by Michale Stehle
With all the choices and methods of exercise these days, many of us are confused about what is best and what will work for them. Hopefully I can clear up some of this confusion about fitness, and talk about what methods I feel are most effective. Being involved in the Fitness and Sports Medicine Industry for the past twenty years, I've seen and used every form of exercise machine, fad program, and group class imaginable. I've seen and done some scary things and have learned from my mistakes and observations.
Let me mention "old school" methods of exercise and training. Exercise fads may come and go, but some things still remain constant. I remember my Physical Education classes back in grade school, and playing on the playground at recess. Those were fun times. Our Phys Ed teachers actually had the insight of getting us to exercise without us knowing it. They used things like balls, bars, ropes, obstacle courses, and certain types of races to motivate us as kids. We didn't need fancy and expensive equipment to achieve fitness. Remember the squat thrust, mountain climber, jump rope, rope climbing, push ups and sit ups? Maybe we didn't enjoy those so much, but they certainly got our hearts pumping.
In addition to this "old school" phys ed type of training, there are other methods still going strong and yielding incredible results. Most of us have done some type of gymnastic training at some point in our lives. If you have done a hand stand, cart wheel, pull up, tumbled or have played on a set of rings, you have done some form of gymnastics. Gymnastic movements involve the entire body. You will get more "bang for your buck" with the full body movements that are required in simple gymnastics. This simply means that many of these movements require abdominal and low back (the core of your body) stabilization while the upper and lower extremities are being utilized. These dynamic movements help increase flexibility and strengthen the body as an entire unit. Don't think that you are too old or not skilled enough to perform some of these movements. There are ways of scaling the exercise to the skill level and achieving incredible results.
Olympic weight lifting has been around for decades. Most of know this to be a very specialized and technical sport. Well, it is, and if you don't know what you are doing you can certainly hurt yourself. Maybe this is one reason so many of us have sore backs due to improper body mechanics. Olympic weight lifters are some of the most athletic and powerful athletes around. This is just in the nature of the sport. To explain it simply the object of the sport is to pick an object up off the floor to your shoulders (the clean) or overhead position as efficiently as possible (clean and jerk or snatch). I will not bore you with the details of Olympic Weight Lifting at this time. If you think about it, you probably execute these types of motions throughout the day in life. Weather you are lifting a child, a bag of groceries, or any object for that manner. Olympic lifting doesn't have to involve a bar with weights on it, any object can be used including dumbbells, medicine balls, stones, sandbags, and Russian Kettlebells (this in an article in itself).
Kettlebells are a fantastic tool for strength and conditioning
It cracks me ups when someone tells me their doctor doesn't want them to do squats because they may hurt themselves. I simply ask them: How do you sit down and get up from your chair, or toilet for that matter? Is your doctor not allowing you to sit down? Is he or she not allowing you to go to the bathroom? That usually clears things up. The Squat is the most functional movement that we see in life. Functional to me means that the movement has carryover to real life situations. Another highly functional movement is the dead lift. Sounds kind of scary, right? The dead lift is simply picking an object up off the floor. How many times during the day do you do this? There is a right and wrong way of dead lifting.The Kettlebell Deadlift can be performed with one or two kettlebells.
Ok, now that I have gone over a few things, I will explain how all of these things fit together to create a multi faceted fitness program for everyone using the CrossFit method. All the things mentioned above can be performed by anybody. These are all movements that are universally scalable and can be performed at various intensities to achieve incredible fitness levels.
CrossFit is an exercise concept developed in the 1970's by Greg Glassman of Ca, a former gymnast. He took what he knew from gymnastics and what he observed from bodybuilding to devise a program that everyone could benefit from. The CrossFit method is designed for universal scalability making it the ideal program for people of all ages and skill levels. By scaling the intensity of the workouts, elite fitness can be achieved by everyone including military special operations units, pro athletes, house wives and grandparents.
CrossFit is designed to improve fitness in ten areas including cardio respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. This program can be done at home, in the gym, or at your local park. There are hundreds of CrossFit affiliates around the world performing these training sessions out of garage gyms, parks, and warehouse spaces with minimal equipment.
You may wonder why this type of training is better then conventional machine based program, and I will try my best to explain why. Here it is in a nut shell. Our bodies were made to move naturally with out the guidance of artificial machines AKA, functionally. The CrossFit methods use full body motions that incorporate every muscle in the body to work as a unit. These full body movements when done at high intensities with short rest periods (metabolic conditioning) raise our metabolic rate causing our bodies to burn fat more efficiently, and train the heart and lungs properly.
To sum it up, CrossFit takes the best of the best movements including certain body weight exercises, Olympic lifts, gymnastic movements, power lifting, jumping, throwing and slamming of medicine balls, rope climbing, running, Russian Kettlebell training, rowing and more randomly combined at various intensities. The combo of all these activities will not only prepare you for the rigors of everyday life, they will prevent boredom and overuse injury.