Tuesday, 17 February 2015

How Gyms are Failing Us

How Gyms are Failing Us

There are gyms everywhere these days and what is more they offer membership under £15 per month with no contract.  However, whether you train in a budget gym or a premium gym you may be falling victim to the tricks of the industry without even realising.  Here is a summary of how gyms are tricking and therefore failing us.


The fitness industry loves to play on your insecurities so you regularly see buzzwords such as ‘Core’, ‘Fat Burn’ and classes like ‘Legs, Bums and Tums’ and ‘Tone’.  Why?  Because these are the main areas most gym goers worry about.  However, this does not mean that you can optimally improve your core or burn fat by using whatever equipment the buzzword is attached to, nor is there any logical reason to only train your legs, bum and tums in a class.

- A workout is what YOU make it and most people should train their entire body every session.

Calories, Calories, Calories

Most modern gym cardio equipment defaults to show you how many calories you have burned during your workout.  However, unless you have manually entered your age, weight, height and had the machine monitor your heart rate this figure is just a guess.  In fact, often this equipment assumes you are 100kg plus and 40 plus so shows a figure that is way too high for the average user. People then often get too focused on calorie burn and not about exercise quality and progression.

- If you are working hard you will burn calories so monitor your heart rate using a monitor and progress the intensity each week.

Exercise Classes

Exercises classes are fun there is no doubt about it.  Taking part in regular exercises classes will give you most, if not all of the health benefits associated with exercise (reduce chance of getting heart disease etc).  However, all exercise classes are generic and that means they are not designed specifically for your needs.  Typically the intensity will not be correct for the individual or the exercise selection may not tender to the areas you most need it.  Additionally, for reasons I can not understand more and more exercises classes have the instructor up on a stage taking part instead of walking around correcting form and technique.  Therefore, you regularly see people who have been training regularly for years who cannot execute simple exercise such as the squat or overhead press properly.  Also, as already mentioned above a lot of exercises classes are gimmicks to play on peoples insecurities about a particular part of the body and often do not offer what they claim.

- Specific training provides both the fastest and the best results for any individual.  Classes should be used sparingly for fun.

Energy Drinks, Supplements

Gyms sell energy drinks and protein shakes for one reason, and one reason only = Profit.

There is a huge write up on all supplements and big money too be made.  Gyms do not sell these items because the customer needs them and for most customers they will gain more calories than they burned during their workout.

- Avoid supplements and energy drinks, eat good quality food and your body will respond to it.  Your body stores enough energy to last through a 1 hour workout and seldom is there a reason for anyone to workout longer than that so why eat more?

Cardio, Cardio, Cardio

Gyms pander to popular demand, not science so often have more cardio equipment than any other type.  Why?  Because cardio has a mythical, not factual, effect on our bodies and burns fat the best.  However, the science repeatedly shows that resistance (weight) training is optimal for burning calories, reducing our waistlines and shaping our bodies.  I am not for a second suggesting people should not do cardio, that would be foolish, but it is important that your quantity of cardio training supports your goal.

- Cardio is important, but the science shows it is not optimal for fat loss.  As a beginner perhaps 40% of your training should be cardio and as you get fitter reduce that down to 15-25% depending on your goals.  Ultimately, most fat loss will come from what you do in the kitchen, not the gym.

Abs/Core Classes and Equipment

While I have covered some of this under buzzwords I think this still deserves it’s own section.  All gyms offer a variety of ab machines and abs/core classes.  As we have learned above this is because people are insecure about their bellies and usually think that doing lots of ab training will give them a flat stomach.  This is fundamentally wrong, we do not, sadly, burn fat from the areas which we exercise. 

More importantly is that our abs are just one muscle making up what has come to be known (there is no official definition) as the core.  There is no logic whatsoever to single out the abs for training, the core works as an interlinked system so is only as good as its weakest muscle.  Also, the core works pretty much all day whenever we are stood up.  Therefore, specific core exercise are often less effective than using the core as nature intended while carrying out exercises such as squatting, deadlifting and pressing or using something like the Concept 2 rower.  In fact, more often than not people can maintain good core tension during a plank because it is static, but have terrible or non-existent core tension when they move.  Yet, arguable core tension is far more important under movement.

- Train the core as a system primarily as you move in everyday life and when lifting weights.  Perhaps once a week target the core specifically for approx. 10 mins utilising plank variations, deadbugs and birddogs or using TRX.

So how is this instructor helping her class by taking part herself?

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