Are You in an Exercise Rut?

Lots of people have a standard exercise routine, and routine by definition is 'the same old thing.' The human body is smart. It finds ways to make things easier and more efficient. Many tasks, once learned, get shipped from the brain to the brainstem, like walking. Cheating or compensation in the weight room is really just the body's way of avoiding isolation and saying: 'I have a better way of doing that!' With regard to exercise, if you do the same type of cardio or lifting exercises day in and day out, the body will learn it, make it easier, and your exercise time will become less efficient and results limited. I'll wager that 90% of people at a health club start their exercise session by heading straight for the treadmill or elliptical to clock in 20-30 minutes. And, many of your so-called muscle dudes make Monday bench press day, Tuesday shoulder day, Wednesday arms day...and so on. Even if you don't belong to a fitness center, jogging day in and day out has limited results with overuse patterns and injury sure to set in. So, with that said, here are a few tips to...

Make Your Exercise Time More Efficient

Interval Training is Better
It is a fact that humans function more efficiently as interval machines. Our structure and Physiological makeup confirm it and studies prove you burn 8-9 times more calories with a higher metabolic rate following the session. We evolved, (and survived), in the ability to hunt, chase, and kill, then rest, eat, and be productive around camp. Designing a workout of various exercises, (usually falsely separated at weights & cardio), of 30-45 seconds each, followed by 1-2 minutes of rest is the way to go. Elevate heart rate, recover, repeat for 20-45 minutes. Perfect! The idea that 26.2 miles or an Ironman, is a true mark of fitness is preposterous. Overuse at its best.And, if your goal is to shed a few pounds and crank up your metabolism, nothing beats intervals.

Less is More
Who says you have to workout for an hour everyday? You know that responsible eating habits are 90% of the battle so a couple of hard resistance training workouts per week, and incorporating a long walk, a hike, a yoga or pilates class, and/or 20 minutes of sprints once a week are completely adequate. Recovery and regeneration are part of fitness.

Vary the Intensity
Going hand in hand with intervals, changing how much, (perhaps resistance, sets, reps, rest), how hard, (perhaps effort, resistance), and how long, (perhaps duration of set or workout), resistance type, (rubber tubing, Bowflex, water), body position, (standing, seated, lying, on a ball), are all tactics to employ. No one said you have to flop on a bench and do 10 reps with the 15 pound dumbbells every time you do a press.

Forget the Isolation of Body Parts Routine
Isolation is fine once in a while, biceps, triceps, etc, for specific goals, but know that there is truly no such thing as muscle isolation. AND, Isolation is not the way the body is intended to function. When you reach for a cup of water, I'm sure you don't think about shoulder flexion, elbow extension, elbow flexion, and glenohumeral internal rotation. It's all hard wired and happens naturally.
Incorporating more integrated movements, more often, like squats, deadlifts, pullups, pushups, and rowing all involve a multitude of movers and stabilizers and are more beneficial overall.

Try Something Different
The assisted Pullup machine, rowing machine, or rubberized resistance tubes are all examples of neglected, yet beneficial exercise tools.

Eliminate High Risk Low Benefit Exercises
"Just because an exercise has been done for years does not make it safe or effective." -Tom Purvis founder RTS

A short list might include upright rows and tricep dips, but every exercise comes with inherent risks if performed improperly with too much load, with too often a frequency, too fast, or even too great a range. Learning what to do and how to do it to best serve your goals may be best answered by hiring a fitness professional.

Hire a Trainer
Although many times finding a quality personal trainer is like shooting darts in the dark, watching them work, talking to who they work with, and interviewing before paying is a good idea. Worst case, you come out getting a few ideas to pursue on your own.

Leavitt Sept 2012