Tabata/Shabata, Crossfit/Moshpit, Kettlebell/Sell Well

If you study the fitness industry as much as I do you will find that it re-invents itself frequently–well, actually it re-cycles itself. Funny that a research study by Japanese researchers would create a wake over a decade later, although typically morphed into something it was never meant to be. I’m pretty sure that I learned many of the Olympic lifts in high school during weightlifting class while trying to get buff so that girls would notice me. It’s odd to me that these exercises resurface as if there is some kind of new technology–it’s a barbell people. Let’s be honest with each other. A kettlebell is nothing new either. I have an old indian club if somebody really wants to recycle a trend. The common thread among these fitness systems is that they are effective…but not new!

Yes, of course this is an opinion piece. You won’t learn any breakthrough information here. I’m just an observer and a participant. As a rehab professional, I have the opportunity to see both sides of the spectrum. Let’s call if a physical fitness continuum. I work with folks that cannot walk a full block. I work with folks that would like to do a push-up with their own bodyweight…on their knees. I also work with folks that want to get back to their physically demanding sport or manual labor job. It has taken over a decade to fully appreciate that we cannot begin to guess an individual’s level of fitness by looking at them. I can’t tell you how many times I see runners come to my facility that look like they should be able to run but when I watch them, I cringe a little bit. We must carefully evaluate an individual before helping them. It is very temping to use protocols when you don’t know what the problem is. Perhaps there is not a problem–perhaps they just want to get stronger, be more flexible, jump higher, run faster, or be a better competitor in a triathlon. Whatever the goal, search your toolbox and find those tools that would work best for that client.

So you are working with a world class cyclist that needs the competitive edge.Tabata training may be very suitable for that client. However, most people will not tolerate that level of interval training. Use the research to guide you in your decision making, not as an absolute protocol. As an aside, avoid calling your training approach “Tabata training” unless it’s on a cycle ergonometer at the intentsity and duration that the protocol calls for.

This scenario has likely happened sometime recently. A 45 year old office worker, who is in reasonably good shape, tells you that Bob Harper has inspired them to take up CrossFit. If they don’t land in a good training environment, they will expect to be lifting semi-heavy barbells over their heads in no time. Perhaps this would be a good time to assess any barriers to performing Olympic lifts and inform them that they will not touch a weight until they can prove they can perform the techniques well. Then, and only then, your job would be to gradually, and I mean gradually, progress speed, weight, and complexity.

Kettlebells, or as I like to call “smartbells” have a unique handle attached to the bell. This handle acts as a multi-angular vector during open chain lifting or swinging movements. Anytime angular momentum comes into play, it is even more crucial that the weightlifter knows what they are doing.

Don’t get me started on seated machines with weight stacks. Variable resistance machines were probably a good idea when the uniquely designed cam was introduced by Arthur Jones. Gee, how would the Crossfitters feel about replacing a barbell with a seated machine these days. Hmmm….makes you think a little, doesn’t it? There is no question in my mind that sitting in an isolated chamber to workout is contradictory, especially after sitting at a computer for 8 hours.

Bodyweight training, if performed well, is appropriate for every individual. Yes, I said everybody. Consider that most adults weigh over 100 lbs. Okay, now add lever arms and angles of incline, and variable support, If you still disagree with me, perhaps you should ask the guys with BARHOLICS. These guys have figured out the laws of gravity and then defied them. TRX has clearly figured out that angles of incline and base of support can offer a lot of functional variable resistance. HALO REHAB & FITNESS has devised a method to progress that client who wants to be able to perform a kneeling push-up on up to a Cirque du Soleil performer that needs to do a one-arm handstand while balancing on a tightrope.

No matter whether the exercise method is old, new, or recycled, it’s all about progression. Sometimes you must regress to progress. This is the message that I have been driving at through this blog. Before telling your client to pick up that kettebell or sandbag or medicine ball, evaluate their strength, flexibility, and movement patterns. Begin with a uni-planar bilateral squat to 60 degrees before advancing to a multi-planar bilateral lunge at 90 degrees before advancing to a unilateral squat with overhead press before advancing to plyometric multi-directional hopping. Adopt progression strategies. If you don’t know them, please find a workshop that you trust and go learn!

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