When you consider all of the possible variables that can go into any exercise program, you approach millions if not billions ways to work out. When you consider repetition ranges, number of sets, intensity (% of 1 repition maximum), length of rest intervals, it’s easy to become confused by all of the ‘research’, news reports, and garbage that they publish in Cosmo. (Aside: I can thoroughly enjoy some of the articles in Cosmo. However, 99.5% of their exercise related content is useless.) This exercise can be good for only one thing, and that is making you look silly.
Now, I’ve come to think that exercising isn’t as hard as people make it out to be; this could only be because I’ve simplified it to one key point:
There is no ‘best’ way to do things; there are just better ways.
Exercise exists on an efficiency continuum, and you should progress along that continuum from less efficient to more efficient. What’s less efficient? Using machines to strength train, and jogging for your cardio. Sure, it’s a lot better than our sedentary friends who need to stop at the top of a flight of stairs to catch their breath. If you’re following an exercise plan that uses machines and steady state cardio, then you’re doing great things for your body. However, you can be doing better things. You can use compound movements that train larger amounts of muscle mass, require more activity of the Central Nervous system, and are healthier on the joints. You can use many forms of intervals to focus on your cardiovascular system in shorter periods of time while getting better results. Somewhere out there, a Holy Grail of exercise efficiency exists. Nobody has found it yet, because it varies based on goals, individuals physiological and psychological abilities, and equipment availability. However, a good rule for everybody would be to consider movement patterns when they workout, and focus less on individual muscles. When emphasis switches off of individual muscles or muscle groups, and integrates many groups across multiple joints, we see far greater results when functionality is considered; sure, doing leg extensions makes you good at leg extensions, but learning how to bang out a perfect body-weight squat works the muscles that create movement at the ankle, knee, hip, and core. You also turn on your brain as it works to coordinate all of these muscles. Plus, you get more results in a shorter period of time; it’s efficient. I use Tony Gentilcore’s Program Design for Dummies as my go-to when I need to explain this concept to people, that it’s Movements and not Muscles. I think that it both simplifies their thoughts on exercise, and helps remove the confusion of “What the $%& should I do to exercise?!” If you haven’t read that article, you really should.
This past weekend I was in Newark, Delaware, to visit friends at the University of Delaware and run in the Warrior Dash. Before heading down to the tailgate on Saturday morning, I took a brother down to a local park to explain to him this concept of exercising. Other than our bodies, I brought two pieces of equipment: my TRX, and a Superband from Perform Better. I looped the TRX around the top of a set of swings, and the Superband was attached to a set of Monkey Bars. With these two pieces of gear, I set up a full body circuit. (I could have set up a circuit even without the TRX and superband; you don’t need anything other than your bodyweight, as long as you’re creative with what you do have. On a playground, you can do almost anything!)
After a few warm-up sets of each exercise, and far too much talking done by myself, I started my friend on the circuit, which he performed 10 times.
- 10 TRX Rows
- 8 TRX Fall Out
- 10 Prisoner Squats
- 5 Push Ups
- 10 Split Squats (5 each leg)
- 5 Chin Ups (with Superband providing assistance)
- 16 Paloff Presses, 2 second hold (8 each side)
- 1 Sprint to Tree (I let him pick a tree, then told him to spring to it)
- Catch ya breath.
After three circuits, we were done; it was time to shower and cheer on UD’s undefeated football team. It was a short yet highly effective workout. I forgot to warn him about Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, but recieved the following text 23 hours after our session: “ow.” Yea, sorry I forgot to warn you…
In a shorter period of time than most people workout, my friend completed a full body workout. Save vertical pressing and anti-lateral flexion, we hit every major movement pattern. I doubt he’d want to go back and add them. Why is this important? Because it was EASY to put together. I’m not saying the workout was easy, but the concept is easy. It’s not as hard as people make it out to be. So stop making excuses. Grab a friend. Go to the gym. Go to the playground. Move around. Have fun. Be more awesome. I’m going to go read Cosmo.