During the winter, I got quite sick around the new year. I wasn’t myself for weeks, and so I got out of shape. Not like gaining a ton of weight or anything, just not as fit as I like to be. Finally, my strength started to return, and with a new gym membership in hand at Planet Fitness, I got back to the task of getting fit.
I have been using ideas and inspiration from Cardio Strength Training, and it’s been great. It’s a superb source of ideas, although, as reviewers have said, it could use better editing. With a personal training background, it’s not too hard for me to read between the lines, so this was not a major obstacle for me. The essential idea is to do cardio and strength training all at once using Interval Training principles, and it’s quite intense, probably too much so for beginners. One very desirable benefit is getting a very good workout in very little time. It makes a good case for the idea that long, slow, very low-intensity aerobics aren’t a very good use of your time (they are better than no exercise, to be sure!).
These concepts are not brand new, but the implementation was well-presented in the book. I’ve been particularly focused on doing various flavors of lunges. Yesterday I tried 1-leg squats again for the first time in months, and did 4 per leg, the best start I’ve ever had. The lunges were obviously great preparation for improving lower body strength.
The fellows next to me in the gym were dutifully cranking out squat reps on a Smith machine, you know, one of those gizmos that allow you to do squats (and other exercises) with the weight held in a frame. They have one great benefit – you don’t need a spotter – the frame holds the weight so there’s less chance of injury than with barbell squats. The problem is that people lean backwards against the machine attempting to get more leverage for squats. Then they can lift more, and feel more manly! 🙂 But in that leaning position it’s likely that the hamstring is not flexed, so the knee is not as well supported as when doing barbell squats, and you can get injured anyway. To counteract this, when doing Smith Machine squats, be sure to flex your hamstrings hard when doing your squats, not just your quads. I would actually suggest not leaning backward at all. (Yeah, like that’ll actually happen! But at least I try to encourage good habits) Your numbers may be less impressive when you stand upright, but you’ll get a better squat workout.