STOP DOING OVERLY-SPECIALIZED ROUTINES!
You may have seen people in gyms or in books, magazines, Youtube videos, etc. who practice specialized routines where they’re only training one or two muscles per day and they’re doing four, five, or more (different but very similar) exercises for each muscle group. Then they have to go to the gym almost every day in order to train all the muscles in the body. These workouts and exercises are inefficient, ineffective, require an enormous amount of time, AND certainly not much fun. Some people mistakenly refer to workouts of this type as “Toning Workouts”. Others refer to them as “Bombing” or “Blitzing” workouts. However this is horribly wrong! What they’re really doing is simply INEFFICIENT WORKOUTS! I’m well aware that I may ruffle some feathers with these statements, but I simply know that I’m right!
Think of it this way: Think of any activity you do where you use only one or two muscles. I’m not talking about going to the gym and working out. I’m talking about things like shovelling snow or playing a game of Soccer. How about kids playing Hop Scotch? How about Hiking? How about Rock Climbing? How about Swimming, Running, Gymnastics, Hockey, Football, Soccer, Baseball, Basketball, Skiing, Dancing, Martial Arts? Are you starting to get the idea? You WON’T find any activity where you only use one or two muscles! You use the entire body! That’s exactly how our bodies are designed to be used, so why should your workouts be any different? Not only is it better for the body in a much more functional way, but it’s easier on the mind as well! You don’t have to think “Gee, what muscles did I work yesterday?”. Full body workouts also have a much stronger metabolic effect.
In fact, this type of specialized split routine is really a very recent thing. Many years ago, fitness enthusiasts, bodybuilders, and strength athletes would never do anything like this. This type of split routine really only started perhaps in the 1980s or 1990s. Prior to that, people were working either their entire body in one workout or perhaps splitting it over a period of two days. This would add up to a total of 3 or 4 days a week of workouts. For some people at the highest levels of competition, splitting the muscles over a period of 3 days for a total of 6 days per week of training was done prior to a contest. However this was not done long term and it is certainly a far cry from the current idea that you can only train each muscle once a week! I had the pleasure of speaking at length with John Hazel who was Mr. Canada of 1960 and he gave me the lowdown on this along with my own research and education. He is still doing well and at the time of this writing I believe he is around 90 years young!
A large part of the reason for such a different mindset then compared to now is that until fairly recently, the concept of “Cosmetic” exercise was very foreign. The idea that someone would exercise simply to look a certain way and care nothing about their functionality seemed ridiculous, and rightfully so! Why would you possibly NOT want to get the full fitness benefits of exercise? Unfortunately what started as a training method used by modern, steroid-using, bodybuilders has come to be accepted as the standard for everyone! Even casual fitness enthusiasts have been brainwashed into believing that you have to train in these over-specialized split routines.
Now I don’t mean to sound like I’m opposed to Bodybuilding. Quite the opposite! I love Bodybuilding for what it was originally meant for and for what it used to be. In fact I consider myself a Bodybuilder or as it was called in the old days a “Physical Culturist”. I must be honest however, and tell you that I am thoroughly disgusted by modern bodybuilding! With their drug-bloated, obscene physiques and complete lack of functionality, they represent everything that’s wrong with many mainstream fitness ideas. I may very well make some enemies by these words, but I feel very strongly about this! A body that can do nothing but pose, flex, and only has enough stamina, strength, and athleticism to exercise one or two muscles per day is worthless!
Something that the vast majority of people may not realize is that Bodybuilders and Bodybuilding contests used to be drastically different. Back in the 1940s and 50s, there were actually Weightlifting and Gymnastics rounds as part of the competition. So if you lost points on the physique round, you could make up for it in the athletic rounds. The physiques back then were very different. For one thing, they weren’t using steroids and therefore didn’t have the freakish appearance associated with modern bodybuilders. For another, their bodies looked functional and athletic because they WERE functional and athletic! If you do an image search for Steve Reeves, John Grimek, Reg Park, George Eifferman, Sig Klein, Eugene Sandow, and Harold Zinkin to name a few, you’ll see how bodybuilders and strength athletes looked in those days. And for the women, do an image search for Pudgy Stockton (Pudgy was her nickname, but she certainly was anything but!) or Relna Brewer McRae. There were a couple of examples of strong, fit, athletic, and sexy women. As a side note, Harold Zinkin published a book a number of years ago called “Remembering Muscle Beach”. I bought my copy in the late 1990s. I don’t know if it’s out of print or not, but if you can get your hands on it I highly recommend it. It’s an excellent read full of stories and photos from those early years of Muscle Beach. There are photos in that book that will blow your mind! The gymnastics, hand balancing, and flexibility they has was unbelievable! Can you imagine a modern steroid-bloated bodybuilder doing that?
Unfortunately, nowadays if you mention the word “Bodybuilder” it’s usually the last thing you think of when you picture the ideal physique. Images of unbelievable bulging muscles and eye-popping veins come to mind. However in the past, this was radically different. In those days, bodybuilders were the quintessential all-round athlete. They lifted weights, sculpted their bodies, were able to do gymnastics, running, swimming, and a large number of them could box, wrestle, and play other sports as well such as track and field events. In addition they truly lived the healthy lifestyle with their diets and natural living. Yogurt and Smoothies used to be considered “Health Fanatic” foods. Now it’s available everywhere thanks to those early Bodybuilders and Physical Culturists. Health and functionality was far more important than mere appearance!
Obviously I’m not saying to not care about how you look! I’m sure everyone wants to have a shapely, sexy body! But the best way to get that is to train in a functional way. Believe me, when people talk about “Shaping Up” or “Toning Up” or what they think that means, NOTHING beats the multi-joint functional exercises and full body workouts! Our bodies are made to be used in this way! In order to be your best, prioritize function and appearance will follow suit!