It might have been before my time but I want to imagine that the fitness industry used to be simple.
If you wanted to get strong you lifted weights. If you wanted to improve your cardio, you did some running or biking.
Then as we “progressed,” more and more information came out that just confuses the crap out of everyone.
Today we have so many different types of fitness options that it becomes that much harder to decide which one to do.
There also seems to be an attitude that has changed over time. Programs seem to either be extreme or so easy that no one is going to benefit from them.
There are gyms that might only have a few pink dumbbells lying around, with some other fitness equipment, which will almost ensure that nothing gets accomplished.
Other facilities are starting to ban beneficial exercises for reasons that I do not know.
Movements like deadlifts are being outlawed around the country even though they are one of the best exercises.
There are other lifts that get banned and usually it has to do with damage to the facility, like T-bar rows against a wall, or taking up space in a crowded gym, like jump roping. I think those ideas are more justified but still not right.
When it comes to deadlifts though, I believe that something else is at play. Someone who can do deadlifts the right way might seem intimidating to an average gym-goer. The members might be uncomfortable having someone working out that is actually strong and has reached goals before.
If someone cannot handle the idea of a person deadlifting next to them then they probably are not set up for success to begin with.
On the other end of the spectrum we have the more advanced, and sometimes extreme, types of working out. The high intensity, high complexity programs might be great for former athletes or people that have been consistently working out for years. They can be a disaster for the average person.
Now there are some publicized fitness competitions like the Crossfit Games or the new NPFL that are sending the wrong message.
The programs I am talking about always tout the fact that they have the most fit and healthy people around. Their types of training are inspiring.
My question becomes inspiring to who?
There is an obesity epidemic in this country and people sit on their couches more than ever. These are the people that need the most help, but they need the simplest programming.
Former athletes, members of the armed forces, gym owners, etc. are the ones that have the most success with workouts designed to give you an ass kicking. There are also some people that do not fit this idea but they have the proper qualities for success in them.
Someone who is 100 pounds overweight might be watching rope climbs on TV and think “well I will never be able to do that until I lose the weight.” This is a suppressing idea.
These people are already set up to fail.
The fitness industry needs to do a better job of defining what programs are for what people.
Someone that cannot hit a full squat for various reasons (lack of mobility, structural differences, previous injury) is not going to do well in an Olympic lift or barbell class.
Right now the most popular types of training either include movements that are too advanced for the average person, or so basic and machine based that progress will be difficult to come by.
So what are the keys to success when it comes to training?
Can the person squat, hinge, lunge, press, and pull through a full range of motion without compensation?
Those are the movements that all exercises are based off of. Being able to get in the correct positions is essential for good training.
A lack of mobility stunts progress. Less muscle groups get activated and the body cannot work to its full potential. This robs the body of its strength gains and energy expenditure.
When someone is fully mobile in all areas the progress seems to sky rocket.
Getting people strong takes care of most training goals. Training for strength builds lean muscle and burns a lot of calories during and post workout.
Good strength training involves total body lifts that includes legs, core, and upper body. They do not have to be at the same time but these areas need to be addressed.
Presses, pushups, squats, lunges, and deadlifts (gasp) are all essential for building strength.
Everyone has individual differences but the template remains.
Oh, and no one ever got strong using 3 lb dumbbells. Challenge yourself to lift more each session. This can be adding weight, adding reps, or getting it done in less time.
Just be sure to use full range of motion and ensure that the exercises are hard.
*core stability exercises are a part of strength.
This is not a nutrition post so I am not going to get into it. Ignoring nutrition is a sure fire way to stunt your progress. Eat to enhance your progress.
4. Everything else
This is where conditioning and accessory work come into play.
If you want a workout finisher to get the heart rate up, great! Just choose one that suits you. Intervals on the treadmill might be a lot more feasible that a barbell complex in a busy gym and will get you similar results.
You want to go and run forever? Perfect, as long as you trained your strength and mobility that day.
Hate running? A kettlebell, med ball, or sled circuit will do the job.
Training does not have to be super complex but it does have to be enough to elicit a training effect.
Outside of those competing in powerlifting, I have never seen someone with great mobility and a high level of strength that was not lean.
I have no research to explain why but it appears to work that way.
Training is becoming more confusing than ever. That is why I encourage you to build a good base of strength and mobility.
The rest of the stuff is accessory work and will enhance your ability to train, decrease risk of injury, and build a lean strong body.