Skip to main content

Optimizing your exercise should be a top priority for almost everyone; whether you are just starting, looking to increase performance, or even trying to save time. Why do more work than you need to or even worse do things that may hurt you! Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation everywhere you look in the fitness industry, so let’s explore some of these topics, and get you training smarter.

Heavy weights = BIG muscles
Lifting heavy weights brings to mind bodybuilders with bulging muscles but that doesn’t mean everyone else should only lift tiny weights. Truth is testosterone, among other hormones, along with specialized training play larger roles in getting big muscles than heavy weights do. Trying to “tone” your muscles with small weights takes a long time for minimal results. By using a heavier weight your muscles have to adapt to a new stimulus resulting in muscle gain. This doesn’t mean you have to lift really heavy, just enough to force your body to adapt. Having strong and developed muscles helps to give shape to your body. Since muscle tissue has a structured and smooth shape; whereas, fat is more lumpy and undefined.

Strength training is an essential tool for changing body composition.  Simply maintaining your muscle mass also requires more energy (calories) than maintain fat. As a result, those that have more muscle mass typically have higher metabolisms allowing them to burn more calories. And if you still don’t want to lift heavy weights at least consider doing exercises that use more muscle, dynamic or compound exercises recruit more musculature and will at least make your workout more efficient.

Cardio for fat loss, weights for strength
Adhering to just one type of workout can be a surefire way to get bored and keep you from achieving the results you were looking for. Variety not only helps to keep you interested but can enhance your training. A proper mix of aerobic and anaerobic training will affect the different energy systems of the body and maximizing these systems, will get you fitter faster.

High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, aims to incorporate a lot of exercise (training volume) into a short amount of time. HIIT can burn a lot of calories in a short period of time. Alternatively aerobic training such as jogging or cycling, also known as Long Slow Distance (LSD) training, requires a much longer period of time to burn the same amount of calories. For the past decade there has been a significant movement away from aerobic training to HIIT in an attempt to optimize training. The draw back is that proper recovery from a high intensity workout can take days, especially if you train exclusively using high intensity techniques.

LSD training may not burn calories like HIIT can but it can do something that HIIT can’t: LSD training will improve your aerobic capacity. Aerobic capacity is the ability to use aerobic metabolism to create energy. Having more aerobic capacity will also improve your ability to perform more high intensity work and will shorten your recovery time. More aerobic capacity, means you can exercise for longer durations at higher intensities (increased training volume), resulting in increased performance. A combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise will give most people the best results.

CrossFit® is the best training method
CrossFit® and other cross-training methods are a great option, blending a mix of high intensity exercise with bouts of aerobic exercise. The competition, both internal (vs. yourself) and external (vs. others), that comes from group training is a great motivator but can also be a path to over-exertion and/or injury. Making sure you are ready for the workouts both physically and mentally will give you the best chances of succeeding. Fortunately, improved coaching and new introductory programs have helped make this type of training much safer, more effective, and more accessible than ever.

Functional training is ideal for elder or injured people
Functional fitness has become a popular form of training, especially for those looking to improve their movement. The origins of this concept come from physical rehabilitation where the goal was to increase strength for the things people needed to do every day, like sitting, standing, or reaching. However, since its origins, functional fitness has become oversimplified and generalized actually limiting movement instead of enhancing it. Neutral spine technique is important for some exercise but shouldn’t be practiced 100% of the time… The human body is built to move not to be rigid.

Furthermore, functional training or movements for one person may actually be dysfunctional for another. It all comes down to the needs and wants of the individual. An Olympic gymnast has very different needs than a senior looking to keep moving. Just as finding the right fitness experience is important for everyone, the purpose (or why?) behind your workouts is equally significant. Today, more people hurt themselves trying to do things their bodies simply aren’t capable of doing yet. Want do a handstand? Can you press your body weight above your head? What about your shoulders, elbows, and wrists… do they even let you press vertically? Determining whether you have the pre-requisites for any exercise and why, should be one of your first questions when starting a new program. It doesn’t mean you can’t exercise; you just might need modifications and some formal training so that you can eventually perform certain exercises. Done correctly, improving your functional fitness can enhance your performance.

Optimizing exercise for performance and safety shouldn’t be optional,
it should be an obligation.

Paul Bradshaw l Kinesiologist