Top 5 Fitness Mistakes

September 19, 2011

Plank There are a few recent trends in fitness that can potentially lead you off course in your pursuit of fitness. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the common fitness mistakes coming from these recent trends with some tips on avoiding them.


1. Running barefoot on concrete or asphalt. I’m no fan of the traditional running shoe with its over-cushioned, elevated heel. I personally do a lot of work with people to strengthen their feet since they are the platform for all human movement, but running barefoot on concrete or asphalt must stop. The modern running shoe is unnatural, so getting rid of them is a good idea. But modern surfaces – perfectly flat, rock-hard streets and sidewalks – are just as unnatural and our feet aren’t equipped to run on them. Our feet work best on highly variable terrain. The barefoot running fanatics only see half the problem. Run barefoot or in minimalist shoes, but do it on grass or other more forgiving and variable surfaces.


2. You’re not really doing Tabata training. “We’re doing Tabata today: 20 seconds on, then ten seconds of rest, for eight cycles.” You’re hearing this more and more from personal trainers and fitness instructors, and they couldn’t be more wrong. Tabata is the last name of a Japanese researcher who, along with other researchers, studied the effects of short, intense bouts of exercise. The protocol was 20 seconds of high-intensity effort, followed by ten seconds of full rest. The part that no one seems to notice is that the high-intensity part is at 170% of VO2 Max. In layman’s terms, this is far higher than most people have ever worked or are capable of working. It’s not Tabata training if you’re not at those insane intensities. You can’t do it with body weight squats or push-ups.


3. Get your head straight. The inverted push-up (sometimes known as the handstand push-up) has gotten more popular, but to do it right, you don’t just need significant upper body strength. You need to keep your head on straight. When doing any push-up variation, the head should be positioned so that the neck stays neutral. In this position, your nose points the same direction as your chest. In a regular push-up, this means you’d be looking at the floor (between your hands.) In a handstand push-up, this means you are NOT looking at the floor but out from the wall so that the top of your head is pointed toward the space on the floor between your hands.


4. Avoiding crunches. Based on some seriously flawed conclusions from research, some people have recommended that you stop doing crunches. In a nutshell, these studies show that when you take the spines of dead pigs and put them through thousands – and in some cases tens of thousands – of spinal flexion cycles, there is a big jump in damage to the spinal structures. You aren’t a dead pig. When you put living tissue under stress in a workout and let it rest, it remodels itself and gets stronger to handle the stress better next time. You don’t do thousands of reps at once with dead tissue so it’s really silly to make this comparison. Further, when you compress and release pressure on living discs, you improve hydration and fluid flow in and out of the disc…another thing that can’t happen with dead tissue. It gets big headlines to shout, “Stop Doing Crunches!” but it’s intellectually lazy to do so. As I demonstrate in Abs Revealed, a smarter solution is to perform better crunches.


5. Wasting time on planks. Most of the anti-crunch zealots also make the error of thinking planks are the secret to world peace. Planks are a great exercise…to help you get better at doing other exercises. But many people make the mistake of doing planks for more and more time and with more and more challenges – all while staying perfectly still. Beyond 30 seconds, static planks are a waste of valuable training time you should be spending on movement. Life is movement, not staying still. Doing static planks for longer and longer is like staying in 1st grade forever. If you’re an adult in 1st grade, you’re likely getting perfect scores on your tests every time! But so what…you’re supposed to move on. If you’re up to 30 seconds on planks, either start shifting your body or moving your arms and legs to add a more appropriate challenge. Here’s a terrific example I created for you called “Walking Plank”. 

 

Your time is valuable and in short supply so you want to make sure you’re making the most of your precious workout time. Avoid the mistakes here and you’ll be getting fitter with some of the recent trends in fitness but avoiding the problems that come from not getting them quite right.

 

More on Fitness Trends:

Craziest Diet Trends of All Time

10 Heart Health Myths

5 Worst Fad Diets


Photo Source: Thinkstock/iStockphoto


Jonathan Ross — fitness expert for Discovery Fit & Health and creator of Aion Fitness — was voted Exercise TV's "Top Trainer" and named in Men's Journal magazine's list of Top 100 Trainers in America. His personal experiences with obesity — "800 pounds of parents" — directly inspired his fitness career. His ability to bring fitness to those who need it the most has made him a two-time Personal Trainer of the Year Award-Winner (ACE and IDEA). His book, Abs Revealed, is filled with cutting-edge exercises in a modern, intelligent approach to abdominal training. His leadership and fresh perspectives on fitness earn him praise as a frequent go-to source of credible fitness information.

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