Five fitness trends that need to go away

Do you even breathe, bro?

Do you even breathe, bro?

Consider this my periodic grumpy post. The “get off my lawn” eruption that has to happen to relieve pressure in my skull before it pops like a shaken soda can.

I follow fitness trends quite a bit, mostly because this is not only a subject that interests me, but one I believe is vital. I want to be climbing mountains, running trails and pumping iron well into old age. That’s not a pride thing; I just don’t want to be infirm and immobile in my later years, so I plan to do everything I can to prevent that.

I follow the trends to see what might help me achieve that long-term goal. Some things are worthwhile. Others make me cringe. I want to address the latter. So here goes…

It’s time to retire the Bosu ball.

Ankle/knee injury in 3...2...1...(Sean Hiller/dailybreeze.com photo)

Ankle/knee injury in 3…2…1…(Sean Hiller/dailybreeze.com photo)

I’m sure there is a use for this semi-spherical cousin of the Swiss ball, but every time I see people squat-pressing dumbbells while standing on a Bosu ball, I want to hit something. Hard. I understand the desire to work all those stabilizer muscles, which is what the Bosu ball is all about. But there is a good chance if you’re squatting, or squat-pressing or — God forbid — doing some single-leg movement on a Bosu ball, there is also a high likelihood you are performing the exercise with dreadful form, and likely entrenching said bad form into your muscle memory. You’d be better off doing your bilateral and unilateral exercises on a sold surface, and maybe do some band walks, side lunges or maybe some cone or ladder drills to work all those precious stabilizer muscles you think you’re neglecting. Unless you’re a surfer, the idea of standing on an unstable surface while exercising is more silly than useful, and potentially injurious.

Let’s send the burpee to pasture.

burpees1

Burpees seem to be the staple metabolic conditioning exercise of boot camps and Crossfit gyms everywhere. Social media is rife with people doing burpee challenges. Yes, they’re hard and will get your heart rate up quickly. But here’s something else: Burpees also reinforce something most exercisers need to de-emphasize — anterior movements. Anterior movements, if you don’t know, are exercises that focus on the front side of your body. Most of us, because of our jobs (white or blue collar), already have tight chests and shoulders and stretched/weak back muscles. This is why so many people have shoulder joint problems, poor posture and hunched backs. The squat and jump of the burpee is fine, but that push-up is just one more exercise working the front side of your upper body, when what you probably need is something that works your back (posterior movements!). A butt-kicking WOD or endless boot camp circuits that rely on burpees are taking you to the fast track of shoulder issues. Need met-con? Do some sprints. And throw some pull-ups in there, chief. Make sure every front-side push is balanced by at least a couple of back-side pulls. If you’re not doing that and you’re loading up on burpees, it’s time to rethink that circuit. Show some imagination!

The training mask. ARRRRGGHHH.

Yes, because not being able to breathe will help you squat better.

Yes, because not being able to breathe will help you squat better.

I can’t decide if this is a residual of Ultimate Fighter wannabes trying to look more legit at the gym or if there is a market for people wanting to look like Bane from Batman. The concept is to mimic altitude, or just make it harder to breathe while pounding out circuits on the treadmill, or lifting weights, or whatever. This is dumb, so please stop. Simulating altitude is a matter of making your conditioning harder. So do that! Ratchet up the intensity — it’s free, and you don’t have to wear that sweaty thing on your face. And wearing one while lifting? Just don’t. You need all the oxygen you can get to lift as much as you can while training. That’s how you get stronger. Making it harder to breathe while you lift will only force you into lifting lighter weights, for fewer reps, and for fewer sets. That’s no way to get stronger. Oh, and let’s dump the snorkel masks, too.

The ab crunch and its angry granddaddy, the sit-up, need to go.

crunches

These exercises, even when done right, ain’t too swift for the lower back. Most people also pull on their heads during the upward movement, which also IS. NOT. GOOD. And the payoff? Far less than you’d expect. Replace these exercises with some planks (but don’t be a weirdo and hold planks for five-plus minutes), side planks, and maybe a few other wonderful core exercises (dead bugs and Pallof presses/holds come to mind) that will actually work your core without torqueing your spine. Speaking of that, let’s dump weighted crunch machines, too. All of the yuck of crunches and sit-ups, but with weighted resistance added. Sounds like turd stew to me.

Put a stake in the heart of the run streak.

Man, my knee hurts. But I've got to keep my run streak going!

Man, my knee hurts. But I’ve got to keep my run streak going!

Runners are a funny bunch. Every day not consumed, in part, by a run feels like a wasted opportunity to this crowd. They want to run every damn day. So someone concocted the idea of the run streak, which is a lot like these month-long burpee challenges that annoy me so much. But with run streakers, the party goes on and on and on… and then you get hurt. Runners are particularly vulnerable to overuse injuries, which is why we are often told to program rest days, to taper before races, and even to take occasional breaks from running for a week or two. The run streak negates all this, never giving your body the time it needs to recover from all those miles. Why do this? Pride? Fun? Motivation? OK, do what you want to do. Just tell me how proud you’ll be of being sidelined, how much fun it will be when you can’t run, and how motivational people will find you when you’re in a boot with a stress fracture. One of the most important parts of training is recovery, so if you want to be a runner over the long haul, you’ll blow off all those stupid run streaks. Rest so you can run another day.

Glad I got that off my chest. Cranial pressure is (temporarily) relieved. Do you disagree? Holler and tell me why. Have some more fitness trends you’d like to see sent packing? Comment below.

Bob Doucette

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4 thoughts on “Five fitness trends that need to go away

  1. Bob, this is an amazing post!
    I’ll start replacing sit-ups with planks, I find them more challenging anyway. BTW, have you seen the cha-cha slide plank? LOL

    I totally agree with you on the run streak, I think it’s more beneficial to run longer distances, and rest your body for a day or two afterwards, than running every single day!

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