Saturday, July 26, 2014
Choosing group training classes

By Daniel Reynen Citizen Columnist

Would you give your money to a company that promised to injure 73 percent of its customers? What if that company guaranteed that seven percent of the injuries would be so bad, they would need surgical intervention?

It seems a little far-fetched, but it's happening right now.

I'm not talking about cigarette companies or businesses that sell alcohol. It's happening in places we go to improve ourselves -- fitness centers across the country. The problem isn't the facilities, it's what they're teaching.

Gyms and health clubs have two distinct things they offer: weight training programs designed primarily to build muscle and bone, plus cardio programs that help strengthen your heart and burn fat. Both are vital for long-term health. But together they require a commitment of at least 3 to 4 hours a week.

In an effort to save time, people started experimenting with programs that combined strength and cardio into a single workout. It's something I call Cardio Weight Speed Training (CWST). At first glance, it seems like they should blend together perfectly. Similar to what happened when somebody first dipped a chocolate bar into some peanut butter.

But instead of getting the best of both, you end up with the worst.

Doing an exercise like the step up, where you step onto, and then back off a raised platform, is tricky. Doing it with weights makes it challenging and stresses muscles so they grow bigger. But if you force someone to do that exercise quickly, in order for it to have a cardio effect, that person's form falls apart.

There's a reason weight training and cardio programs are done separately. When you're moving weights, you want to be sure the movements are deliberate and controlled. Veering off in the wrong direction can cause injury. You never move too quickly, so your form is always good.

For cardio to work, you must move quickly. The goal is to increase your heart rate, and rapid movements are the best way to do that. Carrying weights along as you do cardio simply reduces the effectiveness of the cardio workout, and puts unnecessary stress on the joints.

The simplest way to see how damaging CWST workouts are is by looking at the injury rate of facilities that teach it. In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, researchers discovered an injury rate of 73.5 percent with 7 percent of them so severe, they required surgical intervention.

The speed of the workout isn't the only problem. To maximize revenue, many of these facilities put people in classes and teach everyone the same routine of the day. "If this workout is good for an Olympic athlete it's good for you too!" But there are huge differences between an Olympic athlete and the average person.

Giving everyone the same program puts beginners at even greater risk of injury and fails to challenge the most experienced.

Group fitness classes are a great way to keep motivated, learn routines and get a fitness instructor while saving a little money. Just make sure the classes are designed to help, not hurt.

CAUTION: Before beginning any exercise program check with your doctor first. For a free consultation with a WeBeFit Trainer, call 305-296-3434. Read all our articles online at, and get updates by "liking" us on Facebook.

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