THE CURSE OF LONG-TERM PROGRESS
THE CURSE OF LONG-TERM PROGRESS
There’s a shiny new fad happening. Everyone is doing it. It looks simple. I could do that! This MUST be the answer I’ve been looking for!
It seems that every time someone is due a holiday or has just decided to ‘ditch the flab’ and dedicate themselves to a big push at the gym, the same, so called, ‘solutions’ keep rearing their heads.
It is no coincidence that the people who follow these ‘solutions’ religiously are the same people that have to start that fight all over again year after year. The reason being, they are inefficient gimmicks with no long-term benefit.
Now, the people who are dedicated to these classes and routines (and particularly those who benefit financially, by hosting or teaching them) will be immediately on the defensive.
“But I can feel it work!”
“I have seen results!”
Let’s get right to it.
Yes, these things work – for a while.
Because EVERYTHING works for a while!
Does that make randomly jumping up and down an efficient way of training for optimal long term results?
Of course not!
As for ‘feeling it work’ just because you feel a muscle burn, does not mean you are burning fat or toning the area.
I’ve covered this previously in my article What’s The Best Way to Tone Up but as a quick recap, doing high reps of something will stretch the muscle and cause a lactic build up, the flushing of which does cause some level of fat burning, but it is in no way an efficient or productive way of progressing.
And if you think you are ‘burning fat’ from that area, I must remind you that spot reduction is, at best, negligible. It is Physically impossible to burn fat from one area alone. So, don’t kid yourself.
Below I’ve listed the 3 of the classes/ routines that irritate me the most (though there are many more that fall into this category).
My reason for having these 3 at the top is because they are not only do they sell ‘false hopes and promises’, but they are very popular (well marketed) so they get sighted continuously.
To its credit, the class is at least getting people active who would otherwise be sitting at home with a takeaway and watching trash TV. And for that reason and for those people, it certainly is a beneficial class. Anything that encourages activity in otherwise sedentary people should be applauded.
My problem is the level of credibility this class has. As if Zumba is the ultimate answer to major physique transformations.
This is far from the case.
The problem – There is no room for progression.
The class is, at its core, little more than a dance class.
So, once you are up to speed and can perform the moves, where do you go from there?
With all physical transformation activities, your body will adapt to the demands you place on it soon enough. Once you adapt (which will be very quickly) your body has no reason to respond further. You are no longer placing a demand that requires a response and your body will happily remain as it is.
However, by that point, the loyalty and belief is instilled.
The participants have seen improvements, they enjoy the class (as it’s fun and fairly easy) and so they have been conditioned to believe that it works.
Therefore, even though the results stop coming, the belief is that it works and something else is causing the problem (diet for example). In fact, nothing needs to change for you to stagnate. If you don’t keep pushing for improvements and challenging your body to progress, then the improvements will stop.
First off, if you are going to lift weights, then lift weights, not pretend weights.
The same issues that apply to Zumba apply, to a large extent, here too.
If it is getting you off the couch, that is great. But there are so many more efficient options. Any results you might get from your hour in this class, you could improve on with 20-30mins of serious training on the gym floor.
The one advantage this class has over Zumba is there is some room for progression as you can manipulate the weights. But you are still prescribed a lifting tempo and a number or reps for a set time. And whilst the CD changes every 12 weeks to ‘shock’ your body. The reality is, it’s just to stop it getting boring and justify the fees. You are still working out for an hour and the overall tempo will be about the same for every disc, so really the progression is, if anything, minimal.
One of the exercises in the class is the squat. Great exercise. But you are required to clean and press the bar over your head to your shoulders and then return it to the floor at the end. If you can do that, with a 3min set of squats in between, clearly the weight wasn’t challenging enough.
But this is where the ‘I can feel it work’ argument is often sighted. You feel it burn in the muscle, so you feel you are working hard. And the thing is, you probably are working hard. But, that is my problem with this class. People turn up and put in huge effort, yet if they simply applied that same drive to a quality training regime, their results would be much greater.
Remember, just because your muscles ‘burn’ does not make it a great or efficient workout.
If I could go around every gym in the country and throw out any equipment I wanted, I would instantly be heading for 3 pieces of kit – The abductor machine & the adductor machine (the outer and inner thigh machines) and the Vibro Plates.
The former 2 because they are just taking up space and are of little benefit (again, just because you feel your thighs burn when you use them, you are not burning fat off that area).
Vibro plates, however, have another reason for being high on my list. A much more important one. They are potentially very dangerous and any returns you might be able to achieve through using them (which are minimal at best) are far over-shadowed by the potential risk.
The risk is the potential for, what is often known as Vibration White Finger (VWF) or Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).
This syndrome resulted from using vibrating machinery (like drills, jackhammers etc) causing vibrations through the joints and tendons of the arm.
So, hang on a minute – using a machine that causes constant vibration and ultimately a potential for severe nerve damage is frowned upon and avoided wherever possible in the building industry, yet a machine that causes constant vibration through the joints in a similar fashion is now encouraged in the fitness industry?
As I understand it, the origin of these machines was originally to improve mobility in stiff joints, particularly the ankles and was intended for use for a limited time frame. But as ever, someone saw a cash cow in front of them. Something people could ‘exercise’ on without really doing anything, so they could read a book or watch TV whilst shedding pounds!
In the end, this is just another gimmick.
Gimmicks in the fitness industry have been around for decades.
You may have seen the machines from the 50s and 60s with the big rubber bands that you leaned against as the machine shook it across your stomach?
They, as with many other, similar, inventions, came and went and we, as a nation, are no slimmer now as a result. And just like those products, Vibro plates will just be replaced by the next big fad in a few years’ time.
The only difference being, those who have bought into the con and use them religiously, could be causing themselves more harm than ever before.
There are risks in all areas of life and especially when working out. But that risk should be coupled with a reward that makes the risk worthwhile and to be honest, a fairly unproven piece of machinery that could potentially leave you without any feeling in your fingers or toes, is not a risk I feel is worth anyone taking.
In the end, you can make your own choices. Just remember, there are no magic pills and there are no shortcuts. Only optimal, proven ways of eating and training that will make the most of your effort input.
I only wrote this because it irks me so much to constantly see status updates from people I know are putting in the time and effort and have the commitment to change and I would prefer to see their effort levels rewarded with long term results.
If you are one of them, maybe a little review of your programme might be worthwhile.
Don’t just follow the masses, the masses are out of shape and unfit. Be better, make the most of your effort and make informed decisions to be the best you can be.
The Curse of Long-Term Progress by Mark Tiffney
I hope this has been of interest.
If you have your own views on this, feel free to post them below.
I’m always happy to hear alternative views or constructive feedback (good or bad).
Now you can add the new squat machine to the list
Good read that makes sense
Thanks Annabelle. Glad you liked it.
There are several downsides to classes such as Body Pump.
The big one is that there is usually 1 instructor teaching a class of 20 – 40 people. As such they can’t correct form and technique so you see a lot of crappy looking exercises being done. Add extra weight on top of that and it’s an injury waiting to happen.
Speaking of which, the second issues is I’ve never known classes like Body Pump to do any movement assessments to make sure the exercises are appropriate. Which is likely why I’ve known several people to develop shoulder injuries from Pump classes and had to stop doing them.
Thanks for your comment Jon.
I completely agree – this is an issue I have also mentioned in the past regarding classes like this.