Monday, December 05, 2005

The Post-Dispatch Fitness Section Review: Walking Lunges

The weekly fitness section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch always has some interesting features. Many don't deal with real health; they deal with cosmetic appearance--"Teeth bleaching addicts can go to far"--and bodybuilding fitness junk.

The primary bodybuilding-esque column is a weekly syndicated piece by someone named Nancy Cole. The only credential or information I can find on this person (Google) is that she is a "certified personal trainer from South Florida. If anyone knows more, please fill me in. Today's topic is walking lunges. Now, I'm a fan of walking lunges for a variety of reasons, none of which includes developing "lean, luscious legs and a tight, rounded rump." Although she does briefly mention that this bodyweight exercise requires balance, flexibility and leg strength, it is brief and she does not mention anything about torso control (core strength) or total body coordination.

She recommends doing 20 "steps" to start, with bodyweight for beginners and a bodybar across the shoulders if you are advanced. She then proceeds to recommend the following volume of work, this is assuming 20 steps is a set:

"Start with a 15-minute session...with 30 second rests at the end of each set. Eventually work up to 45 minutes of walking lunges and a shorter rest time for a really tough workout."

The average person cannot even begin to do the 15 minute session, and I cannot imagine anyone spending (surviving) 45 minutes doing one bodyweight exercise, except maybe some of those fitness competition freaks. I have my people do at most 10 steps with each leg, working on balance and posture with feedback; rest periods are 2-3 minutes for full recovery and feedback on form, because fatigue will compromise form. We want to groove good motor patterns here, as poor form will lead to musculoskeletal problems down the road. Max sets might be 4 or 5.

If you want to get cardiovascular conditioning, get to walking, swimming, running or riding. Lunging for cardiovascular exercise is just stupid and impractical; this is an exercise for strength, balance and control. The average person attempting to do this will cause themselves considerable pain and possible injury attempting to do what this article advises.

But that's just it with most of these "personal trainer" or "fitness experts" in the American fitness industry. They don't really know what they are doing, have no real credentials and feed everyone (especially women) this aerobic/circuit training junk. They simply sell themselves in the popular press as experts because of some connection and usually through their own appearance. Breast implants or big biceps / pecs usually serve as good credentials in this profession (as in the picture above).

These so-called "experts" don't know how to accurately prescribe and apply exercise for improved physical health. Keep this in mind: Any idiot can make you sweat. 15 to 45 minutes on one continuous exercise is not only impractical, it borders on criminal.

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