Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bad Exercise

Gymnastics is far from being bad

Unlike part one's Best Exercise, I believe "bad" exercise is more concrete to grasp. To an extent it does exist but it's better to understand it as inefficient rather than bad. And since there's inefficient exercise you would be right to guess there is efficient exercise.

Inefficient exercise has very little return on the time and effort you invest in it. An example would be casual walking. The benefits you get would be at the cost of having to walk frequently per week for long durations each day. Even then whatever positive results there are would be small compared to the work done. Also expect there to be little impact on flexibility, strength/power, and lean body mass.

Efficient exercise is the opposite: There's big return on the time and effort you put into your exercise. Gymnastics perfectly describes efficiency. Practice the sport and watch speed, power, and flexibility improve while fat decreases. Additionally the skills gained from gymnastics would translate well over to other sports.

I distinguish between these two but that doesn't mean an activity has to be 100% one or the other. Instead think of each as an endpoint on a range. In between each point are varying degrees of the two ends.

Depending on the form of exercise, there may be a learning curve or need of equipment (such as in gymnastics). And inefficiency/efficiency can vary person-to-person based on their capability but this is something that needs to be addressed within the exercise. It has to be adjusted to the person's athletic levels.

The biggest - and most important - indicator of an activity's inefficiency is that it fails to provide the desired results.

Earth-shattering, I know. Why would anyone continue to do something that doesn't work? A number of reasons can explain this inefficiency in their program. It's easy to look at areas such as lifestyle factors, diet, and recovery but exercise itself tends to be an oversight.

What are signs that your exercise could be inefficient?
Comfort Zone/Stagnancy
  • The plan isn't the problem. The real problem is the unwillingness to change and travel outside one's comfort zone. I've found this true for many people. They stick to what they are comfortable with because it feels safe for them. Getting through this mental block will improve their exercise.
Lack of Effort/Intensity
  • This is a big one but it's a quick fix. The exercise is characterized by low effort over a long duration. This is usually seen in cardio but isn't limited to it. The issue is in weightlifting as well where volume is prioritized over intensity (lots of reps, sets, exercises, and workouts).
  • Trimming down on the amount done and increasing the intensity is a fast way to make workouts more effective.
Old Plan, No More Results
  • Whatever you were doing before won't be as difficult once you adapt to it. A good program changes to meet the person's new improvements. If the same thing day in and day out hasn't accomplished anything then adjustments are in order.
  • A few small tweaks can start progress going again. If there's still no progress then a complete overhaul is a good idea. [See the updated progressions post for help.]
Don't Know Better
  • It's hard to put into practice what you don't know. As a result it hampers a lot of people's progress.
  • The internet gives access to a lot of information regarding exercise. Use it as a start to find your specific activity and learn more about it. The next step is to experiment and see what you find works best.
  • What makes this different from someone in the Comfort Zone is a person who doesn't know better begins to see results after they learn what's been holding them back. Contrast that with the other person, they don't take the necessary action despite knowing about it.
These pitfalls are simple to overcome but can severely halt a person's progress and motivation. They can be the difference to making your exercise efficient.

In the conclusion I'll go over how to create the "best" exercise for yourself.

Other posts in this series,
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