In this episode, you’ll see what Jeff Wilser, author of the new book The Good News About What's Bad for You ... The Bad News About What's Good for You, has to say about four popular exercise trends and why they may be bad for you.
I recently read a fantastic book by author Jeff Wilser, entitled The Good News About What’s Bad For You ... The Bad News About What’s Good For You. The book is chock full of somewhat shocking advice that goes against the grain, such as eat more steak, drink more whiskey, take more naps, lay off all the kale, and throw out your multivitamins and standing desk. From coffee to green tea, tequila to Vitamin Water, apologizing to swearing and the merits of procrastination to the downsides of yoga, Jeff sifts through each study to reveal some surprising truths.
A portion of his book addresses the topic of fitness, which of course piqued my interest. Among a variety of topics, Jeff tackles diets, ball chairs, stretching, infomercial fitness products, yoga, Crossfit, and exercise in general. Read on to see what he has to say about four of these fitness topics, as well as my own personal take on each item.
You’ve no doubt seen it before: those giant exercise balls folks perch on at the office, or the personal trainer sits on at the gym to “enhance core activation” or “burn more calories.” But Jeff interviews an expert who says that research studies show these things don’t actually engage the core muscles any more than a chair does, can actually increase compression on your low back, and definitely don’t burn more calories or improve posture.
My take: I completely agree, and I cringe every time I seen someone destroying their posture by slouching on a ball chair, while innocently thinking they’re somehow getting more fit. A better use for the ball would be ball push-ups, ball wall-squats, ball bridges or any of these other top 10 exercise ball moves.
In this section, Jeff points out that traditional static stretching (stretching and holding a muscle in a stretch for an extended period of time), especially when done prior to a workout, makes you weaker, and doesn’t reduce your risk of injury. He points out research that shows that after a bout of static stretching, strength can be lowered by 8 percent and lower body stability by 23 percent.
My Take: Once again, I agree, and I get into this topic quite comprehensively in Top 10 Stretching Mistakes. But at the same time, I personally stretch and do yoga every single morning for 10-30 minutes. Why? It helps me breathe more deeply and also helps to reduce stress and blood pressure the rest of the day. But I’m certainly not fooled into thinking it is enhancing my workouts or reducing my risk of injury, because it’s not. For that effect, use dynamic stretching and foam rolling.
Jeff describes CrossFit as the “kale of weightlifting,” which I’m sure will make most bacon and beef loving CrossFitters cringe. He goes on to point out research that shows a high risk of injury among CrossFitters and the random, non-structured format of most of the training.
My Take: I’ve done CrossFit. I’ve competed against some very fit athletes who rely on CrossFit as their sole means of exercise. The problem with CrossFit is not, I think, the fact that the exercises are “bad” or that the training is non-structured. The problem with CrossFit is: A) unfit people who join a CrossFit gym getting pressured into performing advanced exercises with poor form; B) fit athletes getting pressured to compete against their peers even when they’ve already trained hard the day before; and C) CrossFit coaches who can get lazy and simple start creating random workouts because they’re “hard.” But when applied intelligently and with good form, I actually think CrossFit workouts are a great way to get fit fast.
Want more? I’d recommend you read the book. And if you have more questions or comments about these four exercise trends that may actually be bad for you, then head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy and join the conversation there. Plese also stay tuned for an extended podcast interview with Jeff Wilser, author of The Good News About What’s Bad For You ... The Bad News About What’s Good For You, coming soon to the BenGreenfieldFitness.com podcast, and an interview with Jeff on the Nutrition Diva podcast.
Image courtesy of Dirty Sugar Photography.