Is it time to switch from a workout to a work-outside?
Have you ever spoken to someone who uses the gym regularly and says to you that their legs hurt? Their glutes/hamstrings/quads or whatever are tight and they are struggling to walk or move about properly? They blame their Thursday leg workout and they leave it at that, never taking the logical next step. The worst banter I’ve heard at the gym is between seasoned body builders. Guys who are huge, most of them possible steroid users, with swollen picture perfect muscles and massive broad chests. They laugh and joke about how inefficient their muscles are, how impractical and useless they are from a functional perspective. I have even heard some semi-pro guys joking about how they could never run or climb or jump and never plan to again, and that they struggle to pick up items on the floor or put on their socks! Is this because of the guys who use this equipment and use the modern ‘globo’ gyms that we were promised would make us look like demi-gods? Or is it because those gyms that promise the perfect body never really told us what we were buying into?
There is a famous story about two well-known bodybuilders in the 80’s who were huge in their industry, they were always jibing and contesting for the same result and publically ribbing each other about who was the fitter. Eventually they agreed to do a 200m sprint and put the argument to rest. Neither of them got more than 10m before their hamstrings tore and they were on the floor screaming.
Isolation exercises target a single muscle, which after a certain amount of work start to get bigger, (right, that’s your goal I know). But then when those muscles are required to work in sync together, they don’t know what to do, they fire off together and the ligaments are different strengths, the muscles don’t knit, they don’t move as a cohesive unit, they misfire or deal with the load incorrectly and they tear. So these dudes walking around with huge chests and shredded abs might look beautiful and if that’s their goal, pure aesthetics then well done, but if you needed someone to save your life, look elsewhere.
Most modern gyms encourage people to train like bodybuilders, but they’re not bodybuilders. Humans have a pre-built in spectrum of what their body requires of them. Some people are just built to move heavy objects and others are built to run, climb, swim and jump.
Outdoor fitness like the Centurion Method is the polar opposite to isolationist/selective muscle aesthetic growth. The muscle growing or swelling is a by-product of the physical growth of ability in the athlete. And this is the point. When you use equipment it should be functional, it should feel like “sh*t, I might actually have to do this one day”.
The Gym of the Future
What does the gym of the future look like then? Well, humans have been using genius ways to keep fit for thousands of years. At one point it was a matter of life or death if you could or could not hold your own body weight up a tree out of reach of bear or wolf, it was a matter of life or death if you could run for two hours wearing full body armour and still wield a 10lb sword at the end of it. We need to reassess what we’re training for, soldiers do it all the time, training with weight on their body for long distances and using whatever they can find to construct gyms that will still push them to their limits. Human beings were not designed for machines, they were not designed to go into an air conditioned room and wallow in self-pity surrounded by mirrors with the latest chart music pumping out through huge speakers. Humans evolved in the woods and in nature, with the seasons beating hot sun on our backs or blistering ice wind in our hair, with the only sound being our heaving breath or the trees rustling. We need no other accoutrements, let’s keep it simple.
So, this gym of the future, what do I see? I see tyres hanging off scaffolding poles, held together with duct tape and masonry bolts being bench pressed off the back of a broken sofa frame with guys spotting each other under the eye of Mother Nature, whatever the bloody weather. I see climbing frames with bent scaffolding and hastily erected wooden beams interlocking and crisscrossing to form elaborate and difficult obstacles which people monkey swing through and clamber over at lightning speed. I see heaps of rocks and discarded metal debris being deadlifted and carried across empty parking lots as if the people taking part were doing hard labour in a detainee camp. Above all I don’t see well oiled, well painted, clean and prim décor in an air conditioned super gym rammed with awkward and post-modern equipment, populated by Baywatch babes and Barbie dolls. I see real human beings marching up and down an abandoned piece of land, using what they could gather together to build supermen out of the flesh they were blessed with.
Where Do We Go Now?
Don’t cancel your gym membership; don’t let’s go nuts just yet. The gym is changing, the fitness industry is altering, so you never know they might get to grips with it and start to earn your monthly membership fee and actually listen to what people want. But if you don’t have a gym membership or you’re thinking of leaving the gym then go for it, and embark on the journey of a lifetime as you see what your body is really capable of and not what the fitness industry tells you it should be capable of. After all, you’re not Kai Greene or Phil Heath, so you don’t really need to do bicep curls for 4 sets of 15 reps for thirty minutes, or use a Hammer Strength lat pull down machine for twenty minutes to get Chris Hemsworth’s triangular back definition. You’re a human being who was born to run, climb, jump, crawl, swim and fight, so do those things.
Find some cheap dumbbells, metal if possible, and throw them in a heap in your garden. Find some old kettlebells, pick up some breezeblocks from a scrap site, some scaffolding poles and some concrete. Find some sand and fill some bags and old basketballs, find some old tyres, heap it all together and leave it on the patio to go rusty and smelly. Throw on some old stained gloves, put on a sweater you’d do the housework or car oil change in and go out there and use your body. Throw the weights around, feel them in your hands, walk with them, crawl with them, jump with them, build a frame for yourself to climb over, sprint up and down your garden, just do whatever comes to you.
There are a thousand different excuses for using machines in the gym, but there is only one human body, use it.