Gym thoughts–please don’t do that!

No really, I beg of you, don’t do that. It hurts me just to watch you.


This is an old photo of esteemed former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, totally messing up triceps dips. It was a long time ago, so I’ll give him a pass (though that logic didn’t work for Maria, did it?).

While I’ve never actually seen the Terminator at my gym, I have seen a lot of people doing crazy, scary versions of various exercises. Some have incorrect form on a common movement, but some look to be making up moves never before seen by exercise physiologists. It makes me want to ask, “What do you think you are accomplishing with that exercise?” Not in a snotty, rhetorical way. I really want to know what they’re trying to do, and then I want to help them do it better. So far I haven’t had the courage to actually approach someone, though if you were a fly on the wall, you might catch a fleeting look of horror on my face.

A lot of the time folks are doing exercises that are pretty much a big ‘ol waste of precious time. Both men and women are guilty of it, though in different ways. If you’re wondering if it’s you, check out this post and this post, for some common mistakes.

But as high intensity workouts and bootcamp-style classes have gained in popularity, increasingly I see exercises that are down-right frightening. I’ve always been a stickler for form, but I’ve noticed that since I hurt my back, I’m even more attuned to movements likely to cause injury. The more complex the move, and the faster you try to execute, the more likely you are to hurt yourself if you don’t have the proper foundation of fitness.

As much as I hate to say this, I think a class atmosphere increases the likelihood of injury. It’s competitive, the moves are usually one-size-fits-all (with yoga often being an exception), and even if the instructor is highly qualified, it’s impossible to keep a constant eye on every participant, or give one-on-one corrections when needed.

So what’s an exerciser to do? If something hurts, stop. That simple.

I don’t mean the searing heat you feel in your lungs after an all out sprint, or the warm burn of lactic acid build-up in fatigued muscles. Nope, I’m not giving you permission to quit because of stuff like that. I’m talking about a sudden, sharp pain in the knee, shoulder or back while performing a certain movement, or a dull, swollen ache in the elbow or knee after a workout session. That is your body’s way of telling you something ain’t right. Either you are doing something wrong, and your form needs work, or you have an underlying muscle imbalance or issue that is being exacerbated.

Oh yeah, and hire a personal trainer. But more on that tomorrow.

Btw, there is a high likelihood that people at my gym wonder why the heck I’m doing some of the weird exercises I’m doing (they’re for my back, people), and I’m certain some of the weird stuff I’ve seen is for a good reason too. But some of it is not.


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