A couple of weeks ago, I came across an article entitled, “The One Exercise You Should Never Do.” The never-do was one of those machine exercises that strengthens and bulks up your quadriceps without also strengthening the hamstrings. I didn’t pay attention to the exercise since I never do it and never would do it, so I have only a vague idea of what the exercise is (seated knee extensions, I think). The reason for not doing the exercise interested me, however: not only does the machine put an unnatural strain on the knees, if you build-up the quadriceps without also building up the hamstrings, the powerful muscles in front of the thighs pull at the knees in an unnatural manner.
I wanted to read that article again because I referenced the unnatural weight issue in my Planning Sponteneity post, but I couldn’t find the citation. Instead, I found a whole slew of articles telling me what exercises to do and what not to do — The One Exercise You Should Never Do. The Three Exercises You Should Never Do. The Five Exercises You Should Never Do. The Five Exercises You Should Always Do. The Seven Exercises You Should Never Do. The Ten Exercises You Should Never Do. The Fifty Exercises You Should Never Do. Yikes. What a morass!
One article said to never do Smith Machine Squats, whatever those are. It also listed five must do weight-training exercises: lunges, pull-ups, planks, squats, and burpees. For you uninitiated, “burpees” does not refer to a seed company, but is an exercise you probably know as “squat thrusts.” Despite the endorsement in this article for burpees, other articles say that burpees are the one exercise you should never do.
Some say never do squats, or rather deep squats. Some say never do crunches, some say crunches are a great exercise. Some say never jog, others say to jog. Some say never jump on concrete. (No one, of course, disagrees. Jumping on concrete is a great way of destroying your knees.) Some say seated exercise is the best way of protecting your back, knees, etc. Others say we sit enough and don’t need to do any more sitting. Some say don’t use light dumbbells. Some say never use a Smith machine, others suggest various exercises such as Smith Machine Squats. Some say never do overhead triceps extensions with dumbbells, others recommend doing them. Some say never do clean and jerk, others recommend doing them. Some say don’t ever do bridges, others say do them. Some say don’t do the dead lift because it’s too hard on your back, others say to do it. Others say to eschew working out at a moderate pace for long periods of time.
It seems to me that the exercises to never do are those you don’t like doing. If you don’t like doing them, there’s probably a reason, perhaps they hurt or are they are beyond your ability or strength. And the exercises to do are the ones you will do.
So, where do I fit in all these must-dos/never-dos? Of the first five must-do exercises, the only one I do is the plank: a pose similar to the beginning of a push-up, only you balance on your toes and forearms (or knees and forearms, which is all I can do) for a certain number of counts. It’s also simple and safe, though I can’t attest to its effectiveness. I just do it. As for squats — I can barely do a grande plié, which is sort of a squat without weights. And the only thing close to a lunge I do is a yoga warrior pose, again without weights. And I don’t even want to talk about burpees. I hated doing them in gym class when I was a kid, so even if I could do them (which I can’t) I wouldn’t. I could probably do a pull up if I lost three fourths of my body weight, but maybe not since I’d be too emaciated to do anything, not even pull myself up out of bed.
As for the rest, I use light dumbbells — eleven pounds each for a total of 22 pounds (but only because I’m too lazy to set up my barbells, which would be heavier. Jeff always did that and now somehow I just can’t find the will to do it for myself). Using light weights with many repetitions builds strength, where heavy weights with few repetitions build bulk, or at least that’s what I’ve read. I generally walk at a moderate pace because that way I can walk longer with no pain. And yes, moderate walking burns fat without eating muscle. (Ever wonder why there are no bulky long distance runners?)
All this talk of exercise has worn me out. I think I’ll go take a nap.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.