If you were around 80’s, the year 2015 is of special significance. Back in the 80’s Steven Spielberg released his blockbuster time travel trilogy Back to the Future. In the second movie Marty McFly journeys 30 years into future. The movie, set in 2015 depicts our 1985 prediction of what the future would be like (they totally missed the boat with cell phones). As Marty steps out of his De Lorean time machine, he is met with flying cars, talking clothes, automatic shoes and the iconic hover board. Looking back at the movie, we haven’t come as far as we thought we would have.
As I thought about this my mind naturally turned to fitness. How far have we come? Are people really fitter today than they were 30 or more years ago? Why are obesity rates rising? Why is there an increase in chronic diseases? Why is the military lowering their entrance fitness standards? Why are kids getting what used to be called “adult onset diabetes?” Is our industry really advancing? Is our application of effective training methods really improving? Where is our industry headed? How do we stay on track, improve the effectiveness of our training and look forward to a brighter fitness future? Read on to find out.
|Photo Credit: http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/back-to-the-future/32091/looking-back-at-back-to-the-future-part-ii|
Despite the fitness industry’s problems and short-comings, there are several good advances over the past few decades that can have a positive effect on your fitness. Here are some examples:
- Growing global fitness community to share and test ideas
- The internet has provided easily accessible and sharable fitness information
- Great research journals such as NSCA’s Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research pumps out research each month to validate or refute coaches and trainer’s claims of what really works
- Increased understanding of functional anatomy (e.g. abs resist movement – not initiate it)
- Access to better quality food and more options
- More training opportunities
- Access to better equipment (thanks to the popularity of Crossfit you can actually get decent training equipment at a local fitness store)
- Increased awareness of what is healthy and unhealthy (e.g. transfats bad, blueberries good)
- Recovery, regeneration (increased understanding and some cool new modalities)
- Creative variations of traditional exercises help people find the best variations of movements to suit their bodies (e.g. while the squatting movement is a timeless classic, it does not have to be performed with a bar across your shoulders)
Despite these great advances, there are many things that give that can make us think we are advancing in our training practices. Many of these also create unrealistic standards of what a fitness program can and should be able to do for you. Examples include:
- Photoshop artists can turn normal-looking people into flawless works of art
- Hormone replacement therapy (this huge in Hollywood is the reason so many movie stars from the 80’s are still going strong)
- Drug use (e.g. many of the “advances” in the sport of bodybuilding are because of advances in drug use, not training practices)
- Equipment advances (e.g. multi-ply gear in powerlifting which can add 300lbs+ to a lift)
- Changing the rules (e.g. powerlifting federations that re-define “parallel” for squats)
- Plastic surgery
Distractions that have held us back
There will always be folks looking to make a quick buck. Many people have seen the unregulated fitness industry as a literal “golden opportunity.” Here are some examples of things that have held back the fitness industry:
- Equipment: the machine era of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and the silly functional training toys that have infiltrated gyms since then have been a major distraction from effective exercise selection.
- Too much information – this creates paralysis by analysis
- The internet, though at times a benefit is also a distraction. As my colleague Derek Hansen once said, “The internet has given people a platform that shouldn’t have a platform.”
- Forums allow people with no credentials, success or experience to hide behind silly screen names (e.g. big_guns22) and give bad advice.
- Overhyped, gimmicky supplements that over-promise and under-deliver (there are good companies out there)
- Lack of true credibility indicators (e.g. experts are judged by their number of twitter followers instead of by what they have done)
- Lack of information filtering – most people don’t know where to go on the internet for good information and waist precious time reading the wrong stuff
Looking forward to a bright fitness future
Whether you are a trainer or a fitness enthusiast, here are some tips to help you have a brighter fitness future:
- The human body hasn’t changed. Stick with the basics. What worked 100 years ago will still work today.
- Place an increased importance basic human movement. Most people have un-learned how to move or where never given the chance to explore human movement in the first place.
- Recognize that really effective exercises will fall into a few basic categories: sprint, jump, throw, squat, hinge, push, pull and loaded carries. I know these are as old as dirt, but they work! Find safe, effective variations of these movements and do them!
- The best equipment is old: barbells, dumbbells, strongman implements (e.g. farmer’s walk bars, sleds), kettlebells and gymnastic rings have all been around for ages yet they are still the best tools to improve performance and sculpt a great-looking body.
- Steal from many different styles of training. For example I specialize in training athletes and people that want to look and feel like an athlete. However I study powerlifting, weightlifting, strongman, bodybuilding, gymnastics, track & field and physiotherapy. Don’t lock in to one style of training. There is great stuff in many areas that you can apply to your training!
- While there are endless really cool fitness aps and other related technologies available, proceed with caution. These can help, but they can also be a major distraction. I’m still a huge fan of just a paper notebook and pen to accompany me to the gym.
- Devices (e.g. phones, tablets) are useful, but can add stress and thus interfere with your recovery. Makes sure you take some quality time each day away from screens and devices.
- Life is busier and more cluttered than ever. Seek to simply and live at a sustainable pace. Your recovery (and thus your gains) as well as your health, relationships and enjoyment of life will greatly benefit!
- Don’t get confused by all the seemingly conflicting information on nutrition. See the bigger picture. Every effective diet does 2 things: it gets you eating less junk and eating more veggies. Always evaluate the effectiveness of your diet on 3 things: your health, your energy levels, your body composition. If these are not staying good or getting better, your diet is wrong.
- Don’t try to make massive changes to your nutrition or lifestyle. Small, simple, sustainable baby steps in the right direction are the real secrets to permanent lifestyle change. And this is what will have you looking and feeling great for the long-haul.
- Don’t follow the masses on an never-ending quest for the easy way out. Take the simple, hard effective road to great results!
How about you? None of these lists are exhaustive. I invite you to join the conversation and share your thoughts, comments and/or questions on this issue. You can leave your comments below or on my Facebook Page.
Also, if you have never seen Back to the Future II, or if you want a quick refresher, check out this clip.