back pain

What's the point of fitness?

The whole point of lifting weights is to get stronger, right? Perpetually lift heavier weights, more reps, at higher intensity.

Right?

Wrong.

The whole point of working out is to constantly push yourself past your limits and walk out of the gym feeling like you got hit by a truck, right? That's how you know you got a great workout. As you collapse in a pool of sweat, unable to construct a sentence or muster a coherent thought, your trainer smiles and says, "You crushed it today."

Did YOU crush IT, or did the TRAINER crush YOU?

This is where a lot of people go wrong with fitness. The whole Spartan, Tough Mudder and American Ninja Warrior mentality has permeated the fitness industry, to the point where people who are just trying to be healthier and look/feel a little better have been duped into thinking the only path to those goals is pain.

What's old is new again, and the "no pain, no gain" mantra from the '80s has infiltrated the fitness world and people are buying into it all over again.

Don't be duped.

Remember this: The first priority of a fitness program is to prevent pain and injury so you can continue exercising as long as you want to -- in theory, for the rest of your life. That's it. Period. Dr. John Rusin covers this topic thoroughly in this post, "How to Lift Forever: The Best Movements for Long-Term, Pain-Free Gains."

If your fitness program doesn't include the following components, it's time to look for a new fitness program:

-- Corrective Exercise: How does it make sense to load hundreds of pounds on your back if you have hip impingement, a collapsed arch or weak external hip rotators? Fix the movement pattern first before loading it.

-- Shoulder Care: It puzzles me why people think it's a good idea to throw and catch heavy weights overhead without taking the time to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder girdle. Maybe Wall Slides or Face Pulls don't get a lot of views on Instagram, but they will help keep you in the gym training instead of inside an MRI tube.

-- Unilateral Exercises: If you have right-left imbalances (which most people do), what do you think the outcome will be if you only push, pull, squat or hinge bilaterally? (Hint: Repeating a dysfunctional movement pattern will only lead to more dysfunction, and ultimately, pain and injury.) Improve and reprogram movement patterns in a single-leg, single-arm fashion before going for that next PR. Here's one of our favorites, the Rear-Leg Elevated or Bulgarian Split Squat (which we're doing in our Small-Group Training sessions today, actually.)

-- Core Exercises: And by this, I don't mean hundreds of sit-ups, v-ups and side-bends. I mean real core exercises that train the anti-rotation and anti-flexion functions of the core pillar. One of the most underrated core and hip stability exercises is as old and simple as it gets: the Glute Bridge. (Note: Only attempt a loaded glute bridge after you've mastered and progressed the unloaded version, including the Banded Glute Bridge.)

-- Loaded Carries: Speaking of old, underrated core exercises, it doesn't get much better than loaded carries. They're essential to developing neuromuscular stability, core stiffness and pure strength. Omit them from your training program at your own peril.

-- Squats and Deadlifts: But bear in mind, these two foundational lifting patterns should not be executed with a barbell if the athlete lacks the joint mobility and core strength to perform them properly. And they need not be executed with a barbell to get a training effect. Here's one of my favorite squat variations, the Landmine Goblet Squat.

Try some of these mandatory exercises in your training program and let us know in the comments how they work for you. And if your training program doesn't include these fundamental components, find one that does. This way, you can accomplish the No. 1 goal of fitness: to stay pain- and injury-free so you can keep doing everything you enjoy for the rest of your life.

 

If you sit all day, you need these exercises

Americans are more obese and broken than ever before, and a big part of it is our sedentary lifestyle and a grab-and-go diet mentality in which convenience trumps nutrition. But the one culprit that nobody wants to talk about -- and even fewer know how to address -- is sitting.

Sitting -- at work, at school, or in cars, buses, trains and planes -- wreaks havoc on the joints and connective tissues. No wonder you go to the gym after a day at the laptop buffet and can't squat to quarter-depth. Your hip flexors have been under tension all day.

That's to say nothing about the damage done to your posture from hunching over your desk or phone for the majority of the day. 

One tip for desk workers is to set an alarm or calendar reminder every 90 minutes or so and get up, walk around, maybe even do some light stretching, lunges or squats. Research has shown that we can only stay focused and productive for about 90 minutes at a time; anything beyond that, and you're not getting enough work done to justify staying put. 

If you want to take it a step further, here are six exercise that every desk worker should be doing to combat the ravages of sitting. They come to you courtesy of MG Fit Life, and the whole routine only takes a few minutes but pays huge dividends in reversing the damage that comes with being deskbound.

(Speaking of which, check out my friend Kelly Starrett's book, appropriately titled, "Deskbound," for everything you need to know about what sitting is doing to your body -- and how to fix it.)

Here's one of our go-to t-spine mobilizations for opening up the upper back and rib-cage complex to get your shoulders moving better and keep poor posture from ruining your workouts.

Try these mobility exercises and let us know in the comments how they're working for you. And remember, every once in a while, push away from the desk and take a walk.

The correct way to fix tight hamstrings

The correct way to fix tight hamstrings

Back Pain? It's time to address your tight hamstrings. But avoid the standard rounded-back toe-touches that most people are doing. Try these safer, more effective hamstring stretches and mobility drills instead.