This Philly Trainer Says You’re Working Out All Wrong
Imagine that you’re buying a house. You find one that’s in your price range, has a big yard, good kitchen, sweet roof deck and garage, but you notice some water damage caused by a leaky roof. Clearly, before you buy the house, the owners need to do some work. But instead of thinking about the work that needs to be done, your first thought is, What color should I paint the walls?
This, of course, is flawed logic when it comes to buying a house. We can all agree on that. But what most people don’t recognize is that they fall into this same flawed thought-pattern when it comes to their fitness routine. It’s understandable: We all want pretty results. We all want to succeed. We all want it now. To get there, most people ignore the real challenges and follow the path of least resistance: They do only what they are already good at, what they enjoy, and what gets — according to their own definition — “results.”
The problem is that by so narrowly focusing your fitness on what your body can already do well, you are neglecting the very movements that your body needs help developing, improving and mastering.
• You run five-plus days a week, yet you can’t touch your toes, you complain about back pain, and the last time you stretched, Ace of Base was still popular.
• You the perform loaded barbell squats, but can’t comfortably do a deep bodyweight squat to the floor while keeping your heels on the ground. Go ahead—give it a try.
• Your choice of ‘getting in shape’ is playing pickup games on the weekend, but come Monday, you are so sore that you can barely sit on a toilet.
• You train abs every day, but have to Google what bird dog, superman, or thoracic mobility is.
• You have been doing the same exact workout that you found off on a friend’s Facebook page, oh, five years ago.
You see what I’m getting at, right? These are all examples of people who are attempting to get results by staying in their comfort zone and doing what comes easily. While you may be able to avoid more challenging movements at the gym, life will require them at some point, and since your body is not prepared, you will most likely end up injured. I’m talking about the person who is able deadlift his own bodyweight, but blows his back out while walking the dog. The person who has logged enough hours on an elliptical to get a sponsorship, but trips on the sidewalk and breaks her wrist on the fall. The 50-miles-a-week runner who hurts himself because he “slept funny.”
We have all heard the saying, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t resonate with most people when it comes to fitness; in their mind, they are getting results from what comes easily, and since they haven’t been injured (yet), why change? I mean, if you want to bench more, just bench more! If you want to run more, just run more!
I’m here to propose that we think about our training and workouts in a whole new way. What if you change the saying to, “A chain will get stronger if you fix the weakest link”? It begins to paint a different picture, right?
I learned this lesson the hard way. As a former wrestler and football player, I have always trained for intensity and power. I trained myself to run a mile in 4:57, to deadlift three times my bodyweight, to complete a half Ironman. Speed and intensity are my strength—they’re easy, I enjoy them, I am good at them. But this mindset brought with it tons of injuries, surgeries and discomforts because I ignored what my body couldn’t do well, focusing instead on what it could do easily. In other words, I was playing to my strengths while ignoring my weaknesses, and that was to the detriment of my health, wellness and fitness.
Now I practice yoga and gymnastics every day. I try to listen to my body and not push through everything with brute strength. And I realize that sometimes rest is more beneficial than intensity. Truth be told, today I am a far more talented and healthy athlete than I ever was.
Here are a couple simple examples of how you can achieve great results by focusing on the weakest link:
1. Work on flexibility and mobility. This will allow your muscles to work more efficiently and freely rather than against one another.
2. Move in all directions. Our bodies move forward, backward, side-to-side, and in rotation. Your training should reflect these movements! Ask yourself: How often do you do side-to-side or rotating exercises? Chances are, it is less than 10 percent of the time—and that needs to change.
3. Fix your form. Bad form comes from your body trying to compensate for weaknesses, poor flexibility, and/or mobility. These compensations work in the short haul, but over time can do serious damage to your body. Focus on form instead of reps; once you get the form down, the impressive rep count will (safely) follow.
4. Work on flexibility and mobility. Yes, I said this twice. Because, seriously, just do it. This will make you faster, stronger and, hey, maybe even funnier.
Perry O’Hearn is the owner of Philly Phitness. Philly Phitness is the only personal training studio in Philly that focuses on the business development of independent personal trainers, which has enabled them to help hundreds of clients and conduct over 6,000 sessions to date. It is located in Rittenhouse and is home to eight personal trainers.
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