The health and fitness industry cannot seem to shake off the label of it being full of snake oil salesmen, smoke & mirrors and people looking to get rich quick. The general lack of adequate legal regulation in the industry allows fraudulent information to permeate the airwaves with very few people able to understand the truth. (Granted, a recent TV doctor’s scandal involving false information shows that this isn’t isolated to the fitness side of the industry.) Often times, individuals from trainers to members to athletes will believe one particular reason without even coming close to comprehending the mechanics behind it. (Here is a prime example courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel:). So, in an effort to help further your understanding of some complex and potentially controversial topics, here are nothing but the facts:
1) Fat is bad for you
Starting off with a big one that is thankfully facing a redux. Thanks to the spread of paleo, most people reading this blog will understand that this one isn’t true at face value. However, fat is high calorie, and a diet that has more “calories’-in” versus “calories-burned” will cause weight gain, so be careful of how you discuss dietary lipids. Furthermore, what is more interesting is the type of fat (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated & saturated) and their respective impact on the body: heck, this even deserves a post of its own! In general, I like to sum up the high fat argument with the saying:
“High fat is not necessarily bad, but high fat is high calorie, and high calorie leads to weight gain.”
Once again, there is increasing research validating the benefits of a (relatively) high fat diet. If you choose to experiment down this route, make sure you look at the types of fat, as the quality of dietary fat can almost make or break your health. For example, having a balanced omega-3 to omega-6 ratio has been heralded by many dietitians like Loren Cordain, meaning one would need to focus on consuming fat via fish and grass-fed beef, and less from nuts and conventional meat.
2) Kipping pull-ups are bad for your shoulders
A common knock on exercise enthusiasts that partake in the kipping pull-up is that it is bad for your shoulders. There is truth to this. When you dissect the kipping movement into simple biomechanics, things can ideally become clearer. When we look at the kip (traditional, not the modified circular “butterfly” kip), the specific movement in question is the ballistic hyper-flexion of the shoulder joint seen in the bottom position of the pull-up with the torso moving forward in-front of the bar with the arms extended. Many individuals lack prerequisite shoulder flexion range of motion, begging the question: why should we force ROM under ballistic load?
Since the kipping pull-up has become so engrained in the culture, it might be easier to analyze this situation in terms of another movement. If someone’s hamstrings were so tight that individual could not successfully obtain the starting position of a deadlift without rounding their back, should they perform the lift? Of course not. The problem is that during the kipping pull-up, it becomes much harder to diagnose flexibility issues unless you have a highly trained eye. So, to mitigate this problem, why not introduce a flexibility test first? There is a simple test out there called the shoulder flexion test:
Kelley Starrett has also mentioned a similar assessment he uses as well. If an individual is unable to obtain full shoulder flexion without compensatory action from either trap activation (shrugging) or back hyperextension, they shouldn’t partake in the kipping motion.
However, not all individuals that have adequate shoulder ROM have the prerequisite strength required to perform a pull-up. Therefore, not only should flexibility of the musculature surrounding the gleno-humeral joint be trained, general strength of the shoulder girdle cannot be over looked. Once again relaying on biomechanics, we see that movement that has the potential to protect our joint is shoulder extension. From a body building perspective, shoulder extension can be trained with a straight arm pull-over, with the prime move being the latissimus dorsi.
Here is another theoretical for you: imagine laying on your back on a bench with your arms straight out above your head, parallel to the floor with your elbows extended. Now imagine someone dropping a dumbbell and expecting you to catch it while your arms remain straight and back flat on the bench. That is a very similar action to the force most people put on their shoulder girdle every time they come crashing down uncontrollable during a kipping movement.
The best way to prevent this is to be strong in that motion, especially during the eccentric contraction. What is the best way to train that? Controlled strict pull-ups on both the way up AND the way down.
Stay tuned for part 2 and part 3 featuring Coffee, squatting depth and Olympic lifting.