Sometimes you go into a gym and see someone doing a crazy cool exercise, and you say to yourself, "Wow, that person must be strong!" Well folks, appearances can be deceiving.
Just because an exercise looks impressive doesn't mean the person performing it is actually strong, or that the exercise is actually beneficial. People often overcomplicate their workouts, and they're usually worse off for it. For an effective strength training program, the motto should always be Less is More. Focus on the basics and do them well.
Here are four ways that gym-goers often unnecessarily overcomplicate their workouts.
Carrying a Jam-Packed Gym Bag
Carrying a gym bag ensures you will have all the gear you need for every workout. But if you carry everything—weightlifting belt, wrist straps, gloves, knee wraps, chalk, heart rate monitor (the whole kit and caboodle)—when you gear up, it looks like a weightlifting company threw up on you.
Unfortunately, you could spend more time setting up and adjusting your gear than actually working out. Your gear becomes a distraction rather than a tool. Not to mention that a lot of gear is designed to make exercises easier, not make you a better athlete.
The Fix: It's OK to have a gym bag with gear—I personally carry a small one around when I lift. But you only need the bare essentials. A watch or heart rate monitor and some chalk (if your gym doesn't have it) are all you need to get a good workout. If you're an advanced lifter, you can think about adding some of the other items to your bag.
Adding Instability to Every Exercise
Don't get us wrong—we love instability training. Standing on an Airex Pad or a BOSU Ball, or performing suspended exercises, increases core strength, strengthens stabilizer muscles and improves balance—all of which help to prevent injury.
But there's a time and a place.
Adding instability to too many exercises is counterproductive—especially when your goal is to build strength and power. Yes, standing on an Airex pad makes a Squat more difficult, but it costs you the chance to challenge your muscles with heavy weight. And you should never do Curls while standing on an instability pad. That's just a waste of time.
The Fix: Think of instability exercises as another tool in your toolbox. You need to focus on your primary lifts. But adding instability can complement your strength exercises and make you a more well-rounded—and durable—athlete. Start with Abby Wambach's BOSU Circuit.
Incorporating Every Piece of Equipment in Sight
We've all seen this guy. He uses so much equipment it looks like he has his own private mini-gym within a gym. He proceeds to incorporate each med ball, suspension trainer, BOSU ball and other stuff into some crazy, newfangled exercise you've never seen before—or thought was possible.
Yes, TRX Suspended BOSU Med Ball Push-Ups look impressive (more on this below), but what's the purpose? Odds are the guy will end up hurting himself and ticking off someone else in the gym for hogging all the equipment.
The Fix: As a general guideline, if you need more than two pieces of equipment for an exercise, proceed with caution. Exercises like Physioball TRX Inverted Rows are great, as are Squats with resistance bands or chains. Bottom line: don't complicate an exercise just to complicate it.
Doing a Move Because it Looks Cool
When I was working out in high school, I remember a guy who did crazy exercises like Handstand Push-Ups on the center support of a double cable machine. At the time, I thought that guy was awesome. It looked like he was fighting for his life, but it was impressive.
Looking back, it looked like he was fighting for his life because that's exactly what he was doing. If he missed a rep or lost his balance, he would have been in serious trouble. Yes, he got my attention—and probably others' as well—but at what cost?
The Fix: Always think about the consequences of failure with an exercise, and ignore the cool factor. That guy should have opted for a regular Handstand Push-Up—which is impressive in its own right—and not a version that could have led to an 8-foot fall.
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