There are so many people doing so many things wrong in the gym that I hardly know where to start when it comes to trying to get them to change their ways. The fitness field is unlike any other that I can think of, in that there has been little change in the mainstream public’s approach to exercise over the past 35 years. Every time I workout in a gym (not my own) I see an amazing array of ridiculousness.
So here is a list of seven things that people have to stop doing in the gym, in no particular order. Oh, and I’ll say “please,” because you really need to change.
1) Please stop doing all of the lateral, front and bent-over raises. You aren’t helping your shoulders, you aren’t building muscles or strength in any meaningful way, and you are wasting your time. As a matter of fact, you are hurting yourself. The deltoids are small muscles and do not need to be pounded with three different variations of high-volume training. If you want to build strong shoulders and give yourself the best chance to add muscle and improve function limit your shoulder training to military/overhead presses with dumbbells and barbells. Please.
2) For the love of Jack LaLanne please stop with all of the machine-based cardiovascular exercise. I understand the allure of the new fangled treadmills, stair climbers, elliptical trainers and all of their variations. But all that glitters isn’t gold, and won’t improve your fitness level either. Here’s a tidbit of info: Your hamstrings work in a completely opposite manner on the treadmill as they do on Terra Firma, so you really are teaching your body to move incorrectly if you do treadmill training. Try calisthenics, the rowing machine (the only good cardio machine), and movement-based exercises. And if you insist on doing the treadmill, stop holding on to the rails while leaning back, and don’t hold dumbbells, while walking. Pretty please…
3) Eliminate “Abs and Arm” days from your training regimen. Pretty please, with sugar on top. This kind of workout is probably the biggest waste of people’s time, along with “Number 2,” from above. Your biceps and triceps are tiny muscle groups and act as support to the larger muscle groups that are the prime movers in pushing and pulling. So if you are doing the right kind of training, your little biceps and triceps are getting more than enough stimulus to promote growth. Aside from those who are using steroids and other illegal muscle building drugs, doing a lot of arm training will actually keep your guns from growing. Show me someone who is awesome at doing push-ups and pull-ups and I’ll show you someone with great arms. And great abs, for that matter. If you spend a lot of time, actually any time, doing abs while lying down or seated in a machine you are wasting your time. Here is a homework assignment; research improving the strength of your abdominals and eliminate everything you find that has you horizontal or relies on a piece of equipment.
4) Don’t fall prey to the CrossFit/Boot Camp mentality, that says you can beat yourself into submission as a way to make you stronger, por favor. So not true. Every workout shouldn’t be about how much punishment you can take. If you ever watch the television show, “The Deadliest Catch” on the Discovery Channel you will see how putting the body in crushing physical situations only serves to break the body down over the long haul. 35-year old guys look like 55-year old guys and have a litany of permanent physical problems. The setting is different, but constantly beating yourself up in the gym is not a winning long-term strategy to improve performance or health and fitness.
5) Please stop sitting down during your workouts, both while exercising and while resting. You are in the gym to exercise and, except for rowing, there isn’t a physical activity worthwhile that is performed in the seated position. Staying on your feet during your training sessions one of the simplest ways to improve your workouts. And recent research shows that sitting can be as detrimental to your health as smoking. My sense is that this is a bit of hyperbole, but it has been shown that too much sitting has a negative effect on health and fitness even for people who get the recommended amount of exercise.
6) Use aerobics and spinning classes as the occasional change of pace to your routine, and not the backbone of it. Not to be too harsh, but next time you’re in a class, look around you and assess the state of your fellow class-goers. If these classes were so great, more people would be satisfied with the way they look and feel.
7) I’m begging you to stop working with any personal trainer who has you doing any of the following: using machines; has you exercising while lying down for more than 10% of your session; starts your workout by doing abs and/or arms; has you lunging or squatting with weights of any kind before you can properly perform these exercises while standing; watches while you are on a piece of cardio equipment (unless you are doing intervals during circuit training); pushes you to the point of nausea or exhaustion. There are more items I could add to the list, but I’ve gone on long enough.
So stop doing these things. Please.