6 Exercise Rules to Ignore as You Return to the Gym
Change is in the air! As of this post (mid March 2021) almost 100 million Americans have received the coveted COVID vaccine. The clocks have moved forward to give us more sunlight, the weather is getting warmer, the passing of the equinox means it is officially Spring and while a number of states still have mask regulations, NOTE: WEAR THEM – especially when in close quarters, many are starting to relax regulations and allow gyms, health clubs and fitness studios to return to normal operations. This means that if you’re tired of virtual workouts or of using the same old set of dumbbells in your garage, that it may be time to return to gym. A year of in-home workouts has been an interesting break from the normal fitness routine, however if you’re like me, then you’re ready to start moving some serious weight again. As you grab your gym bags, water bottles, towels AND MASKS, here are 6 exercise rules to ignore as you return to the gym.
When it comes to your personal fitness program, it seems as if there is a plethora (h/t SAT PREP classes) of “experts” offering exercise advice. Much of this advice is based on science, however some is pure fiction. Anyone putting out advice is well-meaning and looking to help but it is important to note that some well-established workout “rules” often promoted as advice that, like teenage social media influencers, can (and should) be ignored. Feel free to ignore the rules identified below:
6 Rules to Ignore
“No pain, no gain; or “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”
The first phrase is from the dawn of the fitness era (thank you Jane Fonda). The second is from the US Marines Corps. Unless you want to take a bad trip down memory lane (watch the 1985 movie Perfect to see what gyms used to be like), or commit to the armed forces, both should be completely ignored. Exercise should NOT cause pain. Pain is a warning signal from the body to the brain that something is not right. Exercise is physical stress applied to the body and in order to create a change should cause discomfort. But discomfort is completely different than pain. Discomfort means you’re pushing your body to work harder than normal – which is what the gym is for, however, pain means STOP IMMEDIATELY!
Your knees should not go past your toes
This phrase is like nails on a chalkboard to me. If you have good ankle or hip mobility then your knees will definitely be able to move past your toes as you sink into a squat. A squatting or bending movement should start from the hips, not the knees. This cue comes from the group fitness world where an instructor trying to provide a safe workout for a large group of people offers it as advice but it is not a workout rule. If you have the requisite flexibility in your hips and ankles then ignore this rule.
Train only one body-part at a time
An antiquated approach to exercise that’s relevant ONLY for bodybuilders and figure competitors. The body is designed to move with all muscles and joints working together simultaneously. If you’re not planning on walking around a stage in a bathing suit then your workout program should focus on using movements that recruit multiple muscles at the same time. Exercises that include the primary movements of squatting (or bending), lunging, pushing, pulling and rotating are all that is necessary for a total body workout. The benefit is that doing a movement-based exercise program used more muscles meaning you’ll burn more calories during your workout.
Do crunches for core training
Want to know a little secret? If you want a six-pack then nutrition plays a much greater role than doing a few sets of crunches. As #3 above points out all muscles are interconnected via fascia and elastic connective tissue, so doing an exercise to isolate one band of muscle is not an effective use of your workout time. For optimal performance the muscles of your core should be challenged to move in all directions while you’re standing, not simply shortening while you’re lying flat on the floor. Standing exercises can be the BEST way to strengthen your core, THIS BLOG explains why!
Dr. Stuart McGill – an expert on the spine and author of multiple books on core training shares his insights on this episode of All About Fitness
Total Body Core Training online course; $67 0.4 ACE; 0.4 NASM; 4 AFAA
This online course is based on Dr. McGill’s research and will teach you exercises that can help increase your strength and add muscle definition while reducing the risk of injury. Fitness professionals, personal trainers and group fitness instructors receive continuing education credits, CECs; but anyone can take it to learn more about how the body functions.
The e-book (included in Total Body Core Training) will teach you how your core muscles function and provide you with a number of workout programs for increasing your core strength.
Weight loss requires only “cardio” exercise
Are you breathing right now? Then congratulations, you’re technically doing cardio. Cardio-respiratory simply means using oxygen to help create energy for muscles to burn. All exercise requires muscles to use oxygen along with either carbohydrates or fats for activity. Think of excess weight as stored energy to burn during exercise. It’s important to note that doing too much aerobic exercise can actually cause the body to burn muscle protein instead of fat, which is not a good thing. In addition to burning calories doing a full-body circuit weight training helps the body to produce more lean muscle meaning you’ll be burning more energy while you’re not exercising. Kinda cool, huh? To learn more about the benefits of metabolic conditioning, READ THIS BLOG!
Use light weights and high reps for “toning”
Gag me with a spoon (yes, I just brought that back). This is statement is (almost) complete nonsense. The phrase ‘tone’ comes from the technical term ‘tonus’ which refers to a state of semi contraction of a muscle, so tone is a relevant word BUT working to the point of fatigue is what improves muscle definition. NOT using a specific amount of weight. Stimulating the larger type II muscle fibers are essential to develop muscular definition. Type II fibers are responsible for definition, the best way to recruit them is to perform reps to a point of fatigue – NOT being able to do another one. The best way to stimulate the type II fibers is to use a heavier weight that will cause fatigue in a shorter period of time; which would you rather do? Use 5lbs. for 25 reps or 15lbs. for 8 reps? Read THIS BLOG to learn about strength training.
When returning to the gym, exercise like weight training should be completely safe, however save the high intensity interval training workouts for the outdoors. High intensity exercise will elevate breathing rates and cause people to push air out of their lungs more forcefully, not something that you want in an enclosed environment. There have been some indications that performing high intensity exercise in studios has resulted in outbreaks of COVID. Be smart, be safe, you should feel comfortable doing strength training at the gym, but continue your HIIT workouts at home, or at least outside in a favorite park.
You have survived quarantine, maybe you’ve gotten the shot, now it’s time to celebrate by returning to the gym and getting back to your favorite fitness routine. If you’ve let life happen to you, and have added a few pounds, keep in mind that they didn’t appear overnight and won’t disappear immediately. The two keys for a successful exercise program are finding out what works for you and consistency. As for consistency it’s important to do a little something every day. The days you’re feeling great or have a little more time try to exercise for a little longer or harder.
If you need some workout ideas, pick up a copy of the Dynamic Anatomy e-book and Functional Core Workout bundle. The e-book will teach you how your muscles work while the exercise programs will show you how use them to do workouts that work!