One of my favorite things to do is to search through reddit, specifically r/fitness and find questions that people are asking about training & nutrition. Questions that I believe almost anyone would benefit from hearing answers. So that's what this is. I've done it before but I think it's time to revisit this reddit fitness questions and answer segment.
Keep in mind, if you have questions that are similar and desire an answer, please reach out. I'd be happy to address any questions in the next iteration of this segment.
Question 1: Do You Need To Use Compound Lifts?
First of all, compound movements like the squat, deadlift and press are truly great for building a strong base of well, strength as well as creating maximal coordination between muscle groups, allowing you to efficiently produce strength.
Overall, this to me is the most important reason to use these exercises, not because they are typically great at building mass.
The thing about these movements is that they allow you to stimulate a large amount of muscle at a relatively high amount of weight. Together, this creates a fairly large growth stimulus across many different muscle groups. Essentially, these movements are efficient at stimulating growth for a large amount of muscle, rather than a specific few.
However, you have to consider that in doing so, some muscle groups will be worked to a greater extent than others. For example, you’ll certainly stimulate your abdominals with a squat or deadlift, but if you were planning on specifically building your core strength and definition, you’d want to work them directly rather than use the stimulus from squats, alone.
Really, you don’t need to use movements like the deadlift and squat, but you should, since they can provide you with a strong base of muscle coordination and strength, which is functional and can also improve your performance during isolation movements, which can expedite the growth process.
Overall, you can certainly build a reasonable amount of muscle by specifically focusing on working certain muscle groups directly (isolation movements) but you’re missing out on building a strong, functional base, which might actually improve your ability when working with isolation movements.
If you have the ability to occasionally use compound movements with heavy weight, you should. Just don’t discount the importance of isolation movements as well. If you want a specific muscle group to grow, you should work it directly.
Compound movements like the squat, bench and deadlift stimulate a large amount of muscle, requiring them to work in unison. However, when doing so, some muscle groups will be worked to a greater extent than others. Thus, it makes sense to have a healthy combination of compound movements and isolation if you’re looking for a complete package.
Question 2: How can I start to look "fit"?
Truth be told, there isn’t anything special about this question. There’s unfortunately no secret answer that would be different from a normal prescription for getting fit. But just in case, here’s how I would respond.
First of all, you should consider adjusting your nutrition to first allow for weight loss, but additionally, be in line with your intended result. If you’re hoping to “get fit” you’ll want to first improve the quality of your food intake and second, ensure that you’re in a negative energy balance.
This simply means that you’re reducing that amount of energy you’re taking in, while maintaining or increasing energy expenditure.
The best way to accomplish this is to either begin tracking calories and macros, and/or increase consumption of protein and vegetables. Essentially, stick with foods that you think are “healthy” and try to reduce the amounts foods that are dense in calories (think junk food).
Second, I suggest having a training plan that encompasses a wide range of training styles. This includes lifting heavy sometimes, lifting lighter sometimes, training like a bodybuilder, training like a Crossfit athlete and training like an endurance athlete.
Really, and while this won’t be a popular opinion, look at most highly competitive Crossfit Athletes. While this isn’t exactly a scientific suggestion, just consider how jacked and defined those athletes are. Not to mention, most of them can run 10 miles without even thinking about it.
So essentially, if you want a “fit physique” you first need to eat in a way that will favorably adjust your body weight/fat in the direction you need and then train in a way that will probably get you fit. Not gigantic, not small like an endurance athlete but rather the whole package.
I suggest training with the following focuses if your goal is “to get fit”:
Many people get caught up in technicalities when it comes to “how you should train.” Really, it’s quite simple. If you want to get strong, you should train to increase strength specifically. If you want to get big, train to get big. If you want to get “fit” then you should train in a way that will allow you to do so. In my opinion, training and mastering all facets of fitness is the answer to this question.
Depending on your primary goal, you should train in ways that will actually allow you to achieve it. If you want to be strong, train to get stronger. If you want to get big, train to get bigger. If you want to get "fit" then train with a wide variety of training styles to ensure that you don't only look fit, but can also play the part.
Question 3: How to train around sensitive joints?
Keep in mind this is personal anecdote, but I’ve found that if I have sensitive regions, such as the tendons around the elbow during triceps extension exercises, I always opt for a compound movement instead that will work that target muscle group.
Surely, using isolation movements are the best way to specifically improve a muscle group, but when using these movements, two things can happen:
1.Either you put way too much direct stress on the muscle and tendons or
2.Your muscle outgrew tendon strength.
In the first scenario, this is typical. For example, the triceps muscle grouping is fairly small, relatively speaking (consider the amount of muscle that comprises the “quadriceps” compared to the amount of muscle considered to be “triceps."
When doing a compound movement, you can place this muscle group under much more stress. However, when using an isolation movement, you’re also placing much more direct stress on the joint and tendon(s) that allow for that movement to take place.
In the second scenario, it’s not unreasonable that with a large amount of direct work to specific muscle groups, that they can outgrow the tendon that connects the muscle to the bone.
That’s because the tissue that makes up tendons, cartilage and ligaments has a poor blood supply, meaning that recovery and build up is slower than that of the muscle it’s attached to, creating imbalance and potential risk of injury. In fact, that’s one of the reasons that many steroid users experience injury, since the muscle is growing at a sped up rate compared to the tendon.
Over years of experiencing this issue myself, I’ve come up with two solutions.
First, I’ve found that by using a compound movement that still works the target muscle, you’ll place less direct force on the joint and tendon in question. So, while you may not be working the muscle directly, you’ll still potentially stimulate growth.
Second, just take a break from directly working that muscle group. If you’re having pain, that’s a good indication that you’re placing too much overall or direct stress on that area.
Lastly, I suggest trying to find alternatives that work the target muscle group. If scull crushers hurt your joints, but triceps pushdown doesn’t, simply opt for the other exercise. Just because you had one exercise planned, doesn’t mean that an alternative won’t provide almost identical benefit.
Pain around joints during isolation movements is quite common and could be due to just too much direct force on a small muscle / tendon group or because your muscle has outgrown the ability of the tendon. If this describes you, consider opting for compound movements and finding alternative exercises for the target muscle group. Always attempt to train around pain before completely abandoning it. Most exercises have alternatives that will achieve the same end results you're hoping for.