can. Incidentally, everyone I just mentioned is probably having a good laugh about my training session. I can just hear it "What an idiot! The guy was doing chins, and it was taking him like 4 seconds to lower himself! I could do it in .5 seconds on my very first day!"


Infomercial Hell

I really like training on a Swiss ball. Please don't label me though— I use all manner of machines, free weights, sprinting, medicine balls, you name it. Anyway, back to my free catharsis: there is a new info-mercial gadget out called the "Bosu Ball." This is essentially a Swiss ball stripped of its usefulness, at ten times the cost of a normal Swiss ball. The ball is firmly embedded in a molded plastic base, which makes it as stable as a Nebulae leg press.

Some variations of the Bosu Ball also feature an elastic band attached to a handle on each side, which I 'm guessing allows you to do "more exercises than you can do in a gym with over $300,000 worth of equipment in only three minutes a day." The info-mercial demonstrates the supposed dangers of "real" Swiss balls by showing a model trying to sit on top of one, and then losing her balance and falling in a heap on the floor, ala Chevy Chase in the snow saucer scene in Christmas Vacation.

Look— not everyone's a Paul Chek, but if you can't even sit on top of a ball (a skill than any 3-year old child does routinely), you're in for a world of hurt in everyday life!

Here's another notable infomercial— the "Smart Gym." This term should be in Webster's under "Oxymoron."

The Smart Gym is another rendition of the classic elastic cords attached to the doorjamb idea. Only now, they show it being used by human Barbies with the post-modern body composition of 55% lean mass, 35% bodyfat, & 10% silicone. As you might expect you can do
ANYTHING on the Smart Gym, as the models demonstrate: you can water ski, run, punch, squat, you name it.

One of the next devices is called "Slam Man." This is a self-standing mannequin that you punch like a heavy bag. It's funny, because they show these fairly large guys punching the Slam Man, but they have to pull their punches so as to not topple the mannequin.

In one of the more memorable pitches, one of the actors says "Boxers know how to lose weight, because they have to be able to make their weight class for the fight." You know what? Anorexics know how to lose weight too.

Since the Slam Man cannot be folded away under your bed, I predict dismal sales.

By the way, there is an informercial out there for a product I really like— the Total Gym. I have trained on this unique device at Paul Chek's Center for Health & Performance and it allows several unique exercises which are not available on any other type of equipment.


Fitness Facts & Fallacies

I teach several seminars every year — many of these are for aspiring and current personal trainers. So the concept of fitness is one that is near and dear to my heart. And to expand on this topic a bit, it's amazing how many misconceptions people have on health, fitness, and sports.

Most people consider these terms to be synonymous, which always just amazes me. For example, if fitness is your primary objective, trying to become an elite athlete may not be the best route. In other words, putting 800 pounds on your back several times a month or running 15 miles a day isn't the most logical way to be healthy, and it may not even be the best way to get fit.

Whenever someone hears that an acquaintance has run such and such a marathon, the immediate reaction is always "Wow! he must be in some shape!" Well, he is for running the marathon, but if his objective was to be an outstanding bodybuilder, he would be in absolutely terrible shape! Fitness is context-dependent.

Also, fitness has nothing to do with how low your bodyfat is, unless you are a competitive bodybuilder. In fact, for some sports, having a bit of extra pudge is a definite advantage.


Is it Aerobic?

The whole concept of aerobic and aerobic-related phenomenon drives me completely insane. For example:

1) Aerobics competitions no not involve a high level of aerobic fitness— the routines last about 2-3 minutes, which means a huge contribution from the anaerobic system. I've also wondered why aerobics is the only sport where men wear halter tops, but that's another article.

2) Aerobics classes: Why is it that every time I walk past an aerobic class that everyone is lifting weights? Hey— I'm just asking!


My Favorite Mystery Terms

Here's a collection of terms and concepts which cause a lot more harm than
good:

Sculpt: Muscles can only get bigger, or, if you don't train, smaller. That's it. You cannot sculpt a muscle. You surgeon can do this, however.

Tone: The word "tone" simply refers to a partial state of contraction, usually an after-effect from some form of muscular work. You can have tone even if you're a fat slob...you can have no tone despite the fact that some of your internal organs are visible beneath your skin. So what value does this word have anyway?

Shape: The shape of your muscles is pre-determined at birth, barring surgery. As muscles get larger, their shape changes because there is now more girth in relation to the length, but this change is pre-determined also. You cannot shape your muscles.

Define: You cannot define a muscle. All you can do is lower your bodyfat so you can see your muscles underneath. "I want to bulk up and get more defined." OK— you want to get bigger and smaller at the same time. Have a nice life!

Strength and Conditioning: Strength training is part of the conditioning process. It's like saying "Endurance and Conditioning" or "Flexibility and Conditioning."

Cross Training: ALL sports require supplementary training beyond the regular performance of their sport skills. This invo l ves strength tra i n i n g , endurance work, stretching, and so on. So what is the point of even using this term?!!! I love to hear someone say "I'm really into cross-training." I usually say "Oh, like every other athlete who ever lived. How cutting edge!"

Finishing Set: Does this mean that you're not finished, or maybe you feel guilty because you haven't worked hard enough, so you do another set to assuage your ego? I have no idea


What's the Strangest Thing I Ever Saw in a Gym, You Ask?

A man who was a casual acquaintance of mine was asking me advice on finding a good chiropractor. Seems he had been having upper back and neck pain. After I gave him the name of a trusted colleague, I watched him walk over the a Universal bench press station, and my eyes widened as he laid down such that his entire head was off the end of the bench, so that he was staring at the weight stack as he knocked off his reps. No one could make this stuff up.


How about the Scariest?

Glad I asked. OK, sit down for this one. Pay careful attention— gyms can be dangerous. About 8 years ago, I saw someone try to pick up a plate to place it on the leg press he was using. The poor guy thought it was a 45, but in fact it was a 100, and he only weighed about 155. The plate was resting on the floor, leaning against a wall. As he tried to maneuver the plate to get a better grip, it fell over onto his foot, which was promptly severed. The amazing this is, this guy had endured many severe injuries in combat, and this injury barely phased him. At first I figured he was in shock, but later the emergency team confirmed he was not.


OK, I Feel Much Better Now

Wow! I started this article feeling as cranky as anything, but now I feel completely refreshed and positive. Hang on...there's a new infomercial on I think..what the...The Ab Lounge???!!! Oh my God.


Submitted by DMorgan on Sun, 03/01/2009 - 5:35pm.

 

Comment: Friday

Good Reading!



Submitted by ChipSBR on Fri, 05/15/2009 - 2:29pm.