Journalist Miles Kington once said, "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad". Aside from making me smile, this quote can be very useful when considering your exercise routine. Here's how.
It's important to understand your fitness goals – are you training to get stronger, to shed a few kilos or for a specific reason? Identifying your specific goal will determine the selection of exercises; those that ensure the greatest benefit and are unlikely to leave you injured.
Unfortunately, some media choose to report on celebrity endorsements and fads rather than evidence-based information. This results in inexperienced trainers spreading misinformation – or as "that" president prefers to put it, "fake news" – on social media.
So, how do you determine the correct exercises for you? By making your selection based on these three principles: Is it effective? Is it efficient? And most importantly, is it safe?
Is it effective?
Let's assume you're looking to tone flabby arms. Conventional wisdom might cause you to think that bicep curls and triceps extensions are your best option. Not so. While these exercises will tone your bicep and tricep muscles beneath the flab, the best way to get rid of the flab itself is by eating sensibly so that you consume less energy than you expend (a lesson I keep reminding myself of!) Alternatively, you could always make an appointment to see a cosmetic surgeon!
Is it efficient?
While resistance training like an arm curl which isolates one muscle group is a great choice for body builders wanting to build their biceps, it is inefficient for someone seeking overall strength and tone. In this instance, it would be far better to opt for push-ups or rowing exercises which are able to strengthen and tone the muscles in your chest, shoulders, arms and back, and strengthen your core.
Is it safe?
When it comes to building core strength, crunches and sit-ups are definitely not a safe choice. Incidentally, they're also neither effective nor efficient. In fact, if you have a bad back, these exercises will likely aggravate, rather than improve, the situation.
Your spine is at its safest and strongest when it is aligned in its neutral position. So, it's important to work at strengthening your core – all those muscles which lie between your neck and legs – while your spine is in its neutral position. Plank, side plank and back bridge are all safe for a healthy spine, effective and efficient exercises, and good for you to include in your routine.
A word of warning: avoid exercises that flex your spine and please, do NOT sit in a half sit-up position, with your spine rounded, and twist from side to side while holding on to a weight. This is guaranteed to put huge stress on your spine.
Wisdom is seeking one of our personal trainers to put you through a Functional Movement Screen to identify your body imbalances prior to designing a suitable program. Small investment with great benefits.
I am presenting a workshop on Saturday the 13th of May on core stability. The content is based on the work of Professor Stuart McGill, the world's foremost authority on spinal biomechanics, whose life's work is based on thousands of hours of scientific research.
Having herniated three discs in my lower back decades ago, I know back pain all too well. However, since encountering Professor McGill's work and beginning to exercise under his recommendation, I have been able to manage my back well. My core is stronger now than during my competitive days and I have not done a crunch or a sit-up in years.
To find out more about the workshop and book your place, visit elixr.com.au/hardcore.
Richard Chew is the founder of Elixr Health Clubs.