Have you ever heard of the band Hot Chelle Rae? They have an uber-catchy hit single, “Tonight Tonight”. Apparently it’s reached No. 7 on the Billboard Top 100, but I didn’t exactly hear it on the radio. In fact, I saw it in this video from the good folks at Endeavor Performance:
That song is catchy as all get out, right?! I ended up Googling the lyrics so I could listen to it, but that’s not what really matters. The exercise being demonstrated in that video looks pretty cool, doesn’t it. From what I see, you’re getting an isometric rear foot elevated split squat while resisting the forces created by your partners pertubation and the band. Resisting movement through the shoulders and hips; that’s stability!
Compared to most exercises you’d see in a ‘typical’ gym, this one looks pretty unique. As beneficial as it may be for advanced trainees, most people will never do this exercise. They may easily be capable of doing it, but they’ll never progress up to it. In fact, they’ll never try it in the first place. Why? Because they think it looks stupid.
I bring this up after a frustrating experience at my gym, when working with a young 16 year old member. After he told me about the program designed for him by another member of the gym, I explained to him the vast inadequacies with this workout schedule:
Other than totally sucking, the program sets him up for some series muscular imbalances, not to mention weak muscles from the torso down. Not to mention, he’s already complaining about shoulder pain. (Interesting, because the guy that wrote it has chronic shoulder pain. Curious, very curious.*) I explained to him the importance of balance through the body, thinking about movement patterns instead of muscles, and the importance of remembering that you have legs! That’s even more important with him coming off of an ACL tear.
To ease the process of getting into smarter programming, I provided him with a quick warm-up to loosen up his joints, help him break a sweat, and better prepare for exercise. That’s what warming up is for, right? Well, after our treacherous weekend, he comes in to workout and tells me that his program designer told him not to warm up like that, because it wastes time and it looks stupid. After a chuckle and a logical review of the occurrence of pain, I think it’s safe to say that this lad will continue to look stupid. Fortunately, it seems that the more stupid your workout looks, the better you’ll move, the stronger you’ll get, and the healthier you’ll feel.**
If I were to throw away my entire education about exercise, I’d come to the conclusion that most things that people do in the gym are stupid. Foam rolling? Looks like you’re trying to balance on a log. Paloff Press? Why don’t you just twist. Deadlifts? I pick things up and put them down. Kettlebell swings and pushing the Prowler? Just get on a treadmill, you can watch TV.
In reality, these are all great exercises that offer superb bang-for-your-buck benefits and help you develop a strong, powerful body, that probably looks pretty damn good. When they’re frowned upon by the bicep-curl-and-bench-press crew, it just goes to show that egos and poor education, in addition to body building splits from the 80’s, are still prevalent in the commercial gym. It’s an sad day when the leg press is chosen over a Goblet Split Squat, but these things happen. I dream of a day when the leg press is used as a coat rack, or a resting station to allow gasping for air after sets of chin-ups and reverse lunges.
Today, I implore you to go look stupid in the gym. From the beginning of your workout to the end, do all that you can to look absolutely ridiculous. Perform some ridiculous self myofacial release with a foam roller or lacrosse ball, working out the adhesions in your muscles. Take the time to work on your mobility restrictions, and take care of those tight ankles, hips, and t-spines. Turn up your central nervous system, and throw a medicine ball or perform some plyos. Hit your big lifts first, and pair several exercises together to maximize the muscle mass you’re using and reduce down time between sets. After you’re done getting strong, take care of the conditioning work, where the burn in your lungs is just as bad as the one in your arms/legs. When you’re finished, have yourself a nice protein rich meal, and contemplate how ridiculous you looked during that workout. Follow that up with some thoughts on how productive that workout was, which shouldn’t take long: You just did a lot more than the average gym goer.
If you think athletic based training looks stupid, then by all means, try to look as stupid as possible. If you think that movement is paramount to looking cool at the gym, then you’re not going to look stupid. You’re going to look like someone who wants to improve their health, their movement abilities, their performance, and their aesthetics. If that’s you, then make a change to what you’re doing and start training instead of working out. Your body will thank you for it.
* Mr. Ollivander, yes indeed.
**BOSU Ball squats are never excusable. I mean this within reason people.
*** Fun Fact: This is my 200th blog post. If you’ve been with me from the first one, or if this is your first time reading; Thank you. You’re helping me learn and share my passion with people, and I’m very grateful for that.