Normally I have no trouble at all coming up with ideas to write about for the old blog here. Friends, family, clients, the media, etc. They are all great at triggering something for me to write about. And I had talked with a client who is just out-of-this-world busy just the other day. I thought I was going to talk about how to navigate those times. And frankly, that’s a good post and one that we should all read. Maybe that’s what I’ll write about next week?
But I got sidetracked when, just for shits and giggles, I decided to go back and look through some of my old posts. I stumbled across one in particular from July of 2011. The title of the post was “Exercises you’re doing… and shouldn’t be”. And so I thought to myself, “you know, you’ve been writing a lot about nutrition lately and not so much about exercise. Maybe you should mix it up this week.” The post wasn’t all that long and so I read it really quickly. Unfortunately I found myself shaking my head at…. myself. But before I explain what I’m talking about, below is the meat of the old post that I’m going to have to man up and explain why I was wrong:
1. The Seated Preacher Curl Machine— I don’t know who invented it, but I do know that whoever invented it didn’t have much going on upstairs. Let’s take a quick look at why it sucks. First, you are seated. This completely eliminates any core benefit you might have received had you been standing and bracing your midsection to prevent swaying. Secondly, you are seated. Yes, you read that right. I want to get this point across. By sitting and curling a bar towards you (and your arms are even braced!), you are working a muscle group the size of oranges… expending almost 0 calories. By standing and curling a bar towards you (or better yet, doing a pullup or chinup) you engage your core, back, shoulders, and chest in addition to your biceps.
2. The Calf Raise Machine— Similar to the preacher curl, you are working a rather small muscle group. If you are on this machine, you are probably looking for really defined calfs, right? Here is an alternative that will get you there quicker. You see, in order to have defined calfs (or defined ANYTHING) you need to clear away that layer of fat. And you do that by burning off more calories. So, try bodyweight or barbell squats and when you reach the top, simply do a calf raise and then repeat back into the squat. Or try out squat jumps. You can YouTube it for how to do it. Squats aren’t your thing? Might I suggest running stairs?
3. The Seated Leg Extension / Leg Curl Machine— The problem with these machines is that you are not only seated… again, but you are working your muscles in a way that they don’t function in the real world. Seriously, how many times have you found it necessary to lift an object by curling your feet up towards your body? The 2 best alternatives, by far, are the deadlift and lunge. The deadlift will focus more on your hamstrings, while lunges will ignite both your quads AND hamstrings. And best of all, you don’t need a machine to do either. Resistance can be added to make each more challenging, but even without added weight, both will hammer away at your legs and build a rock solid core.
Now, I wasn’t completely wrong on everything, but I was pretty off on a lot of things. So let me right the wrong below:
- The seated preacher curl— You know what, so what if you’re seated? If your focus is on really hammering your biceps, then the preacher curl station is fine. Take bodybuilders for example. That’s gonna be a useful piece of equipment. They don’t care that their core isn’t braced. They’ll work their core in another way with a separate exercise. The goal at that moment is the biceps and there ain’t nothin wrong with that. And who cares about burning calories here? If you’re worried about calories address that with your diet and cardio work.
- The calf raise machine— As with the preacher curl, it really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Maybe you’re finishing up your session and want to try to help bring your calves up a bit. Then hit the calf raise machine! I can’t believe I wrote about doing a squat and then at the top doing a calf raise. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was I thinking? That’s just…. eh, I’ll let it go. Just forgive me for that one, ok? And not that running stairs isn’t a freaking awesome fat burner of an exercise, but to really build up your calves, you’re gonna want to shoulder a bit of weight to help them along.
- The seated leg extension / leg curl machine— I’ll just start with full disclosure that I personally use these machines. You know why? They work. And before I even read that paragraph I immediately thought about how I was wrong about the shearing forces and that there are ways around that. But then I read it and I never even mentioned that? I instead chose to write about the fact that you are sitting? Smh. I must have been Captain Functional Training back in 2011. Isolation exercises absolutely have their place. I’m a particularly big fan of the leg curl machine as it allows you to really load up the hamstrings without putting any (like none whatsoever) stress on your spine like the dead lift can. And not that lunges aren’t great (at least I got one thing right), but the leg extension has it’s place too for reasons I’ve explained in number 1 and 2 above. And just because you don’t do that particular move “in real life” doesn’t mean that working your quads in that fashion won’t directly translate over to it.
So there you have it. I admit I was wrong.
Today’s date happens to be September 22, 2016. It’s also the first day of the Fall. So come the fall of 2021 I’ll have to try and remember to come back to this post so I can rip it apart because my views have once again been changed. That’s the nature of this business. New research and more time in the trenches keeps you as malleable as aluminum foil, man. Til next week!