Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bullshit... Exercise Edition

I must have liked using the word, “Bullshit,” in the last blog entry. I started doing my own version of BULLSHIT, putting my cross hairs on the nutrition side of things, shooting at what I consider some major crocks of cow crap. I mentioned that there was plenty of this to go around and this time, I’m taking another heaping soup spoon of it and focusing on the exercises-end. This time, however, I’m going to put them in order of BULLSHIT-iness as I see it.

1. THE BENCH PRESS IS BULLSHIT! Every time I say something to voice my dislike of the bench press, I end up kicking up a pretty major fire ant-hill. I just don’t like this lift that much, and somehow it ended up as the number one way to show off how powerful you really are. Never mind that it doesn’t evenly develop your shoulder muscles, leading to posture problems, winged scapula, and reduces the ability to raise the arms overhead properly.

Sure, you could balance it out with some overhead work, some push-up work, some face pull work on the cable machines, and/or some pull-ups. Or you could do some weighted push-ups, weighted dips, or work both on a suspension trainer. Hell, you could combine the two if you're tough enough! The truth of the matter is that the chest is responsible for moving your arms in numerous ways. So, it responds to a lot of different exercises pretty favorably. Far too many, in fact, to pigeon-hole your training down to one that needs a supplemental exercise to make sure that you don’t spend the rest of your days with rotator cuffs that do a passable imitation of a cheese grater.

2. RUNNING LSD IS BULLSHIT! I think that when people complain about not having enough time to exercise and exercise is boring, I think that the bulk of them have Long, slow distance (LSD) running in mind. With all due respect to Goddess Pauline Nordin, this is just flat-out BULLSHIT! Let's just look at the practical side of things for a moment (which I'm particularly big on doing). Many/most of us have those days where we can barely muster up 30-45 minutes a day to train. So, we have to spend it all on a "fat burning" exercise? No strength training? Come on, there are better ways! Properly done, you can get the same workout with jump rope in a fraction of the time and train your balance and coordination all in one.

One thing that I'd like to touch on is the notion that LSD is a great fat-fighting exercise. To some degree, it is. If you start out overweight and out-of-shape, then your body will respond to this by slicing up some of your stored fat, converting it to glycogen and burning it in the muscles. That's good, but it doesn't last. Here's the problem: remember how I informed you that your body's been biologically wired to love fat cells more than muscle cells? So, when the body starts losing what it perceives to be too much fat, it will start getting rid of muscle cells that it thinks that it doesn't need. This is how it's possible to end up with skinny arms, legs, and inexplicably, some belly fat. LSD has proven to waste away muscle, drop metabolism and stimulate hunger. It now all fits together now, doesn't it?

I'd much rather reach for a jump rope, do a scab run, sprint, do animal walks (duck walk, bear crawl, etc), or interval training. I get a lot more done in a lot less time while still keeping bodyfat in check (which, incidentally, is controlled more by diet than exercise).

3. Crunching is BULLSHIT! I would have put crunching at number one of this list if the only qualification for the top spot were exercises that promoted poor and weak posture. One thing that I noticed years ago in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was some of the biggest crunchers were also the ones complaining most frequently about back pain. I've said this before but Chip Conrad explained this best a long time ago: stand up, place your hands behind your back, and using your abs, bring your head and torso forward and down, like you were doing a crunch standing up. Note your posture. Not good, is it? Why would it suddenly be good for you just because you're lying down?

The science is finally telling the truth: crunching sucks for your abs. It was thought that the abdominals were primarily responsible for bringing the torso forward. In reality, their biggest, most important (but not only, BTW) job is providing stabilization for the spine when it's under a heavy or difficult load. The crunch does nothing to enhance your ability to do that. Some strength training brainiacs are even going so far as to say that an ab exercise that doesn't support weight doesn't do anything beneficial for the abs. I'm not sure I'd go that far but I agree that the crunch might be near the bottom of the list of most important ab exercises that you can do. If you insist on doing a crunch-like exercise, then I'd recommend the V-up. Other than that, just can this BULLSHIT exercise.

What is kind of interesting about this collection of crap is that they're all pretty new exercises, or exercise methodology. If you go back 50 or so years, Nobody did these. I don't know if you're the type to believe that trainers and training were much more honest then they are now (I'm still somewhat torn) but if you were, the fact that these new developments didn't even factor into some of the luminaries of a bygone age's training might suggest something: they were never worth doing to begin with. There were better options for the task that these crappy ideas. Well, not that much as changed. They still suck.

Find alternatives. Take this info as cautionary. A lesson learned. Do what farmers do with bullshit: dispose of it and make something useful out of it.


t said...

Love the last comment. What is your suggestion on improving the abdominal/core muscles, besides the wrestlers bridge?

Justin_PS said...

Oh, man, where do you want to start? There are tons of ways! Dragon flags, ab wheel roll-outs, one-arm planks, hanging leg raises, hanging winshield wipers, combine the last two, One-arm-push-ups, hanstand push-ups, superman push-ups...

do I need to get going?

t said...

Good point about where to start. I guess I got caught up into thinking I need to isolate the core in a particular exercise (like the bs crunch appears to do).

Anonymous said...

good call on this one. I notice even just doing pushups can work the core to a reasonable degree, even moreso if I focus on it during the pushups

Sifter said...

You're young, so we should cut you some slack.....
THE BENCH PRESS..... sure, if you use improper form you'll mess up your shoulders. But show me ANYBODY who can bench at least 300 lbs who ISN"T pretty damm strong!. I've never met a over 300 lb bencher who wasn't mostly ox. Sure, he may have been fat and or out of condition, but his strength was inarguably solid.
Don't be so quick to write off the Bench Press no matter how 'fashionable' it is in 'trainer' circles.
LSD running...... yeah, it's fun to pick this one apart, we should do Tabatas, intervals, circuits, KB swings + burpees, ANYTHING but LSD, right? WRONG. Go see how ParaRescue (PJ) airmen train endurance, or Korean Tigers, or Israeli paratroopers. Two ways: repetitive sprints (yes, there is definitely a place for them) AND Long Slow Boring pain in the ass Distance running (or marching) Different aerobic system, needs to be trained. Don't buy into all the 'science' touted by guys who trained specifically, and only, to do KB swings. Ask your Ranger friends what they do for endurance. 25 klicks witha 45 lb pack, that's what