Fitness · Health

Fitness Saturday: Avoiding Fitness Trends — Quality vs Quantity

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This is another post in our series of Fitness Saturday exercises, workouts, and expert tips appropriate to women in the second half of life. Jonathan Urla, a certified advanced health and fitness specialist, shares the benefits of Circuit Training—an effective method to both save time and boost performance in a sensible way.
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A few years ago, I noticed a trend where some instructors were having their clients do exercises while using a timer. The trainer was barking at the client like a drill sergeant, telling them things like, “Come on, do more.” Then a bell would ding and the client would stop. This is a training method where you are supposed to do as many reps as possible during a set time. Being ever curious, I trained with the coach who used this method to see what it would feel like. My experience was not good. My performance in my chosen sport of running went down. Because I had “over-trained” my heart and muscles, my immune system suffered and I got really sick.  The truth is I didn’t need to experience this to know that there were inherent problems with this type of training.  Anyone who pushes himself or herself to complete exhaustion aerobically or tries to force out one last rep, even when form is breaking down, is risking injury and weakening rather than strengthening the body. Unfortunately, many people believe you have to push yourself to the max to get any benefit and make the mistake of equating a good workout with “leaving it all on the floor” via a pool of sweat. This confusion of intensity with effectiveness has permeated the fitness world and many people have become addicted to this “hi-intensity” training with more facilities offering it despite many articles exposing the dangers.

It is never wise to sacrifice form or quality of movement at any time during exercise. The science of training shows there are many ways to get the benefits of a time-efficient workout without the injury risk from ill-advised extreme efforts. One effective method to both save time and boost performance in a sensible way is Circuit Training. This is where you pick three or more different exercises (I never do more than six), and you perform them in sequence moving from one to the other until you complete a circuit. After a go round, rest until you are fully recovered and then repeat the circuit again. The number of times you do the circuit depends on your level of fitness and goals. I like to include one short calisthenic exercise in the circuit to help flush out the muscles and stay loose. The key is to mix up the exercises using different muscles so as not to over work any one area and to create a balanced workout. Below is an example of a four-exercise circuit that flows and is very effective.

 

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1. Bench Push-Ups: Align yourself horizontally to a bench and place your hands on the bench a little wider than the width of your shoulders. Keep your chest over your hands and walk your feet out until you are in an incline plank position. Bend your arms to lower your body toward the bench, then push back up. Do a number of reps that allow you to maintain perfect form and uses only about 75% of the maximum strength of your upper body. If you exercise regularly, you will have a good idea of how many push-ups you can do before your form breaks down. Pick a few number of reps so that you save some energy for more than one circuit around.

 

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2. Reverse Curls: Lay down on a bench with your legs bent in the air. Grab the top of the bench above your head and anchor your rib cage. Exhale and curl your hips up off the bench a little using your abdominals. You don’t need to lift the hips high off the bench. Even a little curl will work your abdominals muscles effectively. Again, pick a number of reps that uses about 75% of the maximum you could do without breaking form.

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