Updated: Feb 4, 2021
Before jumping into this blog, I would like to first preface that I believe any exercise is better than no exercise and I applaud anyone trying to better themselves with fitness. For those seeking fitness guidance, make sure the information you are following is from a reliable source, not just from someone who has great genetics and looks naturally athletic. The current barrier of entry is so low to be a personal trainer which means there is a wide range of information available. Our purpose as fitness professionals is to create a workout experience that is fun, safe, and yields optimal results. Some trainers and clients tend to solely focus on the “fun” box but will neglect the other boxes which is what inspired me to write this blog.
Keep it Simple
Over the years, I’ve lost track of the number of insane workouts that I’ve seen celebrities, athletes, and “fitness influencers” sharing to the masses. Many of these high risk/ low reward exercises can mislead audiences, leaving them with the idea that they should try to replicate. While these workouts may seem impressive, they are not always ideal for long-term progression and success. As Peter Drucker says, "What gets measured, gets managed". When I see a multi-million dollar athlete or celebrity squatting on a Bosu ball I have one simple question; why? Do they think it will increase performance? Because research shows that it does not. There is certainly a time and place for unstable surface training, I.E. rehab, but other than that I see no logical place for it in the strength and conditioning realm. When in doubt, refer back to the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid. All of these high-intensity workouts look great on Instagram but increase the chance of injury, provide no greater result, and in turn can prolong any results you seek.
High Results, Low Risk
Let’s consider the SAID principle (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands). This states that the human body will adapt, both biomechanically and neurologically, to the given stressors placed. If I had you perform barbell back squats on an icy pond, do you think you could lift the same amount on solid ground? I highly doubt it. The same principle can be applied to squatting on a physioball, as the body will adapt to meet the specific demands of the circumstance. Less stimuli = less force output. The main goal of strength training– athletes in particular– is to create a stimulus that yields the highest result with the lowest injury risk.
Consider the Why
The crazy intense workouts you see on social media often lack the "why" and the trainer is usually in need of an exercise taxonomy. I worked for a commercial gym for years before opening Slight Edge Fitness & Performance (shameless plug) and I once saw a trainer have a client go from barbell deadlifts to burpees over the barbell to outrageously high box jumps that they barely could manage. Again, I ask why? To burn more calories one might assume. Okay sure... but have you considered the risk vs. reward when combining these movements? It seems the trainer is potentially stringing together exercises on the fly, rather than using a customized training program that reconnects to the client’s initial assessment and goals. Coach Michael Boyle famously calls these trainers “chainsaw trainers” meaning that they only have one tool in their toolbox. No matter what the client’s goals, injury history, or training level, that trainer will give clients the only exercises that they know. Instead, each exercise that is prescribed should have progression, regression, and/or lateral options that fit each client's fitness level and anatomy.
Referring back to “Exercise Taxonomy”, Dr. Pat Davidson states “You can effectively classify any form of life on the planet by going through the hierarchical arrangement of (Carolus) Linnaeus’ taxonomy. In my mind, the world of exercise is not very different from the world of life.” What Dr. Pat Davidson is saying is that if scientists discover a new life form, they can refer back to their taxonomy system and classify the species. Exercise should be no different. It is easy to see someone performing a goblet front squat and classify it in the squat family. But let’s take the notorious burpee. I have trouble fitting this exercise into an exercise taxonomy because it’s a bunch of movements put together for no reason other than to hurt your wrists. Personally, I try to make my exercise taxonomy as simple as possible which consists of variations of: squats, lunges, hinges, vertical upper body pushes, vertical upper body pulls, horizontal upper body pulls, horizontal upper body pushes, anti-movement core, sprinting, throwing, and jumping. Not everyone will agree with this list and that's fine, but this is how I view exercise programming through my coaching lens.
Realize your Goal
If your main goal is to gain “likes” on social media, then by all means carry on. But if the goal is to be fit, healthy, and pain-free for the long-term, then I highly recommend you choose exercises that can be measured, progressed/regressed, and provide the greatest return with the lowest risk of injury. If you are looking for a customized program that will set you up for long-term success, email us at Slightedgefit@gmail.com.