[fitness friday] Why YOUR search for the “Perfect Workout” is futile

John & Leigh on the set at NBC15 Madison. February 2015.
John & Leigh on the set at NBC15 Madison. February 2015.

The Perfect Workout Does Not Exist!

written by john c ashworth, ma
20-Year Fitness Coach and Life-long Bohemian Athlete

Trust me.  The Perfect Workout for you does not exist!  This elusive and seductive search we all have a tendency to engage in is a complete waste of time.  Worse, because there is no perfect workout system, your search can often lead you astray and end up causing more harm than good.

Here’s just one example…

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Methods are Many, and principles are few.”  In this author’s not so humble opinion, there has NEVER been a better example of this axiom than the current state of the fitness industry, where every time you open a magazine, step in to a gym, or even drive down your local avenue, you will find “evidence” of the this reality.

If you are someone who feels you’ve been struggling to find the perfect workout program, you will do well to heed this advice and learn and live by the principles I will outline tonight on NBC 15 with Leigh Mills for our Fitness Friday segment.  Of course, I will also outline them below now, but we appreciate you tuning in later too 🙂

Before I do this, however, allow me to be very clear…There is NO Such Thing as  a Perfect Fitness Program!  The irony is that your search for this elusive perfect program is likely the thing that is holding you back.  Instead of the magical fitness program that will somehow allow you to break through all of the barriers and obstacles thatstand between you and health and fitness success, let’s now discuss four simple principles that will finally allow you to make consistent and effective progress.

Actually, before I lay out the principles, I want to make a couple more important points.  First, here is a good example of what I’m talking about.   As reported in The July/August Issue of Men’s Fitness, the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport compared two different programs and their effects on strength in Rugby players.  One was an old-fashioned training model, and the second was a modern day rendition of the same concept.  I don’t want to get in to the specifics of the training programs.  I’ll do that in a different post.  For now, just know that one was old school, and one was new school.

The results?

Ultimately, both groups of rugby players made gains, and there were no statistically significant differences between the two groups of athletes.  In addition to this study, there are others, but I will spare you the details, because the results are the same.  Old school often equals new school when it comes to your fitness program.

Here are the Four Core Principles for Finding a Strength and Conditioning Program that works for you

  1. Balance.  For every pushing exercise, you should have a pull.  And for every upper body exercise, you should have a lower body move.  This prevents muscular imbalances that can cause injuries over time.  Also, you need time for recovery.  Do not perform more than 3 high intensity workouts in a week.  You’ll burn out and your effectiveness will be diminished in your next workout if you have not given your body enough time to recover.  Good nutrition is also essential.  Lastly, some say that when it comes to strength training, if you’re over 35, you don’t EVER have to lift heavy.  Personally, I disagree with this one and would say that you should still life havey if you’re over 35, but that you need to be careful to do it the right way and in the right amounts, and only after you have achieved advanced levels of fitness and balance of strength in your body.
  2. Challenge.  Base your program around hard exercises like squats, lunges, pull-ups and push-ups.  If you can’t yet do a push-up or pull-up that’s OK.  The main thing here is that your workouts need to be challenging, and that they need to preogress when you become stronger and more fit.  Those strolls on the treadmill are nice, but they are probably not doing a whole lot for your overall fitness and weight loss results.
  3. Specificity. Your training adaptations are specific to the work you are performing.  As such, if you have specific events you are training for, or parts of your body that you would like to focus on for whatever reason, make sure you hire an expert to help you create programs that meet your specific needs.  Put most simply…If you’re training for a marathon, you need to do a lot of running and a little bit of strength and cross training.  On the other hand, if you want to prevent from tearing your hamstring muscle in half while playing indoor soccer, than some sprint and specific hamstring training is in order.  You get the idea…
  4. Variety.  This is probably the one principle where most people get stuck.  Not enough variety.  Due to a lack of expertise or interest or drive, you end up performing the same or similar workout over and over again.  You MUST vary your training, and very often hiring a professional trainer is the best way to do this.  You don’t have to work with him or her constantly, just often enough to update your fitness program effectively.

OK.  …go get em’

-John

PS  Interested in hiring me to help you adopt the four principles?  I’m available on a very limited bases as a virtual coach.  Send email to: fitnessnomad(at)gmail.com with the phrase “Principle are Few” in the subject line and I’ll get back to you within 48 business hours.

 

 

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