Seven Sins of Fitness
If you want to be physically fit, lifting weights is one of the best ways to
achieve that. But lifting weights can also be one of the barriers to ever
- Cheating on form so you can use more weight. It's not the weight that
stimulates the adaptive response. In fact, if you are cheating (using
momentum, recruiting other muscles too much, etc.) it's very likely you are
under-stimulating the very muscles for which you are doing that exercise.
When you cheat, it's highly unlikely you are getting the needed intensity.
This means your workout was pretty much for nothing.
- Bouncing weights. This is a form of cheating, for most exercises. Some
weight training systems recommend bouncing for specific exercises. For
example, the Position of Flexion system uses three positions to work each
muscle. POF does not recommend bouncing as a way to do every exercise. They
do recommend it for a specific purpose for a specific exercise.
Unless you're working a system like POF and understand why you could/should
bounce the weight, don't bounce the weight. Doing so can lead to serious
injury and typically reduces the productivity of the exercise. What kind of
injury are we talking about? Ask your doctor if it's a lot of fun to have
torn ligaments and see how that conversation goes.
- Cardio before weights. Many trainers recommend this. What, are they
nuts? That depends. For someone who is going from rock bottom bloated couch
potato, this is a good approach. The reason is that this person needs to
warm up and get blood flowing, more than anything else. S/he is so out of
shape that even low intensity exercise will produce an adaptive response.
After a month of this, the trainer needs to reduce the preworkout cardio
while increasing weight training intensity.
Once you've passed from a condition barely above comatose, your body needs a
stronger stimulus for it to want to build more muscle or burn more fat. That
means higher intensity workouts. But there's only so much energy in your
body. If you drain it off by doing cardio first, your intensity will be too
low for your workout to have much, if any, effect.
And that's not all that goes wrong. Because your store of glycogen was
depleted during cardio, guess what your body breaks down for fuel next?
Muscle. Now, some people believe the more you blast your muscles and the
longer you do it, the more they will grow.
Lee Haney disagrees. He won Mr. Olympia 8 times. You draw your own
This brings us to, "What is cardio?" Doing a short warm-up is fine. You
don't lose much glycogen that way, and you get some blood flowing through
the connective tissue. But extensive stretching (which weakens and lengthens
the muscle and dramatically increases the odds of injury), or treadmill
work, or anything that gets your heart rate up is starting to move you away
from a productive workout.
- Heels rising. Because many athletes do the squat with a small board
under their heels, many people assume that raising your heels is good form.
That board helps with balance, but it's like having training wheels on a
bike. You want to graduate from that. The higher your heels are off that
floor, the more stress you put on the knee ligaments. A squat should build
your knees, not put them at risk.
Another problem with raising the heels is you change the mechanics of the
exercise. To balance properly during the squat, you must call on your
hamstrings and glutes. But with the heel raised, these get underworked.
Consequently, you get muscle imbalances. In this particular case, back pain
is inevitable. You will probably also develop pains elsewhere.
How to spot a heel raiser from across the gym: look for the protruding
belly. This is an adaptation to the mechanical imbalances. This person may
even have ripped abs, but how good do they look when that person's belly
- Quasimodo posture. Maybe he's ignorant about bodybuilding, but 6-time
Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger says to "be open." If you look at him in
ANY of his poses, his back is straight and not rounded. This posture even
has a name: the bodybuilder posture. Consistently pulling your shoulders
back is how you get it. The visual result from the front is an expansive,
If you don't care to look as good as you can, then maybe rounding your
shoulders forward is OK? Nope. That rounded posture puts all kinds of undue
stress on the structures of the shoulders, hips, and spine. Foot pain is
another consequence of this, as are neck pain, and headaches.
While it is true you can bench press more by rounding your shoulders
forward, it is also true that you will probably not ever increase your bench
by very much with that posture. What happens is you recruit the front delts
instead of working the pecs. Sure, you might also get sore pecs, but you are
not getting the proper stimulus for growth. So the pain is for nothing.
- Overtraining. Your muscles need time to recover. I quote
Lee Haney, "You want to stimulate your muscles, not annihilate your
- Sports drinks. Ever see someone at the gym, sucking down some fancy
sports drink? This is a huge mistake. Those drinks are loaded with sugar,
and usually with an especially potent form called high fructose corn syrup.
It's an endocrine modifier. The result is your hormonal environment is all
wrong for building muscle. When you most need testosterone to rise, it
instead drops like a rock.
These drinks do not "give you energy" or "replace lost electrolytes." That's
all hype. They do screw up your whole glycogen cycle thing, thereby
short-circuiting your training. And you're not losing enough electrolytes to
worry about. You should be drinking water. But not anything else.
"Whoa, dude. What about that protein shake after my workout?"
Stop right there. Your body can absorb, at most, about 20g of whey at one
time. A big 50g whey shake means 30g of whey will be stored as fat. Not to
mention the various carbs added to it if you're making a big concoction or
picking one up at the gym's counter.
What you want to do is treat that after workout shake like any other meal.
You need six meals a day, with each one providing about 1/6th of your daily
protein. And that protein should contain no more than 20g of whey.
Understand that different proteins absorb at different rates. So, you could
eat a shake with 40g of protein and your body could use it all.
Simply adding a calorie bomb to your diet just because you burned off 250
calories at the gym will not make you fit. But it will make you fat. Protein
supplementation is good. But cabbage also good for you. Try eating an entire
head of cabbage at one time and see what happens. Too much of a good thing
ends up being a bad thing.
What to do? Use a
quality protein supplement and fit it into your meal plans.