It never fails to amaze me. People complain, complain, complain about not having enough time to work out, and then I see them in the gym spending hours and hours on exercises that are absolutely useless!
**Warning: If you’re highly committed to your workout routine, this might ruffle your feathers. If you don’t want your feathers ruffled, stop reading now.**
So, most people go to the gym for two basic reasons: to burn fat and to build or tone muscle. These are both great reasons to get your booty in gear and get going on a workout routine. However, I do have a newsflash for you…if you want to shred through fat and get toned, beautiful muscles, PUT DOWN THE 2 POUND DUMBBELLS!
There, I said it. I’ve been wanting to say this for five whole years. I have sat by in frustration as I watched gym-goers, especially women, perform useless exercise after useless exercise. Frankly, I don’t know why women are so weight-lifting adverse. Give a woman a toddler, two bags of groceries, a diaper bag, a purse and a ring of house keys and she’ll drag that load up three flights of stairs no problem. Give her a 20 pound weight and she’ll tell you she can’t lift that and even if she could, she’d have “man arms.”
I’m here to call bull and put an end to all the time wasting going on in gyms across America! And possibly across the world!
Whenever I am at the gym – which isn’t often, because I frequently get to swinging my kettlebell in my living room these days instead of trekking out in the rain (yes, I’m that adverse to water falling from the sky) – I see women agonizingly doing ridiculous exercises that won’t build strength for anything in the real world, and, even worse, are often dangerous. Perhaps worst of all, these women think that the hours they put in at the gym are giving them some benefit. The real truth? You can get a fat blasting workout in 10 minutes or less that will also build strength and cardiovascular endurance. The rest is just icing on the cake.
So, to help you eliminate the useless time wasters from your gym routine, I present to you…
1. Straight arm raises in front of you with dumbbells – Seriously? What are we building here, folks? The ability to lift buckets of water straight out and put them under a cow’s nose? WHEN will you EVER use this in real life? Not to mention, these little buggers have a nasty habit of causing tension in the trapezius muscles, which makes you come into my office to fix your neck pain. Don’t do this.
2. Any kind of weight lifting while standing on a bosu ball - Next time you stand on one of those half-moon bosu balls, take a look at your ankles in the mirror. Are they horizontal at the ankle joint? No? Well then, you’re in for some serious injuries in your future if you load an unstable ankle joint with weight. Bosu balls are for balance, not weight training. Stay on terra firma for the heavy lifting.
3. Bicep Curls – As my friend and strength coach, strongman, and kettlebell lifter extraordinaire Andrew Durniat says, “Nice biceps, what are you going to use those for?” Biceps can be pretty, sure. But doing bicep curls won’t make you stronger. Why? Well, we never contract one muscle in isolation, especially in our arms. When you lift things in real life, you use your whole body. If you want functional strength – the kind that will translate to carrying 30 pound purses and laptop cases without causing neck strain or low back pain – train across joints. That means, choose exercises that involve bending more than one joint at a time, like the classic overhead military press with either dumbbells or a bar. Bonus: Engaging more muscles means you burn more calories and get a total body workout for better overall muscle tone.
4. Read a book – If you can read while you’re doing it, it’s not super effective. Exercise is for more than your body. Movement keeps your mind young and improves body-mind coordination as well. If you want to read a book while riding a bike, that’s recreation. To get a workout, keep your focus straight. Hint: One of the most underused and overlooked pieces of equipment that almost every gym has is the rowing machine. No book reading possible there, just some serious full body conditioning (but make sure you get someone who knows what they’re doing to show you proper form so you get the maximum benefit without injury).
5. Anything with less than 10 pound dumbbells unless you’re seriously de-conditioned, a senior, or in rehab. If you’re going to the gym to burn fat and tone muscle, you need to add a lot more resistance than the weight of the purse you keep slung over your shoulder all day long. Raise the intensity and do fewer repetitions. You’ll be amazed at the results (and I promise, you won’t turn into the incredible hulk).
Just in case you’re still suspicious and think I’m lying about that last bit, let me share this picture with you from when I was in peak athletic condition for kettlebell training. That red bell over my head? That’s 32 kilograms or about 70 pounds. And yes, I got it up there with ONE ARM. Does it look like I have a lot of muscle bulk? Nope. The trick is training for function – the ability to generate force – instead of isolating each muscle and training it individually. The results are much different.