Once I was prompted by a student who reported that he had gotten in a heated argument with a trainer. He trains using workouts from kettlebell websites, P90X, and Insanity workouts that instruct you to do as many 3-4 intense exercises with volatile and explosive form in a determined period of time. While other programs keep you constantly on the move for as long as possible. Crossfit and others like it have been the craze for fun and innovative ways to perform exercises and build lean muscle. Meanwhile, poor guys like me continue to preach the boring stability and postural exercises that I do.
I want to tell you all that programs like these KEEP ME IN BUSINESS AS A PHYSICAL THERAPIST. While many don’t question this latest craze, I will. Although I am not an opponent to doing fun innovative exercises with jumps and twists, I realize there is a time and a place for those tasks.
Why are these exercise styles so successful?
Well, the premise is to get you active and tire you out after 20-30 minutes of circuit type training, which makes the average person feel like they have performed a great workout. Anytime you move for that much at that rate you will burn calories and lose weight.
What is circuit training?
It’s a type of training that works on expending energy quickly with different exercises and little rest. It’s meant to increase endurance and work on decreasing fatigue over time, as well as build lean muscle mass. Sounds pretty good right? As I said, there is a time and a place for these exercises.
What’s the downside?
Fatigue usually yields poor stabilization to moving joints. Poor stabilization usually yields injury. Also, being sore for 2-3 days isn’t a good thing.
If I want to build muscle and strength quickly, will this circuit training help? Of course, if you pass the initial risk of injury and get through with decent form, you’ll gain lean muscle mass. How long will this last? Heed my warning, muscle strength and mass adapt and change more quickly than your tendons. Give your tendons time to grow.
What can happen if you build muscle too quickly?
Well, the end result is muscle failure, where the stress is much more than tendons can handle. Tendonitis and, even worse, a muscle or tendon tear can result. Remember good things in life take time and building a solid foundation will prevent these bad things from happening.
Now I am going to assume that many of those who have tried these intense programs haven’t trained correctly to prepare. What’s that mean? INJURY can result. Don't risk being sidelined and left out of the fun activities you enjoy just because of a new fad workout that most people aren't prepared for.
Don’t be fooled by these programs. They may work in a short amount of time but the price you pay later may be high. I’m going to leave these workouts for the athletes who are already training in this explosive manner and the military personnel (which many of these programs are adapted from).
Heal smarter, not harder.
Dr. Justin C. Lin