Last week on our new feature, Why You’re Workout Isn’t Working, we talked about goal setting and the importance of having realistic expectations when embarking on a fitness regimen. We got a great response to the piece so this time around we’re talking about exercise selection and the importance of picking the right exercises for your particular goals.
Too often I see people choosing the wrong modes of exercise blindly trying to reach their goals. This is because they don’t really have an understanding of what effect particular exercises have on the body.
Every exercise, performed on a regular basis, creates specific results. Most of us want to be fitter, feel better, and lose some weight, but more often than not the manner in which people try to achieve these goals is completely off the mark. I see many people in the gym training like bodybuilders, runners, or focusing their efforts on modes of exercise that aren’t productive to their goals. Trying to become fit and thinking that ‘any exercise is good exercise’ just isn’t true.
People tend to gravitate towards exercises that they are naturally good at and in my opinion that makes their fitness program one-dimensional. There’s an old saying, “You are only in shape for how you train”, which means if you focus solely on only one form of exercise, don’t expect to be competent in others. When my own program focused primarily on weight training and bodybuilding, I certainly looked fit, but in truth the only thing I was fit for was lifting weights, and not much else. But now – after incorporating many different styles of training I not only look fit, but I’m also in the best overall shape of my life!
People always come up to me and tell me that their exercise program isn’t working, that they’ve been running 6 days a week, but they still can’t lose weight and they don’t feel any better. Well, no kidding! If you run everyday guess what you’ll be good at – running! That’s all…
Or I see people in the gym using the machine circuit, sitting on each piece, using them in a numbered order and moving at a snails pace with zero intensity. What’s that going to do for you? Make you better at sitting and become extremely efficient at wasting time!
What about reading while walking on a treadmill? If you can read and workout at the same time, I’m guessing it may be too easy – and is doing little for your general fitness! The point is good intentions and just showing up at the gym won’t get you fit, it’s what you do once inside that achieves results. And that means picking the right exercises to fit your goals.
I’m a big advocate of ‘complete’ fitness programs that encompass Resistance Training, Cardio Vascular Conditioning, Flexibility, Core, and Stability / Balance exercises. When you train only in one form you can actually cause some major issues. For instance, it’s no secret runners have terrible posture with rounded shoulders and shortened hamstrings. Likewise people who only take yoga are sometimes excessively flexible and may be at risk for muscle strains and injury. And of course bodybuilders often suffer tight muscles and joints due to the limited ranges of motion used in their programs.
In my heyday, and this is 100% true, I couldn’t touch my elbows together because my shoulders and upper back muscles were so tight. Once you develop these issues it takes a lot of corrective work and time to fix them. There is value and a place for all forms of exercise within a complete program, but they should be used as part of a program, not as THE whole program itself. You have to change it up!
Interestingly, many exercises often fulfill multiple functions or have higher “efficiency ratings”, meaning you get many more benefits from a given movement. For example weight training involves aerobic exercise and increases flexibility; stability and balance training can also help to develop strength; and core training can help your cardiovascular needs. You can therefore mix and match exercises as you wish to create the precise recipe for your personal goals. Each aspect plays a vital role in having a healthy, fit, toned body, and when you train correctly and completely, your entire program will improve because the results or adaptations from one mode of exercise will spill over into another.
Whatever your goals may be there is a program out there for you that will give you the roadmap to achieve them. There is nothing wrong with enjoying spinning, yoga, weight training or any other exercise program. If you want to ride a bike that goes nowhere for hours, or twist yourself into a pretzel because you like to, then go right ahead.
Just remember to make all of the above PART of a complete program, as you don’t want to just look better, you ultimately want to be feel better.
But what do you think? How do you train? And are you one of those people who just sticks to one form of exercise… start sharing your stories everyone…