T Nation

Is Your Workout Wasting Your Time


This greated me on MSN this morning.




It's a good article. The vast majority of gym-goers do rely way too much on single-joint, machine exercises. And low-intensity, low-result cardio. Of course, the way most of us train here is not a waste of time.


Some of the comments made me go "hmmm." Here is a basic overview for those of you who don't want to read 4 pages worth.

the exercisers slaving away on other stationary machines are building individual muscles in place of whole-body strength

While I agree that free weights rule, show me a machine exercise that uses only one muscle. I'd really like to learn how to isolate my opponens digiti minimi. :slightly_smiling: And how do individual muscles not contribute to whole body strength?

If you have a limited amount of time to work out, you're better off ditching the machine to do different kinds of body-weight and whole-body exercises. You'll get more caloric burn for your time spent

Ok, I agree that if you can only train twice a week, total body workouts might be for you. But this is the old potato / pahtato argument. TBT vs. splits. I've found both to be very effective even if I only train 30-45 minutes per day.

Researchers, for instance, have known that the leg-extension machine... trains you to do just one thing: become very strong at the leg-extension machine. The seated leg-extension machine has nothing to do with how we use our legs...

Ummm, ok. So you never flex or extend your leg in daily activity?

The leg press is equally disconnected from the reality of human anatomy. There are no motor-control requirements on a leg-press machine... In real-life tasks, you have to balance on one leg, you have to sidestep, and you have to get all the muscles to coordinate together.

Now this is silliness. Why do I get the feeling that they are about to suggest squats on a bosu ball as a more real-life exercise?

I don't think fitness happens best in isolation... This is hard stuff, and it's a lot easier to share hard stuff than do it yourself. At the clubs, you are going to be turned loose on the machines, and a machine is like an isolation booth.

I don't know about you, but no one helps me deadlift. All he is doing here is getting ready to advance the idea that we should train in a group or class based atmosphere (think CrossFit) for maximum results.

perhaps the best evidence against traditional clubs is that these days most elite athletes rarely step into one... A functional training approach to fitness stresses the training of movements over muscles... The main purpose of FT is to bridge the gap between absolute strength and functional strength... FT discourages the use of machines in favor of free weights, body-weight exercises, and certain devices used in physical therapy, such as medicine balls, stability balls, wobble boards, and resistance bands.

First off, most of us aren't training for sport and don't need to train like a football player would. Secondly, doesn't this type of training require that individuals (or gyms) go out and find trainers and buy new equipment? Isn't this just a new way for the fitness industry to make more money?

In 2001, Gregg Glassman founded CrossFit, a back-to-basics functional-training program that's popular with the military and law enforcement

Ah hah!

Aerobics areas often have smaller classes that utilize free weights, dumbbells, and different types of balance mechanisms

And we all know how much muscle and strength these will build.

While men have traditionally avoided classes, more and more are participating in small group exercises... Some guys worry that they'll lose bulk, but that's a misperception. You can still make strength and mass gains, and the advantage is that your body will be in better balance.

Not in aerobics/pink dumbbell classes you can't! If I did this my workout would be wasting my time.

Train on your feet. Once you sit, you lose your body's natural anchor: the muscles of the back, butt, abdominal core, and legs. Ground-based training immediately puts an end to a host of outdated free-weight lifts, including the bench press, military press, incline press...

I'd like to see them try to prove that powerlifters at a bench meet are only using their pecs and biceps to bench.

Train movements, not muscles. For the lower body, lunge, step-down, and squat drills are all it takes, and body weight alone is usually more than enough load.

All it takes to do what? Make sure you stay weak and small?

This article is really just about promoting "functional training" to replace traditional methods. Although they seem to promote free weights, you can tell that they would rather have you balancing on a wobble board while holding pink dumbbells that you (in one motion) curl and press overhead. This does nothing to advance training methods.


I guess I skimmed and did not read the article carefully. No one ever made progress standing on a balance ball doing side raises. I would agree that shifting the emphasis away from machine bicep curls, tricep extensions, and the pec deck is a good thing. But it should be shifted TOWARDS benching, squatting, deadlifts, and bent-over barbell rows with additional isolation work to an appropriate degree. And not towards so-called 'functional' training.

