This is a Whole9 guest post by Peter Hirsh, a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years.
Trainers today often disagree about the methods that are the most appropriate for their clients for both exercise and nutrition. Enter into any gym and you can observe people using cardio machines, weight lifting machines and others using medicine balls, kettlebells and sandbags. I have been teaching health and fitness for over a decade and I still constantly learn new information about the best ways to achieve health. When I take a moment to consider how much there is to learn about the body, it’s understandable that most people are making big mistakes in their exercise routines. To add insult to injury, I have even seen professional courses teaching the next generation health pros completely inappropriate training methods.
It’s important to understand that your personal style of training may be different depending on your specific goals. I recommend considering exactly what your goals are before planning any fitness routine. In this article I will speak mostly to those with overall health, strength, injury prevention and weight management in mind for their fitness goals. If you have a goal of sport specific performance or even building vast amounts of muscle mass for ornamental purposes, understand that this article may not apply to you.
Here are the top five mistakes I see people making in their exercises routines when trying to achieve overall health:
1. No Corrective Strategy
In order to implement a corrective strategy you must first identify muscle imbalances. This often requires the assistance of a professional. It’s also important that you have a proper understanding of the various and most beneficial ways to fix the imbalance. This will probably be a combination of full range of motion exercises, stretching and massage. Knowing how and when to perform each of these strategies is also very important.
Most of my clients don’t believe me at first when I tell them that they don’t have a bad back, they just have tight hips. The good news is this means we can fix the problem, but it’s quite unexpected by people that have had doctors offer to slice them open and perform costly, invasive surgery. For most people, there are exercises that simply aren’t safe to perform without first developing flexibility and strength in a certain area.
2. Excessive Cardio
The notion of doing hours of cardio every week in order to lose weight came from the same belief that counting calories was the best way to lose or maintain normal weight. Over the past decade, it has become increasingly obvious that the quality of your food is actually far more important than the quantity of calories you intake. Some foods will increase the likelihood that the calories (energy) will be stored as body fat – even if it contains fewer calories than other more nutrient-dense foods. Excessive cardio is like low-fat food, it sounds like a great way to lose weight, but usually does more harm than good. Excessive cardio will overactivate your sympathetic nervous system and that fight-or-flight mechanism will drive up the production of stress hormones that will keep make it even harder for you to lose any weight. Short bursts of anaerobic activity, followed by partial or complete recovery, is a good way to improve cardio conditioning and assist in weight loss.
3. Muscle Isolation Weight Lifting
As I mentioned, if your goal is to have big, sexy muscles, then by all means, isolate one muscle at a time. However, most people in gyms have a performance or health related goal in mind, and for them, I say don’t isolate your muscles! Remember, in the real world your body knows movement, not muscle. This means motor patterns, balance, stability, flexibility, muscle mass and endurance all contribute to your ability. Muscle isolation is much harder on your joints and may reduce your flexibility if not accompanied by a good mobility program. It also takes a much greater time commitment than fully kinetic exercises because not only do you not train as much muscle at once but you also don’t get the the cardiovascular benefit of full body weight lifting. Muscle isolation also won’t provide you with the flexibility or the neuromuscular benefit that functional training does.
4. Short Range of Motion
People all too often work within their comfort zone. This refers not only to exercise selection but also execution. People with tight hip flexors don’t stand all the way up out of a deadlift while people with tight hamstrings often don’t sit down all the way. People with tight lats lift weight overhead but often lift it fifteen degrees in front of their plumb line. The inability to rotate in your thoracic spine carries over to every step, bend, pull and push you do in your life, making movement less safe and less efficient. Learn how to lift and move properly and then push your limits of flexibility in the areas that need it. Do this evenly on both sides of your body.
The idea that “This could be the last workout I ever do!” seems to be at the forefront of many people’s psyche when they go to the gym. People often push themselves so hard that there is nothing left to push with. In reality this method is more likely to leave you hurt or at least force you to spend many days off in between workouts trying to recover. I often hear people telling me how they are doing “two-a-days” meaning they workout usually in the morning and in the afternoon. What amazes me the most about their determination isn’t the fact they are able to push that hard, but that they feel they are able to rest and recover properly to get any benefit from training this much. I’m not telling you it can’t be done, but that more effort would be needed for recovery than for the workout itself.
These clearly aren’t the only mistakes people make in the gym and with exercise in general but they are quite common and often overlooked by many. Lifting with improper form is another common mistake I frequently see and this is often due to poor instruction received at some point. Kettlebell workouts are an excellent way to avoid many of these common mistakes. Kettlebells are an excellent full body workout that allow you to tone your muscles and improve your cardio all in one. Using kettlebells will help you achieve the fitness goals you want without injury or other consequences. However, it’s extremely important to develop a proper foundation and perfect your form when kettlebell training or you won’t see the benefit these tools provide. As with anything, the more specific you get the more there is to learn.
For those people who are looking to give kettlebell training a try here is a basic workout I have created that shows the proper progressions and form of each basic kettlebell movement.
Peter Hirsh is a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years. Peter has dedicated his life to the enrichment and well being of others and currently owns Peter’s Personal Training where he teaches classes and trains students one on one in San Diego, California. Wanting to reach a larger number of people with his teachings, Peter started Kettlebell Movement, a website dedicated to maintaining the authentic teachings of kettlebell training and promoting a simple and effective holistic lifestyle anyone can follow. Connect with Peter on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or Instagram.
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