Health

The world’s most unpopular exercises: are they really good for us?

USC-FITNESS

This week we explore the exercises we hate the most and find out if experts really think they’re necessary – or if we can get fit without them.

At Urban Sports Club we pride ourselves on offering such a gargantuan range of sports activities that everybody can find something they enjoy. You can play water polo or go horse-riding, you can surf or go skateboarding. That being said, most of our lovely community like to enjoy some good old-fashioned fitness. 

CrossFit, functional training, HIIT and circuits are amongst our most popular activities – probably because they’re the quickest and most efficient way to get fit. Whether you’re a fitness fanatic or more interested in the slow burners like yoga and Pilates, there are exercises in every workout that we all absolutely dread.  But are they really necessary? Do we actually need to do them? Or can we get fit without them? Urban Sports Club investigates…

Running

It’s official. Everybody hates running. Running and sprint-training are two of the most dreaded exercises because it hurts – it’s hard on your legs, your lungs and it makes you gasp for breath. So do you really need to incorporate it Into your fitness routine?

Yes, says Harvard. A study from the American College of Cardiology has proven that even just five to ten minutes of low-intensity running every day is enough to extend your life by several years. But the good news is that a healthy dose of running isn’t as challenging as you might think. 

“There is no question that if you are not exercising and if you make the decision to start — whether it’s walking, jogging, cycling, or an elliptical machine — you are going to be better off,” says cardiologist Dr. Aaron Baggish. However, he recommends 2.5 hours of jogging/running per week to reap the benefits of cardiovascular fitness. “A little bit is good but a little bit more is probably better,” he says. 

Burpees 

Nothing fills a room with more dread than burpees. Mike Finlay, Personal Training Manager at VENT Fitness Guilderland says “Burpees engage your entire body in a force movement that requires a total body cardio exercise that uses power movements.” Let’s break it down: you squat, sprawl, push up, jump up to squat, jump, repeat. Exhausting.

But there’s another reason why burpees have us gasping for air within five seconds: the movement engages all of your muscles at each point of the workout. Our brain is accustomed to giving the command to breathe when our muscles are relaxed, but with burpees they never relax – which leaves us totally breathless.

So is this actually good for us? Burpees are a fantastic way to get your heart rate up fast with no equipment. But Michael Boyle, a certified functional strength coach, recently wrote in a piece for Women’s Health that burpees aren’t that great for you. He calls burpees “an inherently bad exercise,” and says that “throwing yourself to the ground and immediately getting back up again” is “a really stupid idea.”

Boyle says you should ask yourself why you’re doing them. Is it for cardio? Upper-body strength? Is it to reap the benefits of a squat or for interval training? Boyle believes you can target these muscle groups in a much safer way through other exercises. Here are some alternative full-body movements: Bear crawl, walking push-ups, mountain climbers and pike jumps. You are welcome.

Box jumps

Any CrossFitter or regular HIIT-er will know the pain of box jumps. This exercise is challenging for several reasons – the jump is demanding on your cardiovascular system and the movement is challenges your coordination. Many people dread box jumps, not just because of the boost it gives your heart rate, but because of the genuine fear you might split your shin open. 

However, there are techniques you can use to box jump safely and once you’ve nailed these there’s little room for injury – and you can reap the benefits of one of the most efficient cardio moves ever. 

  • Jump on and off of the ground with both feet.
  • Keep your (bent) knees over your toes.
  • Land with your feet flat, hip distance apart, with bent knees in a squat position.
  • Use your arms to help lift you off the ground.
  • Brace your core.

Unfortunately for box jump haters, they are really good for you. They require explosive strength, speed and coordination which is all fantastic full-body training. When you execute a box jump you work every single muscle in your legs, you strengthen your core and can burn between 800 and 1000 calories per hour (although I don’t think anyone on earth would choose to do box jumps for one hour). So next time a box jump comes up in your workout, take a deep breath and think of how great you’ll feel afterwards. 

The plank

Max Lowery is a personal trainer and author of the book “2 meal day”. He says that the plank is the exercise that people get wrong most often – because although it’s good for your abs, it’s really all about form. “You’ll often see people hold a plank for seven minutes,” he says. “But I personally can’t think of anything more boring, and I usually just hold it for about 30 seconds.” As a personal trainer Lowery knows how to make a plank effective in minimal time. “It’s a very simple technique that can radicalise the way you train and increase the effectiveness of every exercise,” he says. 

The plank strengthens your core and works your entire body as well as strengthening those abs. For a fully effective plank workout, Max says: “Contract your abs as hard as you can, by that I mean tense as if someone’s going to punch you in the stomach, then drive your abs down, push your elbows back, tilt your hips, and squeeze your glutes.” And hold it for 30 seconds, not 7 minutes.

Pull-ups 

We hate pull-ups because most of us can’t actually do them. But is it worth learning how? What are the benefits of being able to heave your bodyweight up and down on a bar? It hurts our hands! The fact is that learning how to do a pull-up will be beneficial long-term. It means you can workout absolutely anywhere that has a bar – because the movement works your entire upper body. It’s also fantastic for grip strength which is beneficial to everyday life like carrying suitcases and shopping. 

The process of learning how to do a pull-up is also beneficial. You start with scaling – so jumping pull-ups and lowering yourself slowly down, and this process is a workout in itself. By the time you are able to do your first pull-up you will have strengthened your back, shoulder and arm muscles. Then, once you do your first pull-up, you’ll easily be able to work up to many more repetitions. 

All exercise is good for you in some way, but make sure you practice it safely. And if you really dislike an exercise, just ask one of your Urban Sports Club partner trainers for an alternative – we’re sure they’ll help you! But the good news is: burpees aren’t necessary.

We hope this feature helped bust some fitness myths for you – and if you’d like to try out some fitness classes yourself, check out our many partner studios across Europe.

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