Influencers, low hanging fruit and repetition.
If you're reading this, there's a fair chance that you follow some sort of instagram 'influencer'. This is someone who is in great physical shape and claims to be an expert in the fitness industry. They probably sell all sorts of supplements and show off their 'HIIT' workouts (which aren't actually true HIIT - 30 squat jumps every minute isn't high intensity, it's high density). In this age of social media, information (as well as misinformation) is just a touch of a button away.
While a lot of these influencers know how to get the best lighting on their abs and which filter makes their skin glow, a lot of them don't actually know a lot about the science behind exercise. This was backed up by recent evidence from Ori et al (2019). 'The current study used quantitative content analysis to examine the features of 194 popular fitness and exercise blogs, with a focus on blog authors. Additionally, 722 content pages from the blogs were analyzed for content type, post format, and interactive features. Results suggest that only 16.4% of bloggers report having fitness/exercise certifications although 57% report being a fitness/exercise professional.'
Our advice? Get your information from people who have been working in the industry for some time (they have some skin in the game) as well a good reputation/high education standards (whether that's degrees or courses/certifications etc).
Another tip to ensure you're not falling into the trap of ineffective training, is picking the low hanging fruit. What we mean by this is that instead of looking for the latest supplements, fancy gadgets or doing as many exercises as possible, make sure you are ticking off the fundamentals first - sleep, stress, recovery, eating well. In Bird's journal entry 'Sleep, Recovery and Athletic Performance: Review and Recommendations' (2013), he outlines the importance of 7-9 hours of sleep as well as stress management to help improve physical performance. Furthermore, load management is another area which needs to be considered if you find your progress hindered - see parts 1 & 2 where we talk about the importance of rest and steering clear of 'junk volume'.
Our final tip in this series is to make sure you are consistent with your training and practise it. This requires repetition in order to create neurological changes in the brain which can improve that particular motor skill (see our blog on neuroplasticity). The great Bruce Lee once famously said "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."
If you want to get better at golf, you practise playing golf. If you want to get better at squatting, well by golly, you need to squat. Skills need practise and measurable progress. A lot of 'HIIT' style group fitness gyms these days tend to gravitate towards having a completely random session every time. If you want to get stronger or more coordinated/efficient at a particular movement, there needs to be some form of repetition. It doesn't have to be monotonous and you can introduce variability (variations, tempo, different loading etc). But changing your workout every single time for the sake of it is a great way to not get any better at the exercises you're doing. Sometimes the exciting, impressive progress you make is built off doing consistent, unexciting things repetitively and with purpose.