With all these new and somewhat extreme fitness trends (CrossFit, UXF, etc.), there seems to be a new wave of gym rats inhabiting gyms. While we can ALL agree that getting people to like exercise and do it on a regular basis is a good thing, some would argue, however, that these new trends present new problems, particularly for people who do not know how to safely explore their own physical thresholds. PLEASE BE CLEAR that this blog post is NOT meant to bash CrossFit or UXF, as there are some very talented and intelligent trainers who teach these classes very well and they can be very fun. What we ARE trying to emphasize is that people need to understand their own current limitations and proceed intelligently.
We always recommend that, even if a person does not want to work with a personal trainer long term, he or she should at least invest in a few sessions with a fitness professional to be sure that exercises are being done properly to avoid injury…but also to avoid looking like a total fool at the gym. If that just isn’t going to happen, we are also big fans of the use of props for proprioceptive purposes like dowel rods, yoga blocks, foam rollers, stability balls, mirrors and walls (this *may* make you look a bit weird at the gym, but not as weird as this dude, who might have internal bleeding).
Now, we are by NO MEANS saying that you just shouldn’t move and function until you have the help of a professional or some outside aid, but we ARE saying that if you do not have a high level of body awareness, it won’t hurt you to get some help before attempting things like this.
Let’s face it, no matter what you do or don’t do, you are going to get injured at some point (Kim broke her toe getting out of bed), but we can at least attempt to minimize chronic injuries by having someone teach us how to perform exercises properly.
We know. It’s hard to not let the type-A mentality take over and go for more weight over proper form, but this is how people get injured. Sometimes you have to take a few steps back to go forward. If you think people will look down on you for regressing your workout, what will they think when you are not lifting for a few months, because you are recovering from a rotator cuff injury and you just have to chill on the recumbent bike for an hour each day while watching reruns of Desperate Housewives? Yeah, exactly.
Here are ways to regress simple exercises:
Push-ups – First of all, start from THE FLOOR (it’s called a push-UP, not a get-my-face-close-to-the-floor-and-then-get-back-up). Your spine should look the same from the floor as you push up and raise your body (this includes your neck and your butt). If not, BRING YOUR KNEES DOWN (or at least one knee) until you can gain some core control. Try some nice prone planks with a foam roller on your back for the feedback. Or have someone take a video of you while doing it so you know what you look like. Don’t worry, keep it up and it won’t be long until you get to stop doing “girl” push-ups.
Squats – Sit on the edge of a low chair or bench. Stand up. If you can’t do that without keeping your spine’s angle consistent, how about you practice that a few times before throwing a barbell on your back? Great. Next.
Lunges – I know plyo is all the rage in fitness these days, BUT if you can’t start from a half-kneeling position (one knee on the ground under your pelvis and the other foot in front of you with your knee at 90 degrees) and stand up without leaning way forward or falling all over the place… you guessed it. Start here, buddy.
Pull ups – Are your shoulders coming up by your ears? Biceps doing all/ most of the work? Have to crank your neck like an angry giraffe to get it over the bar? Lower body moving all over the place? How about working some lat pull-downs or using a bar that is chest-height so you can use your legs until you can lift with your back and arms? Coolness.
We hope you find these tips helpful and you use them in your journey of “not looking like a jackass at the gym.”