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A Class Act

Jul 11, 2013
A Class Act

What would you look for when buying a new car? Millage? Cost? Looks? Speed? The arrangement of the letters on the number plate so you can give it a cool little nickname? It all depends on the person and what their current situation is. For every person there is a specific car that is more suited to his or her needs.

 

Exercise is exactly the same. There are some modes that are very useful to some, but not as much to others. Would Zumba a good choice for an mid 20’s male looking to bulk up? Not exactly. How about a 1 rep max squat test for a geriatric client whose just had their third knee replacement? Jog on…

 

 It is quite clear that what is optimal for one can be detrimental to another. Some forms of training will accelerate progress but conversely some forms can actually take you further away from your target.

 

 Walk into any mainstream commercial gym at 10-11am and head to the studios. What will you notice? A body pump or spin class packed to the rafters with the majority of attendees being women. Every single of one them will have exactly the same goal, lose weight, tone up, flatten their stomach and reduce bingo wings. I apologize if this may seem sexist or stereotypical, but it’s just what I have found from first hand experience.

 

 Now let’s look at the physiological repercussions of these forms of exercise from a hormonal and structural balance point of view.

 

Spin

Spinning is a quad dominant exercise, i.e. you apply force by contracting your quad in order to turn the peddles on the bike. The forward momentum will cause the peddles to do a full revolution before it’s time to apply the force ones again. Why is this a problem? Because most women are already quad dominant. They will have weak hamstrings causing them to be unable to correctly “Hip Hinge” and activate the gluteal muscles effectively. Wanna try? If you are female and reading this stand up and do a body weight squat (Please reframe if you’re reading this in a Starbucks or something as you may look weird). Feet shoulder width apart, push your knee out, hips back and squat as low as you can whilst keeping your chest up.

 

 If you happen to lean forward excessively and cannot reach 90 degrees with your legs it is an indication of tight hip flexors, weak or underactive glutes, weak hamstrings and poor core stability. What will spinning do if done frequently? Tighten the hamstrings, tighten the hip flexors, strengthen the already over dominant quads and due to the cycling position, put strain on the lumber spine.

 

Everything has it’s place. If you are a cyclist looking to shave time off your triathlon in the winter, Spinning is perfect for you. If you are a women whose had a child, has weak abdominals, weak hamstrings, possible restrictions in the thoracic or lumbar spine due to pregnancy and little to no glute activation, Spinning is your enemy.

 

 N.B. The glutes are an extremely important muscle in the body. They control hip hinging, hip extension (very useful movement…giggady) and stabilize the pelvis. Quite a high amount of the population who have experienced back pain could have avoided it by properly strengthening and activating the glutes. What do they do instead? Get some prescription drugs that mask the symptoms temporarily…so in other words, sweet FA. If you’re back hurts, or any extremity for that matter hurts, go see a chiropractor and fix the cause not the symptoms.

I taught spin for almost 2 years. That’s right folks I used to be a right hardcore spinner doing it so much I nearly went blind. What did I notice? Well that at the end of any sessions I would be wired. The high intensity work would set my catecholamines into overdrive. In laymen’s terms, stress hormones go up, sex hormones go down. I would be knackered, my joints would ache and I’d also be buzzing my proverbial tits off. Good for fat loss? No. I got a hell of a lot leaner once I packed spin in altogether.

 

Body Pump

Ah, Body Pump, the most comical of cases which is up there with zero calorie energy drinks and the spin off “Joey” from “Friends” in terms of total and utter epic fails. Again, I’m not trying to slate what the class entails of, I’ll just explain what it’s actually doing.

 

 I like to get female clients to lift heavy weights…how heavy? As heavily as they safely can. In my opinion it elicits a desirable hormonal effect to burn body fat. I do however, sometimes get told,

 

 “I don’t want to lift heavy weights, I don’t want to look like the lady version of Arnold Schwarzenegger”

 

Sorry, I didn’t realize you were eating 3 kilos of meat a day and had recently doubled your Winstrol dosage. They will then happily toddle off to the next Body Pump class and pump their heart away.

 

 During a body pump class you are doing a high amount of reps with a medium to low weight for a long duration of time under tension. Now, if you’re a body builder and ready this I would firstly like to say thanks for reading and yes, I’m laughing just as much as you are. Medium to low weights with a high time under tension is one of the most potent training modalities for body building there is. That’s just science. No if’s or but’s, look it up. If you are a women looking to tone or lose fat, body pump will have the opposite effect.

 

What also grinds my gears is form. I’ve seen some of these classes and apart from some people barely even bending their knees for the squat, certain attendees technique is down right dangerous. Can a single instructor correct 30 people’s technique whilst keeping in track to the music, remembering the routine and working out themselves? I highly doubt it.

 

 Class members will always ramp up the weights for the tracks that they’re good at and lower it for the ones they’re less capable in. This is likely to lead to more muscle imbalances and heighten the risk of injury. As far as I’m aware there isn’t a pump class that focuses of glute activation, scapula retraction and abdominal bracing in favour of lunges and press ups. I could be wrong though.

 

 I’ve injured myself squatting before. Badly. I’ve had lumbar disk issues that felt like someone stuck a knife in my back. I’ve caused a shoulder impingement through benching and nearly  s*** myself on a couple of occasions attempting a maximal deadlift. Any form of exercise can be dangerous or sub optimal for you to do. However, my goals are simple, become stronger at squatting and deadlifting. Does this mean I should be squatting and deadlifting regularly? Yes it does. If you are Female or Male and are striving for a reduction in body fat and less joint pain, it would be high recommendable to seek a different method then Spin and Body Pump.

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