Why is that exercise bad?

I gained a new perspective this past weekend.  I’m currently going through the stages of the Resistance Training Specialist Mastery program which has really opened my eyes to seeing what we as exercise people do every day in a different way.  Often times I will hear a trainer tell a client or another trainer “that exercise is bad for you.”  They often do this without any other qualifier or they have that perspective simply because they were told it by somebody else and believed it to be true without looking into it themselves, as happens with pretty much everything within our industry.  I have been guilty of this myself.  A good example is this little exchange:

“Leg extensions are bad.”


“Because it puts shear force on your knee.”

Normally then the person being told this will just think shear is a horrible thing and they need to stay away from it forever.  Usually this trainer will follow up the discussion by telling their client how they need to squat instead, because squatting is really “functional”.  Squatting on a BOSU is even better because it’s an unstable surface so it works your “stabilizers”.  The issue is simply that 99% of the time, the person giving the advice has no idea what shear even is, how it is represented as a force within that movement and how it is applied to the joint, or (more importantly) whether or not it should be.  Again, I’ll reiterate that I have been guilty of this too because I don’t want it to seem like I’m completely innocent with conversations like this.  I used words all of the time that maybe I shouldn’t have because it is an easy way to get a point across to a client or co-worker without them looking at you blankly.

Some questions that immediately spring to mind is does that person even know what shear actually is?  Why is shear bad?  Why is it bad for that person?  Is there another way to do the same thing with a different overall result?  Or a way to get the same result doing something different?  Often we as trainers don’t think much beyond “good or bad”.  What we don’t consider is if this is good or bad for that person at that time within the capacity of having no idea what might be going on within that joint beyond what we can find out with our limited ability to check it.  It brings things to a higher level of responsibility, which is where in my opinion people in my profession should hang out.  Unfortunately most of us can’t or even worse, can’t be bothered.

There really is no good or bad exercise, there are simply increasing and decreasing levels of appropriateness of the exercise based on the person involved, what you are trying to do to them and why you are trying to do it.  The great thing about what I am now learning is that I can completely alter the force going through a joint to make it harder, or safer, or apply things there that I want to without causing things I don’t want to have happen.  It’s like magic, but really it isn’t – it is just attention to detail, being as sure of something as you can be and keeping the intention in mind to help the client get what you want them to get.  It brings in the mastery of what we do, which is affect the body and it’s many joints in a way that can either bring something good or something bad.  There is a lot of trial and error involved, but as we get really masterful at it, there might be a bit less error.

I know a lot about the body and how it moves and works and does all of the little things that go on every second of every day that affect your daily living and health.  One of the most valuable things I probably learned this past week was what I don’t know.  And that’s okay – provided that I don’t pretend that I do or just ignore it and do something to somebody anyway without any mindful thought towards what I am doing.  That’s what study and application is for.  You just can’t label things right away without knowing exactly what is going on.  I’m happy to have this new perspective and with any luck I’ll be able to affect people in a much more appropriate way now that I have it.  Feel free to comment on what I’ve said and think about it yourself.  You might be surprised!


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