Are We Really Ready For More?

Posted: November 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

Ok, so having taken almost 2 weeks off thanks to the Thanksgiving holidays and cocaine being one hell of a drug.  Sorry, did I say cocaine?  I meant tryptophan.  Don’t look at me like that.  You’ve confused the two before, don’t lie.  You haven’t?  Well then, sorry.  Apparently I’m a little crazy, but you’ve probably figured that out by now.

A couple of videos popped up over the long weekend that got me thinking about proper progression as it applies to exercise.  More specifically, how do we determine if someone is ready for something more advanced?  In the present day, the fitness landscape is a hodgepodge of activities ranging from powerlifting to whatever this is and literally everything in between.

The question I want to pose today is:  do we really need or even deserve all this variety?

The short answer:  No.

The long answer:  Hell no.

Well, actually…  The real answer is, it depends.  But we’ll get to that later.  And before you fire up the email account and blast me with run-on sentences composed solely of four letter words, hear me out.  I’m not saying that we don’t have the right to choose to do whatever we want when it comes to fitness.  Quite the contrary, I think you should be able to do whatever you want when it comes to your body.  It is afterall, yours and not mine.

But, there is a catch.

What people may not stop to consider is if they’ve actually earned the right to do certain forms of exercise.  Here’s what I mean:  Someone finally decides its time for them to get in shape, so they jump into the nearest boot camp or class or whatever it is that they can find.  The problem here is that some of these entities don’t have great assessment protocols and people end up doing things they’re not really ready to handle.  And if you just sign up at a gym and follow what everyone else is doing, well… good luck with that.

This happens more often than people think and usually ends up with someone getting hurt.  Or sometimes people just get lucky and escape injury.  This doesn’t change the fact that they put themselves at risk rather unnecessarily.

To give you a better idea of what I mean, here’s a Exhibit A:  This video is responsible for leaving me in the fetal position trying to gouge my eyes out with a splinter-laden wooden spoon.  DISCLAIMER:  You may end up doing the same.  Proceed with caution.

Understand that this wasn’t to rip on Crossfit in any way, shape, or form.  This can happen at any kind of gym.  Good things can come out of Crossfit, too.

Here’s Exhibit B:  Um.  Yeah.

And here’s Xzibit:

There’s a reason that girl can do what she does.  She understands how to move properly and probably had a pretty good sense of body awareness before entering Crossfit.  In the previous video, the poor suckers looked like wet noodles just trying to stand.  Should they be doing the same movement that the other girl destroyed?  Sorry, but the answer is hell to the no.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think that everyone should have the opportunity to learn a power clean.  It’s a phenomenal exercise.  But it requires a certain knowledge of using your posterior chain (back, glutes, hamstrings) and great levels of stability and mobility.  Even to the untrained eye, it’s fair to say the people in the first video looked like, for lack of a better word, shit.  So I’m sorry, they don’t get to learn the power clean, yet.  That’s not to say with proper coaching and progression that they can get there someday.  However, the fact remains that they definitely aren’t there yet and probably won’t get there with who ever was coaching them in that video.

And one more thing about knowing how to activate the posterior chain.  In my very short time as a trainer and strength coach, I’d say 90% of the people I’ve seen in gyms (that I’ve been in at least) don’t know how to do this.  Yet, these people continually force their way through squats and deadlifts and the ilk without knowing how to use some of the biggest muscles in their bodies.

So what’s my point?

My point is that the amount of weight on the bar, or the number of reps you do, or how fast you can do ‘Molly’ (not that Molly, put the glo-sticks away) is not the only factor when it comes to progression.  Why?  Refer to the previous paragraph.  People are performing exercises without actually knowing the finer points about proper movement.  Then they try to do even harder and more complicated movements.  You’ve all heard that building a house on sand is not a good idea.  Well, adding more weight to the bar when you shouldn’t even be squatting the bar itself is the fitness equivalent of that.

Even elite level athletes who need rather extreme methods of training to improve performance are no exception.  If they leave their movement patterns unchecked, they could develop problems without really knowing it.  And at the level these athletes push themselves, it greatly increases their risk of injury.  If the right muscles aren’t working at the right time with the proper amount of strength, chaos will be just around the corner.

So who are they aforementioned exceptions?  Those who take the time to get their movement patterns evaluated and make sure they keep them in check have earned the right to try bigger and better things.  It’s really that simple.  Walk before you run.

I’ll say one last thing for now.  If you are in competition and the stakes are high enough, you can tell me to screw off and that its all about the ‘W’.  I get that.  You just have to know where to draw the line for yourself.  If you take into account everything we’ve covered thus far and actually practice those things, chances are you’ll be less injury prone in competition.  If you’re going for a personal best in the deadlift, you get some leeway.  What I say here strictly applies to exercise for the sake of improvement, and not in competition.  Yes, that means you Crossfit, who is now a sport.  Way to find a loophole there.

Ok.  I tried to stay away from an all out rant, so I hope I succeeded.  And since I’ve been harping on this movement stuff so much, it would probably be wise for me to go into more detail on the specific movements.  So, stay tuned for now.  The cocaine er… turkey leftoevers should wear off in the next few days and I’ll be back with more for you guys.  And as always, thanks for stopping by, Whale’s Vagina.


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