Monday, November 28, 2011

Don't Fall for the Smooth-Talking Fitness Industry

Nothing makes my blood pressure rise like inadvertently stumbling across an infomercial selling the latest and greatest fitness promise guaranteed to change your body in less than ten minutes a day.  I'm not sure what bothers me more, the fact that the majority of their claims wouldn't hold a candle when tested by quality, respectable fitness professionals or that the mainstream public falls under their spell and buys millions of units of crap every year.

Imagine my delight when my latest professional publication from the American Council on Exercise boasted the headline "Does the Mega-selling Shake Weight Live Up to the Hype?"  They featured an independent study on the effectiveness of the ridiculous-looking, gyrating dumbbell sweeping the nation by storm.  Even though it would only likely be personal satisfaction I'd receive from what the results were bound to reveal, I immediately turned to the article and started scanning through.

"...hottest selling product on TV..."
"...cure for flabby arms..."
"...claims to 'increase upper-body muscle activity by up to 300 percent'..."
"...researchers from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse tested muscle activity in 16 subjects when doing the Shake Weight DVD compared to traditional weight exercises using the same size weight..."
"...on average total muscle activity was 66 percent higher with the Shake Weight exercises..."
"...subjects' ratings of perceived exertion were also significantly higher for the Shake Weight..."
Wait, timeout.  Did I read that correctly?  They actually found the Shake Weight to be more effective than traditional weights?  That can't be right.

In utter confusion I wondered if the earth truly is flat, while the mainstream public probably would've been dialing "1-8-0-0" and simultaneously digging for their credit card.

I went back and combed through the details again.  The Shake Weight is a 2.5 pound (female version) and 5 pound (male version) weight with springs.  The DVD takes you through a series of four isolation exercises for the biceps, triceps, shoulders, and chest.  To compare, subjects did equivalent isolation exercises for the biceps, triceps, and chest using a 2.5 pound or 5 pound traditional dumbbell.  They also performed a shoulder exercise, however this was a compound movement meaning it is a multi-joint movement instead of single-joint. 

Of course the Shake Weight would out-perform the traditional weight!  They're both the exact same load, except the Shake Weight has an extra dynamic element.  That still doesn't make it a touted piece of equipment guaranteed to get you your dream body in 30 days or less.

Here's a little secret to help you sort though the bogus lines the fitness industry feeds you:

What they don't tell you about their product is more important than what they do.

Because the ACE article summarized an independent study, it included far more detail than what would be presented in a typical infomercial.  However, it still requires you to read between the lines and draw your own conclusions.

The missing piece is that a 2.5 or 5 lb dumbbell is not a challenging enough load for those exercises for the majority of people.  Ladies, YOUR HANDBAG WEIGHS MORE THAN THAT!  You've lifted small children heavier than that.  With one arm.  While going up stairs.  And guys, if you can lift a case of beer, you can lift more than five pounds.

Imagine what the results would be if you used a more appropriate sized weight.  Better yet, what if you ditched the isolation movements all together in favor of compound movements like squats, lunges, push-ups, rows, glute bridges, etc?  Not only would these exercises would produce far more muscle activity, they would create more authentic movement that better translates to real-life activity.  Such as lifting a small child with one arm up stairs.

Next time you're ready to hop on the bandwagon of the next big thing, stop and think.  There is a reason why these products come and go.  Because the results they do produce don't last long-term.  Be a wise consumer and take the claims with a grain of salt.

There is also a reason why the fundamental basics of fitness have such strong staying power.  Because they do produce results.  Keeping it simple is often better than trying to reinvent the wheel.  Don't confuse simple and easy though.  Lift heavy weight, use primary movement patterns, and push hard. 

Every minute you spend believing the inflated claims is a minute not spent getting real work done.  Those are precious minutes wasted when it's your health at stake.

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