The gym is a health hazard for a lot of people.
Daily, I see people giving their all on cardio equipment in an effort to lose a few kilos, or heaving weights back and forth in an effort to ‘get big'. These are the same people who, a year later have nothing to show for their three-one-hour-per-week-sessions except for perhaps a sore back, an injured knee and a good deal of disillusionment.
Here's a list of seven things people should not be doing in the gym and some exercise alternatives:
1.Avoid fixed resistance machines. I use this metaphor for performers: using machines is like learning a role by deciding exactly what you will do before you even begin rehearsing, and patterning it for every performance.
In the same way machines allow no freedom for the muscles, literally boring them senseless with the same pattern and decreasing neuromuscular awareness.
They also take away the role of the important stabilising (core) muscles which is where all real-life movements begin and is where our power comes from.
--> So choose free-weights or cables instead and try incorporating Swiss Balls to increase the neuromuscular demands. Most qualified fitness instructors will be able to show you how to get the most out of such equipment.
2.Don't overdo cardio. Many people still believe you just need to do lots of cardio to reduce body fat. This is false.
Too much cardio can actually result in your body producing hormones that encourage fat storage in the body. You are also possibly sacrificing vital calorie-burning muscle tissue as a fuel source if you do more aerobic exercise than your ingested fuel allows for. Aerobic exercise is important as it allows nutrients to be transported to cells via the bloodstream when fat is released from the adipose cells. The bloodstream is the vehicle that transports it to be burned.
--> Do your cardio after a weight training session to promote fat loss or try circuits which are excellent vehicles for reducing body fat and increasing cardiovascular fitness.
3.Think laterally (literally!).
Muscles work as force couples - they play together like teams. Training in isolation can cause an imbalance, leading to injury and an unsymmetrical looking body. Also don't overemphasise movements in one plane of motion (particularly front to back) as our bodies naturally twist and move from side to side as well.
--> Think training "movements" not "muscles"; pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging, bending, twisting are the basic movements of day-to-day life. Finally if you train slowly you will play slowly, so vary the speed.
4.Posture is key. It's not just an aesthetic thing, it can also lead to injuries and regular bouts of associated pain. The details can be complex but it's important to know that there are muscles in your body that naturally become short and tight and others that get long and weak by nature.
--> The required response to correct this is to stretch the shorter, tighter muscles and strengthen the longer, weaker muscles. For example when someone has a posture that makes them look like the Pink Panther - protruding head and rounded shoulders - the chest is one muscle that needs a good stretch. Only stretch what is tight, as stretching the long and weak muscles will lead to further imbalances.
5.Crunch after crunch. There is no such thing as a spot reduction. 100 sit-ups a day will not flatten that tummy and it will only lead to poor posture by over-strengthening the upper abdominals and the powerful and greedy hip flexor muscles. The energy to do the crunch may actually come from fat stored somewhere else in the body.
--> So choose exercises that engage lots of muscles. A squat, for example involves over 14 major muscles.
6.Have a plan. Having no plan will decrease your chances of success.
--> You need to clarify your goals and determine the best way to achieve them or you may be wasting a lot of time (not to mention money).
7.Leave the books at home. Don't take books or other distracters into the gym.
--> Do exercises that require you to focus on each task as though it's a meditation and treat every session as a chance to increase your awareness of how your body moves.
Your 3d Coach
By Craig Burton BSc (Sports Science), NASM PES
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