There are a lot of silly exercises that seem to have little benefit and plenty of risk. I see people doing what I consider to be silly exercises on a daily basis. And while I have been known to cry tears of blood and sob softly while watching people working out, I don’t think a movement can ever be fundamentally “wrong.” I do think some movements are a poor choice for most people most of the time. But there is a difference between acknowledging that an exercise is a poor choice and placing a value judgement on the movement.
So forgive me, because I’m obviously being a detail stickler here (WEIRD, so unlike me!), but I believe the psychological context matters.
Let’s use sit-ups as an example. It’s pretty common knowledge how I feel about sit-ups: I think they suck balls (in the negative way). Thanks to the work of Dr. Stuart “Sexy ‘Stache” McGill, we know that there is a limited number of times you can round your back before your discs start to herniate. Yes, there is still some debate, and a few folks disagree. But by and large, it seems foolish to risk your long-term back health when you have other (safer) exercise options to get strong abs. And lest we forget, if you want a six pack, it’s usually going to be more about being lean anyway.
Rounding AND twisting the low back is basically
like telling your spine to go fuck itself.
So are sit-ups wrong? Well, I could understand why one would want to label sit-ups stupid or dangerous. But from a philosophical perspective, I don’t believe movement can ever be wrong. If your body was designed to be able to do it, it’s not “wrong”. A poor choice of exercise perhaps, but not wrong.
A great example of this concept is employed in the Functional Movement Screen paradigm. We may not want to train by repeatedly rounding your low back, but if you lack the ability to round your back enough to touch your toes… that’s a problem. Another way of thinking about this is that although some movements don’t necessarily make great exercises, to be unable to execute a fundamental human movement (like a toe touch) is a sign that something’s off somewhere.
It’s my hope to encourage people to make good decisions with the exercises they employ on the path to health and hotness. But ultimately… you get to choose. It’s your body. If I’ve informed you of the risks of doing five hundred crunches a day and you decide to give me the ol’ “Go to hell Fisher you elitist dick!” and keep on doing them… no problem!! It’s your body. You get to do what you want with it. (As a brief aside, I’m not always as patient when someone is being paid as an expert but seems unethically ignorant to our industry’s more sophisticated and contemporary understanding of safe and effective exercise choices and execution… but I digress…)
So please know, if I see you doing your best to get yourself ready for shoulder surgery by ballistically banging away on a foolish exercise choice (upright rows anyone?)… honestly, I still love ya. YOU are always the one who must decide if the potential cost of a given exercise is worth the potential risk. Like much of life, training is a series of compromises and trade offs.
As Fitness Wizard Gray Cook points out in his brilliant textbook Movement, movement is life (though to be fair old timey strongman Eugen Sandow wrote a book called “Life is Movement,” so perhaps he should be credited). I believe in the physical, mental and spiritual value of being able to move well and having access to the basic patterns that underlie all movement. However not every movement makes a good exercise. I encourage you to make exercise choices that will serve both your short term and long term health and hotness. Just cuz it ain’t wrong doesn’t mean it’s right, know what I mean? You only get one body my friends. Be kind to it!