When speaking to friends on the subject of pizza, I am always quick to say,
“Pizza is like sex and music; there is no such thing as bad, only different levels of good”.
Exercise can be part of that equation as well…
The tail of two friends…
Two friends from the Midwest, both of them very fitness minded, each sent me two separate articles this week, each unaware of the other.
One friend, VDB, sent me this one titled, The Five Most Overrated Exercises You Can’t Stop Doing.
The other friend, TJ, sent me this one titled, Worthless Exercises You Probably Do.
As far as the overratedness or worthlessness of exercises go, these are relative statements, and always cause me to cringe when I read such blind assertions.
I argue for thinking…
Through several decades of reading on the subject of exercise, I have seen many articles like these. I have never seen such articles make strong arguments against the exercises they list. They usually go into very little detail to support their argument, and never do they consider the peripheral utility of such exercises, or consider the values these exercises may offer on a more visceral level.
It’s sort of like saying, “I hate that candidate.” Fair enough. Now tell me why, and support your argument…
I can make an argument, and often do, that there are no worthless exercises if they are done properly — that there is utility, on some level, in all mindful movement performed by a capable body.
Some exercises have more utility than others for a particular outcome, say, functional fitness vs. aesthetic fitness. Even those terms though, functional fitness, and aesthetic fitness aren’t necessarily exclusive from one-another.
Exercises done in the name of functional fitness may have more of an aesthetic application, but that doesn’t mean there is not a functional value. Conversely, many exercises I suggest for functional strength can provide an aesthetic benefit as well.
There’s a fine line between an exercise being worthless, and it simply lacking efficiency relative to one’s objective.
That is where the real answers rest in exercise anyway; when we choose which exercises to include in our regimen based upon what we are trying to accomplish.
The usual suspects…
The case I use most often is the leg extension.
I will state my opinion, clearly, that leg extensions, first and foremost, offer an aesthetic application. Among the many benefits leg extensions offer is that they help create lines of separation between the quadriceps. To a bodybuilder, this is useful. To a golfer, not so much.
Often maligned by functional fitness proponents, I’ve heard leg extensions referred to as knee wreckers, useless, and dangerous. This is nonsense. Though leg extensions are an isolation exercise, they are not knee wreckers, and done properly, they are far from dangerous. They can, in fact, be knee supporters – even for golfers.
Though leg extensions do isolate the quadriceps muscles, they also isolate the quadriceps tendons which fuse those muscles to the knee joints. Doing leg extensions properly, and with an appropriate weight, will strengthen those tendons, offering better support for the knee joints of anyone, be they an athlete, weekend warrior, or assisted living resident. Leg extensions, done properly, make the knees stronger.
Both articles advocated against the bench press as a functional fitness exercise. One stating,
“The bench press is overrated mainly because too many beginners stick to this chest exercise thinking that it’s the only thing they need”.
Well that’s not the fault of the bench press. That’s the fault of the uniformed user over-depending on the bench press.
The other article claimed,
“Some fitness experts have deemed bench press unsafe.”
Again, this is a relative statement. I will argue that the bench press, done with proper form and an appropriate weight, is useful in developing upper body strength for all levels of fitness including my oldest client, 88, who does them regularly. There is also a peripheral core element which comes with doing bench presses properly.
Irony out the wrinkles…
I find it interesting that of the two articles linked above, one advocated for the plank as a good alternative to the crunch, and the other vice-versa.
My take on either of these exercises does not change; there is value in either one, but the value is only disclosed by the way the exercise is performed, relative to what the goal of the user might be. I published my own thoughts on this here last month.
Look, I’m not even an expert on Roy Cohen, so I won’t claim to be an expert on exercise. I have been at this a while though. I have seen many trends in exercise which have come and which have gone. One trend though, that remains and probably always will, is the trend of “experts” trying to provide your common sense to you, because they don’t want you to cultivate it on your own – there’s just not as much profit in that… Be well. rc
Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head. Oh, and if you have 30 minutes of time, please check out Oklahoma’s JD McPherson. Enjoy…