Doing versus Seeming: the importance of honesty in fitness

If you go to any gym, you get to see a lot of impressive, and weird, stuff going on. Scanning around the floor at your typical big box Jim, you may find your self in all of the girl back squatting twice her own bodyweight and then five seconds later you find yourself wondering at the sanity of the guy upside down in thestanding leg press machine. If you know what you’re looking for, you may also find yourself concerned at how some people short change themselves on their workouts. Squats that only go halfway down when they should go to the floor, presses the never lockout overhead, or pull-ups that start from a bent arm and ignore the dead hang position. As a coach, it makes me twitchy when I see these kinds of errors, because I know that person is doing themselves a severe disservice with their fitness.

Today, we are going to talk about how I’m not to cheat yourself in your workouts. Whether you are shaving reps off of your sets, working at oh wait you can’t handle, or shortchanging yourself on the range of motion of a particular movement, will cover some tips for getting the most out of your time in the gym.

1. A rep, is a rep, is a rep

Just about any workout you do is going to ask you to do a certain number of rounds/sets of a certain number of reps for a certain list of movements. Even classic cardio workouts like running or rowing, will ask you to go a certain distance and usually record your time. Basically, every good work out should be quantifiable. The human body benefits from the stress caused by exercise, and the more work you do (i.e.the more rounds and reps you complete) the more stress you put on your body and the more your body adapts. 

You need to make sure that if you want to see all the benefits from a work out, you are doing all the actual work it requires. Skipping reps doesn’t do you any good. Sure, it may make you look better in comparison to others if you happen to finish more “work” then they did by skipping reps (ya know, cheating) but in the end the person who does all of the work is going to outpace, outperform, and be happier then the person who cheats in order to get a better “score”. 

Don’t be “that guy”, especially since everyone always knows who you are. 

2. Know your range of motion

Every movement has a specific range of motion, flowing from the start position to the end position and back again, according to the fundamental mechanics of the human body. Every rep of every exercise you do should follow the full range of motion for that movement. Some examples:

A squat is complete when you start at fully standing, hinge at the hips until your butt is at or below your knees, and then stand back to full extension again. 

A press begins at the shoulder, with the object being pressed traveling as close to the center of your body as possible until your arms are fully locked out above your head, and then travels back to the starting position at the shoulder along the same path. 

A deadlift begins with the weight below the knees, where you grab it with one or both hands, back flat and head in a neutral position. The hips are hinged backwards and th torso is straight. The two is half done when the weight is brought to the hip level, back and hips fully extended. The rep is done when the weight is returned fully to the floor along th same path of motion. 

Every single movement has a range of motion just like our examples. You should be paying attention to, and conforming to, the range of motion for every rep you do. Otherwise you’re short changing yourself on body mechanics and opening up to injury. 

3. Speed is not a substitute for form

Some people just like to go fast. This is fine, and is one way of increasing intensity in your workout. But the problem arises when you substitute doing something fast for doing it right. Above all else form is king. You should always be doing something slowly, with control, before you try to do it fast. If you were able to complete 100 rounds in less time than anyone else, you are either perfect or you went too fast and sacrificed form. Chances are it was the latter rather than the former.

The name of the game here: slow down until the movement is as perfect as you can get it at the weight you’re working with. Do not go faster, until your form is as good as it can be.