by Lee Kurisko, MD
I’m was on vacation a week ago in Florida. I was more than happy to vacate Minnesota that week. Despite being the first week of April, Minnesota is still getting snow. My kids are teenagers so that means on vacation, it is tough to get them up before the crack of noon. In the mornings, I cannot do pushups and squats in the hotel room, but instead I have been heading to the commercial gym two blocks from the hotel.
I rarely set foot in commercial gyms. With minimal investment, it is easy to set up a home gym that will allow home workouts every bit as good as what you can do in a commercial gym without the inconvenience of travelling to and from the gym and the expense of membership fees. Furthermore, home exercise DVD’s have undergone a revolution and many of them are extremely good. Modern gyms may have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, but the results that most people achieve are not proportionate to the expense.
One tenet of productive exercise is to be hard on the muscles but easy on the joints and spine. The other morning I did about 350 total repetitions of various squats and lunges thoroughly working my thighs, hamstrings, butt and lower back in a little over a half an hour. I was sweating hard, breathing hard and my legs were on fire. Meanwhile a young guy less than half my age was doing squats with 275 pounds loaded on his shoulders. I am sure that this was good for his ego, but bad for his back and joints. Unable to do even a single proper repetition with this weight, the power exerted, work performed and even the force production were likely a fraction of what I achieved. One incorrect move with a load like that and he may suffer an injury that could stay with him for the rest of his life. My maximum weight for the day was a measly 45 pounds and my legs were still barking at me two days later. My joints and spine felt fine.
On another side of the gym, a “trainer” has a women in her sixties doing bench presses; one of the most orthopedically dangerous of all movements for the shoulder joint.
A little later, a man in his seventies is holding a broomstick behind his back working on the range of motion of his shoulders in a violent movement that could easily tear his rotator cuff; a structure that at his age would more likely than not have at least a small tear already. I guess he was trying to complete the job and produce a full tear.
It is no wonder that gyms have you sign a waiver releasing the facility of any legal liability if you get hurt. Understanding productive exercise is not as straight forward as you may think. Don’t expect to wander into a gym and just do “whatever” and expect to get results. A good understanding of exercise requires a fairly extensive knowledge of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, physics and nutrition.
Sadly, few people have this level of knowledge. If you are new to getting in shape, my best advice to you is to seek out instruction from a qualified trainer.
Lee Kurisko MD is Chief Medical Officer of www.medibid.com. He is trained as a family physician, radiologist, and neuroradiologist. He is author of “Health Reform- The End of the American Revolution?” He is now pursuing Board Certification in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine.”