8 Epiphanies from 2013, Part I

I learned a lot this year. These are the things that are most likely to haunt my nightmares:

1) People still choose exercises that are useless or injurious, or perform exercises such that they become useless or injurious. Many of those people are fitness “professionals.”

Beth and I moved recently. As a result, we had to give up our beloved rusty barbell club and join a big box gym. It… is… terrifying.

Sit-ups, crunches, supermans, rounded back deadlifts, squats with valgus knee position… people do these things?

His chiropractor must be on speed dial.

His chiropractor must be on speed dial

Here’s my favorite moment: I witnessed a trainer make his client do an “ab” exercise that involves rotation of the lumbar spine. This is the kind of exercise choice that typically won’t result in injury for months or years. But this time… ohhhh, but this time… This time the client ran off screaming, “I said I’d tell the manager if you hurt me again.” Solid gold.

3 amazing things to note:

  • The trainer was doing an exercise that has two mechanisms for injury built right into it: lumbar flexion and rotation.
  • The exercise was hurting his client’s back and he continued to do it anyway.
  • This woman came back for more punishment after being injured by her trainer.

2) Foam Rolling doesn’t do what we thought it did.

A lot of people have thrown away their foam rollers because it’s probably not deforming fascia like we’d thought.

However, it is absolutely doing something to change resting tissue length, whether that’s through a change in neural tone or some other mechanism. Foam rolling is in the category of things that work; we’re just not 100% sure why, yet (and for the record, sleep also falls into this category, but I don’t see people tossing out their beds). It’s still indispensable, but it’s not a replacement for appropriate manual therapy.

Gray might know a thing or two.

Gray might know a thing or two.

3) Most adults are earthbound.

It has taken me longer to realize this than it should have, but most people haven’t left the ground since they were kids.

Totally cheating

Totally cheating

I’m finding more and more people who have lost good takeoff and landing patterns, and are a long way from safely performing these patterns at any sort of speed, much less in any sort of plyometric movement or with ground reaction forces. Just standing up on tip toes with arms overhead can be a challenge in some cases. Regaining these abilities is a good general movement goal for the non-athlete.

Old Man Jump

(A note to the practitioner: for most people, regaining quality triple extension and triple flexion patterns is a macrocycle goal. Don’t start with box or depth jumps thinking that’s about to fix anything.)

4) People still believe long distance running is good for you.

Long distance running has an 80%+ injury rate and causes cardiac and vascular scarring. Wow.

Distance running is like taking up roller derby and smoking — it might seem cool at the time, but you’re probably going to regret it later in life.

Only marginally worse than distance running

Only marginally worse than distance running.

5) People are still looking for a magic bullet.

Not this one.

Not this one.

We may be progressing past the belief that you can have 7-minute abs, but we’ve been seeing a proliferation of a new magic bullet: the one tool facility. Kettlebell gyms. Spinning studios. Yoga centers. Places with “Method” in the name.

I get it. If I only had one tool, I would use it for everything, too. Only have a wrench? Sure, you could use it to tighten a bolt, drive a nail, and flip a steak. I just think you’d be better off with three different tools.

Mmmm…… Questionable

Mmmm…… Questionable

Check out #6-8 in Part II.

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