For about a week I was removed from social media. That’s because in China it is hard to get access to your normal outlets. I don’t regret teaching there, but that break was almost needed. As soon as I did get in range again of course I was back into the common habit of checking my social media. Maybe it was my break from social media, but I started to notice what seemed to be an overabundance of really bad fitness ideas.
When I share my big three, trust me, they come from experience. I started lifting when I was 14 and pretty much haven’t stopped in the last 26 years. Not only using lifting as a way to stay in shape or fit. Whether it was my years as a basketball player, strongman, or competing in a few Olympic weightlifting meets. I’ve tried so many different ideas of fitness. I’ve never felt better about my training than today. Let me explain why!
Let It Go #1: Weight Belts
When I got back to the Las Vegas airport I was on the tram and noticed a guy holding his weight belt. Really, he was holding a weight belt! I quickly remembered the famous bodybuilding show “Mr. Olympia” was in town. It reminded me of the times I loved, hated, loved, and now hate weight belts.
As a teenager I loved weight belts, they made me feel so strong. I didn’t know at the time that it was making up for my very weak core. The artificial support I got from the belt made me feel so much stronger than when I trained without it. So, why in the world would I ever go without training with a belt?
Getting into functional training began to teach me the importance of correctly using one’s core. I went hardcore anti-weight belt. Learning that much of my core dysfunction was responsible for my bad low back injury, I went on a crusade to make sure no one I worked with or talked to ever wore a weight belt.
Then came my years as a competitive strongman and weightlifter. YEA! This was REAL functional strength. After becoming a bit bored of my training and wanting to feel more like my former athlete self I thought THIS is real training! If you were going to be really strong I found a more moderate thought process of the weight belt. I would do a lot of my training without it, but when I was going heavy, that bad boy was going on.
Such a philosophy would seem like a pretty sensible approach right? What I later realize is that I was not differentiating “sport” from “fitness”. In fact, when I trained for strongman it was commonly known that you were going to get hurt, the question was when and how badly.
Many athletes will tell you that when you are competing in a sport you start to participate in a host of unhealthy habits. The goal of sport is rarely health and I actually look back disappointed in myself. Why? There were several instances that I sacrificed my health for the sport. Yea, you think you are gaining glory at the time, but rarely is the glory worth the later pain.
As I continue to further my understanding of the body I REALLY hate weight belts. Of course there will be that person that says, “yea, but just use them when you get heavy so you can lift more.” My counter to that is, it just doesn’t make any sense. That is because your extremities can only produce force in real life that your core can create a stable platform to perform from. Having super strong legs, but a core than can’t support that power doesn’t mean you will be able to use that strength in real life.
When you realize how to use your body’s own natural weight belt you can learn to be strong and healthy!
Let It Go #2: Altitude Masks
I know, your goal in life is to look like a Batman super villain. However, outside of trying to get a part as Bane in any of the new upcoming Batman movies I can’t find too much of a reason to use altitude masks.
While people will try to speak about altitude training being a great way of increasing your endurance and making the leap (it is a BIG leap) the reality is quite different. While most of us have felt the impact that higher altitudes have on our endurance and just ability to function at a high level. The science of using this in a practical way isn’t super strong.
Most times when athletes do use altitude training they submerse themselves in living in such conditions. This might lead us to believe that the effects take a considerable time and quite a consistent exposure to these elements.
In fact, studies like THIS one show very little benefit in short-term exposure to hypoxic training. No one has any really convincing studies (except companies paying for the research, hmmm, questionable at best) to show that such training in the manner of altitude masks do anything at all.
So, why is it popular in fitness? For one, we still have a strong belief that more discomfort and pain does relate to better gains. If it sucks, hurts, and is horrible uncomfortable, it MUST be good for me right? Well, that obviously is not the case, but a strong part of our fitness culture.
The other reason is that these companies are banking on the fact that most people have heard legendary stories of such training but know you won’t look up the science. In today’s world of fitness, we have to be smarter with our training, not just more brutal!
Let It Go #3: Lifting Straps
Okay, I’m a bit sensitive about this because people sometimes go crazy due to the fact we put handles on our Ultimate Sandbags. They claim we took all the amazing grip strength away from the use of odd objects. Well, I’ve written A LOT about why this is simply not true (like THIS article), but I often chuckle because I will see these same people using lifting straps.
Now you might say great powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters sometimes use straps. First off, if you can answer you ARE a great powerlifter or Olympic weightlifter I MIGHT say there is a place for straps. However, most aren’t and using such a rationale is like me saying I practice a certain basketball skill because Lebron James does. I hate to say it probably doesn’t work quite the same.
Learning to use your hands and build grip strength is very important. People love to talk about building grip strength, well, if that is the case dump those lifting straps. Having been around and trained with some crazy strong people, I can tell you I barely ever saw them using lifting straps.
More than just having strong hands, using a strong grip will activate your core and shoulders much more! Most people never think about this and don’t realize strengthening their grip does much more than just improve their hands.
Unless you are pulling weight in a World’s Strongest Man competition or something alike, dump those lifting straps!
People say all the time that lifting doesn’t need to be complicated. I agree, however, many people do just that by adding unnecessary equipment to their training. Well thought out consistent hard work can never be beaten.
If you want to see some of the best ways to improve your natural strength check out our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training programs HERE
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