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Seven Sins of Fitness

If you want to be physically fit, lifting weights is one of the best ways to achieve that. But lifting weights can also be one of the barriers to ever getting there.

  1. Cheating on form so you can use more weight. It's not the weight that stimulates the adaptive response. In fact, if you are cheating (using momentum, recruiting other muscles too much, etc.) it's very likely you are under-stimulating the very muscles for which you are doing that exercise.

    When you cheat, it's highly unlikely you are getting the needed intensity. This means your workout was pretty much for nothing.
  2. Bouncing weights. This is a form of cheating, for most exercises. Some weight training systems recommend bouncing for specific exercises. For example, the Position of Flexion system uses three positions to work each muscle. POF does not recommend bouncing as a way to do every exercise. They do recommend it for a specific purpose for a specific exercise.

    Unless you're working a system like POF and understand why you could/should bounce the weight, don't bounce the weight. Doing so can lead to serious injury and typically reduces the productivity of the exercise. What kind of injury are we talking about? Ask your doctor if it's a lot of fun to have torn ligaments and see how that conversation goes.
  3. Cardio before weights. Many trainers recommend this. What, are they nuts? That depends. For someone who is going from rock bottom bloated couch potato, this is a good approach. The reason is that this person needs to warm up and get blood flowing, more than anything else. S/he is so out of shape that even low intensity exercise will produce an adaptive response. After a month of this, the trainer needs to reduce the preworkout cardio while increasing weight training intensity.

    Once you've passed from a condition barely above comatose, your body needs a stronger stimulus for it to want to build more muscle or burn more fat. That means higher intensity workouts. But there's only so much energy in your body. If you drain it off by doing cardio first, your intensity will be too low for your workout to have much, if any, effect.

    And that's not all that goes wrong. Because your store of glycogen was depleted during cardio, guess what your body breaks down for fuel next? Muscle. Now, some people believe the more you blast your muscles and the longer you do it, the more they will grow. Lee Haney disagrees. He won Mr. Olympia 8 times. You draw your own conclusions.

    This brings us to, "What is cardio?" Doing a short warm-up is fine. You don't lose much glycogen that way, and you get some blood flowing through the connective tissue. But extensive stretching (which weakens and lengthens the muscle and dramatically increases the odds of injury), or treadmill work, or anything that gets your heart rate up is starting to move you away from a productive workout.
  4. Heels rising. Because many athletes do the squat with a small board under their heels, many people assume that raising your heels is good form. That board helps with balance, but it's like having training wheels on a bike. You want to graduate from that. The higher your heels are off that floor, the more stress you put on the knee ligaments. A squat should build your knees, not put them at risk.

    Another problem with raising the heels is you change the mechanics of the exercise. To balance properly during the squat, you must call on your hamstrings and glutes. But with the heel raised, these get underworked. Consequently, you get muscle imbalances. In this particular case, back pain is inevitable. You will probably also develop pains elsewhere.

    How to spot a heel raiser from across the gym: look for the protruding belly. This is an adaptation to the mechanical imbalances. This person may even have ripped abs, but how good do they look when that person's belly juts out?
  5. Quasimodo posture. Maybe he's ignorant about bodybuilding, but 6-time Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger says to "be open." If you look at him in ANY of his poses, his back is straight and not rounded. This posture even has a name: the bodybuilder posture. Consistently pulling your shoulders back is how you get it. The visual result from the front is an expansive, open look.

    If you don't care to look as good as you can, then maybe rounding your shoulders forward is OK? Nope. That rounded posture puts all kinds of undue stress on the structures of the shoulders, hips, and spine. Foot pain is another consequence of this, as are neck pain, and headaches.

    While it is true you can bench press more by rounding your shoulders forward, it is also true that you will probably not ever increase your bench by very much with that posture. What happens is you recruit the front delts instead of working the pecs. Sure, you might also get sore pecs, but you are not getting the proper stimulus for growth. So the pain is for nothing.
  6. Overtraining. Your muscles need time to recover. I quote Lee Haney, "You want to stimulate your muscles, not annihilate your muscles."
  7. Sports drinks. Ever see someone at the gym, sucking down some fancy sports drink? This is a huge mistake. Those drinks are loaded with sugar, and usually with an especially potent form called high fructose corn syrup. It's an endocrine modifier. The result is your hormonal environment is all wrong for building muscle. When you most need testosterone to rise, it instead drops like a rock.

    These drinks do not "give you energy" or "replace lost electrolytes." That's all hype. They do screw up your whole glycogen cycle thing, thereby short-circuiting your training. And you're not losing enough electrolytes to worry about. You should be drinking water. But not anything else.

    "Whoa, dude. What about that protein shake after my workout?"

    Stop right there. Your body can absorb, at most, about 20g of whey at one time. A big 50g whey shake means 30g of whey will be stored as fat. Not to mention the various carbs added to it if you're making a big concoction or picking one up at the gym's counter.

    What you want to do is treat that after workout shake like any other meal. You need six meals a day, with each one providing about 1/6th of your daily protein. And that protein should contain no more than 20g of whey. Understand that different proteins absorb at different rates. So, you could eat a shake with 40g of protein and your body could use it all.

    Simply adding a calorie bomb to your diet just because you burned off 250 calories at the gym will not make you fit. But it will make you fat. Protein supplementation is good. But cabbage also good for you. Try eating an entire head of cabbage at one time and see what happens. Too much of a good thing ends up being a bad thing.

    What to do? Use a quality protein supplement and fit it into your meal plans.
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Article Authorship

The articles on this site are authoritative, because:

  • Every contributor is an expert in his or her field.
  • The articles comply with the accepted principles of the bodybuilder literature.
  • The articles comply with the teachings of such luminaries as 8-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney.

 Where an article is not bylined with a specific author's name, it was written by Mark Lamendola (see photos on home page and elsewhere on this site). Mark is a 4th degree blackbelt, has not been sick since 1971, and has not missed a workout since 1977. Just an example of how Mark knows what he's talking about: In his early 50s, Mark demonstrated a biceps curl using half his body weight. That's a Jack LaLanne level stunt. Few people can even come close. If you want to know how to build a strong, beautiful body, read the articles here.

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