There is some benefit to functional work, particularly for athletes. But not in the way they are talking about. And you're right. You obivously use a host of other muscles to stabilize when benching. Anybody that thinks you don't use your abs, for example, cannot have ever actually benched heavy.


"Outdated free-weight lifts?" Since when is benching outdated? Did I miss something?

The way I look at it is, crossfit training is better than no training at all. To each his/her own.


Crossfit is fine for what's it's designed for, Conditioning and strength endurance, both of which are pretty important for military/firefighters. The fact that it doesn't work very well for hypertrophy training should be obvious. Why some people don't understand that is what I find confusing.


First of all, most people are not training at the gym, they are "working out". They have no idea of what the point is or what the difference is. Those of us that train for strength are actively training our CNS for power and speed. We have a plan and we know how to execute the exercises in that plan because we make a study of it. Bob the accountant, who is trying to catch Mary's eye just goes to the gym to exercise. He just wants that elusive bowflex body in 15 minutes a day.

Here, read this;


Most PT's don't know dick and they keep their clients in the dark and writing those checks. I see it every day.

One PT at our gym had women doing the hula hoop (yes you read that right) right next to one of our lifters that was in the process of benching 315; talk about distracting. I guess they couldn't do it in the empty aerobics room, because then no one could see how "cool and innovative" she is. (I have continuing safety issues with this woman)

Compound exercises are the way to go for beginners so that they can build up some strength and confidence (very important) prior to moving on to isolation or more complex exercises. This is especially important for older folks (women especially) that have never trained.

Leg extensions are fine for rehab or very light work, but the sheer forces on the knee get dangerous when you start piling on the weight. Same with the smith machine. Fine for rehab or very light work, but it teaches very bad motor mechanics and habits.

I am still trying to figure out where all the people read that 1/2 squats in the smith machine are a good idea. Where the f*&k did that idea come from? I guess most people don't squat because they have weak hamstrings and have never been taught the proper technique...and they're scared.

I may have to start pulling the high school students aside and giving them some advice before it's too late.

Hopefully they'll listen.


If you pulled me aside and gave me a stern talking to I'd be too scared not to listen to your advice. :slight_smile:

A hula hoop? Seriously? Damn.

I agree about compound vs. isolation movements. I do think that machines have their place. Obviously some lifts are assistance and some are core work. You aren't going to go balls to the wall on every lift.

I mainly disagreed with the article trying to make you think that bodyweight group oriented training was THE only way to go. Anyone seen those supid P90X commercials?
It promotes "muscle confusion" and says that by introducing new moves every few weeks you will keep your body from stagnating.


Hey, don't knock the Hula Hoop till you tried it.

Think my record may have been 16 minutes.




Yeah. But can you do this?






that's what I thought.


Master of Hula Hoops.


Damn. You win, c. Why is it that anything with flames on it gets all the action and looks real cool. I think I'll dip the plates in kerosine tomorrow and go for a flaming squat. Now that my hair's short I think I'll be OK.


I cannot hula hoop to save my life.... damn

I can double-dutch jump rope though, although there was that messy clotheslining incident that left me looking like a hanging victim for a week.

And on topic, when I first started I did hire a trainer as I was clueless and he had me running in place on a bosu ball to work my core and build my stability muscles.


Fuel, Fire, AND Weights???

you win :wink:

I'll have to add "Flaming Squats" to my new year's resolution list.

and cutting my hair.



Did it work? Just like the ab lounge is supposed to give you a total body workout even though it only taxes your abs... hmm. I was watching celebrity fit club yesterday as a mild form of torture. Talk about misinformation! Those poor fat celebs will never get skinny if they keep listening to their "trainers."


What were they saying? This should be entertaining.


Did you see the Biggest Loser where they said you needed to do crunches to get visible abs?

Have you seen the new swivel seat that is also supposed to work your abs? It's like an office chair, you just sit on it, keep your feet planted and swivel side to side, wooooo bet that works up a sweat.


I saw that and it irked me quite a bit.