Over-complicated general fitness/exercise routines are something that I have been seeing so much recently. Everybody seems to be preaching crossfit, muscle confusion, constantly varied interval training, and exercises where there are so many skills/technical things involved that it impacts any actual benefit of the exercise in the first place. Think of things like standing on a stability ball, squatting, and throwing a med ball all at the same time, or something overtly stupid like one leg overhead squats…injury anyone? Go out and ask 10 people who don’t exercise what the best fitness program for someone is, and no doubt you will get 10 different answers. Even worse, go to a classic fitness club and ask 10 people what the optimal fitness program is, and everyone will either say you should be a bodybuilder or a marathon runner.
Why have we begun to think that the most complex, confusing exercises are the most beneficial? Before I go any further here, I would like to clarify something. For the purpose of this article, I am mainly speaking about fitness for the general public, not conditioning for the advanced competitive athlete, these are 2 very different populations and arguably, the highly trained athlete will benefit from something a bit more complicated (think Olympic lifting and periodization). But, for general fitness purposes, here we go.
Simple Fitness – Why Over-Complicating Isn’t Necessary
Let’s start by touching again on the complicated exercises that you see all over the place. Let’s look at this exercise, it looks cool, and maybe even fun, but the question here is whether it is useful or necessary for general fitness. Do we need to waste our time with that exercise, or is something like this exercise more appropriate for fitness and more transferable to daily life.
Wait, I forgot to put general fitness into context so I guess I should stop for a moment and define what I mean by general fitness. General fitness is one’s ability to competently and efficiently move through the activities of everyday life easily and without pain, as well as maintain overall health and appropriate body composition. Let’s further define activities of everyday life not as those performed in the average sedentary life, but something a bit more active (but not ridiculous) which would include:
- The ability to run at a decent speed (maybe even sprint) – Think chasing after a bus, or chasing kids around
- The ability to walk for long periods of time without difficulty
- The ability to properly lift things from many different heights, most importantly the ground
- The ability to jump
- The ability to climb
- The ability to throw things
- The ability to squat
- The ability to sit on the ground
- The ability to get up off the ground
- The ability to crawl
- And other fundamental movements that I have missed
So, does the stability ball pike/tuck help us achieve the above things, maybe, but when in life are you going to have to do that movement. Compared to the bear crawl which is directly transferable to you crawling around the ground with your kids or pets. So, the abilities I have listed above are pretty simple movements right? Therefore my question to people is, why do we need to perform such complex exercises to be able to achieve such simple movements? Well, we don’t, and when the average person, looking to start exercising, is told they have to do all this crazy stuff to be healthy, fit, and see results, it just scares them off, and I am not surprised. In reality, fitness should be easy and straightforward; sure, we can throuw in some of that other stuff sometimes so we don’t get bored, but in the end let’s keep it simple and stress free
Note to you crossfitters out there: I know you can be very defensive of your sport sometimes, and if you consider it a sport, your are likely trying to compete, which also means you are not what I am referring to as the general public, so keep on keepin’ on. Crossfit also has many great things about it like lifting heavy things, throwing things, climbing, jumping, and sprinting. The only problem for the average person is when all those things are thrown together in ridiculously large amounts it gets scary and is definitely not sustainable for lots of people.
Simple Fitness – My Program
OK, so lets talk about what a simple average general fitness program could look like, and lets keep in mind the above movements we are looking to be efficiently able to do.
First off lets talk about strength. Strength is essential for movement and propelling our bodies through space, as well as propelling external objects through space (ie. lifting), so here are some exercises to increase our strength:
- Squat – weighted or not
- Picking things up off the ground – Think deadlift
- Dragging Something
- Carrying Something
Next, let’s talk about power. Power is the ability to propel weight (your body is considered weight too) through space at a fast speed, think jumping, sprinting, and throwing. Also think moving your legs fast enough to stop yourself from falling if you trip (very important as you get older). Here are some power exercises
- Jump – Any kind of jumping will do
- Sprint – Preferably on your feet the way nature made us, but a bike or rowing machine will work. Please note that sprinting is fast for short periods like 1 min or less.
- Throw things – Any object will do. Maybe a medicine ball or a rock. Sometime use light things, sometimes use heavy things, just don’t hurt anyone 🙂
Finally, there are a couple others things that are essential.
- Walk/hike as much as you can (I like golfing and hiking)
- Stay flexible – If you are not flexible work on getting there with stretching and mobility exercises. If you are flexible enough, maintain it by doing all the above exercises moving through a full range of motion.
- Understand posture
OK, so these last 2 points may be the most complicated out of this whole article, but once you have gained sufficient mobility, it is easy enough to maintain as noted above. However, if you are not flexible enough, here is a great site to help you on your way.
Now that we have all these simple exercises listed, we can put them together into a weekly routine. Here it is:
- Do some strength exercises 2-4 times per week
- Do some power exercises 1-3 times per week
- Walk as much as you can
- Sit as little as possible
- Work on your inflexible areas once per day (5-15 mins)
- Just eat real food (JERF) – Think Paleo/Ancestral style – FYI, diet is by far the most important component to healthy body composition/weight.
Your workouts also don’t even have to be all that structured to get results, and your strength and power days should be no longer than an hour, and I could argue 30 mins will do just fine. Add weight to the exercises if you are more advanced, or use your own body weight if you are a beginner. Done!
There you go, simple fitness that everyone could do on their own with only a little bit of help at the start if they don’t know how to do these movements. So, let’s stop over complicating exercise for the general public, and stop scaring people away from a necessary part of a healthy life. Simple fitness should be simple 🙂
Disclaimer: Obviously, as always, before beginning any exercise program, seek the assistance of a trained professional, particularly if you are not familiar with the movements listed above since they can potentially be dangerous and detrimental if not performed with proper form. Also, get clearance from your healthcare practitioner prior to beginning any exercise program.
The Barefoot Golfer