Never do an exercise just because you can…..

At any seminar or course where I lecture, I see colleagues coming up with fantastic, complex, cool and challenging exercises.

Look around for athletes lifting a kettle bell while standing on a Swiss ball with one foot, the other foot hooked up in TRX, wearing a weight vest and attached to an elastic cord. Is this the right way to improve strength, balance, core stability? Everything pressed into one exercise. Or athletes running up a steep hill, wearing a weight vest, pushing a sled, pulling another sled, just to make sure there is “overload”.
Functional??? What a joke… what function are you trying to improve here? Where is the transfer to real life or real competition. Forget the deceiving word: “functional”.
Colleagues of mine have also been writing critically about this issue.(1)

I often see those „exercise-architects” designing programs with what I call „exercise-diarrhea“, a multitude of cool exercises of which the purpose is unclear. Other coaches copy those exercises and have their athletes or clients perform them too. Why? Because the exercise exists and …. because we can.
For me this is never an argument, we perform exercises because they significantly contribute to a better performance. If I am not sure of that… I leave them out of my program. These exercises are redundant, and often performed out of the neurotic fear of not having done enough different exercises. The majority of the coaches is afraid to set priorities, to make a choice in exercise, to leave exercises out or to do these exercises later on in the week.

Yes, I have learned too. When I was an athlete, coaching myself, I did squats, but also calf and glut exercises for explosive strength, not to forget the hamstrings and iliopsoas for balance. And then there were the obligatory back and abdominal exercises. And the shoulder and arm exercises, biceps and triceps and the wrist curls to top it off. And this in every strength workout 3-4 times a week. I spent hours in the weight room, not getting much stronger, just getting slower, getting injured and needing more time for recovery. Over trained and fatigued by the energy expenditure of the workout and the energy for recovery. The best lessons are learned the hard way. It took me three months to figure out this was the wrong direction.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you should limit yourself to just a handful different exercises or drills. You may know hundreds of them, just don’t try to cram them into one or into each workout. It is like having dinner, you don’t put a slice of pizza, a chocolate cake, a spring roll, spare ribs, half a taco and one scoop of strawberry ice cream all at once on your plate. You’ll get your calories that is for sure, but it most likely didn’t taste like anything. One of the most frequent mistakes is to try and hit two targets with one bullet: you will probably miss both targets. Leave alone hitting more than two targets.

Bottom line: if you’re not absolutely sure that the exercise you have in mind has a significant and positive contribution to the outcome of competition performance … leave it out. Don’t do an exercise just because you can.

 

About Henk Kraaijenhof

My name is Henk Kraaijenhof and I started this blog as a random collection of concepts, ideas, stories and events that are important or interesting to me in my work as an international performance consultant in a wide range of fields, and sometimes outside of my work. I will try to post a new entry every 3-4 days. Feel free to comment if you like.
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