Long-time personal trainers will tell you that over the course of their careers they have been wrong more times than they have been right. Now don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that they are bad trainers, it just means that over 5-10 years a lot of new information has been brought to light. It takes a good trainer to realize when they are wrong, where a bad trainer would stick to their guns.
Because of this constant change of opinions it can be a little difficult to pick the right path, but one rule you should follow is this: Don’t be a fitness snob, because it may come back to bite you in the butt. Fitness snobbery can have its uses, not blindly following a guy who thinks that deadlifting while standing on top of a Swiss ball is sensible. But don’t let it stop you from trying things out.
There are many forms of fitness snobbery, all certain the way they train is superior to everyone else’s. There’s the powerlifting fitness snob, who believes that there are only 4 exercises that you should be spending any time on: Bench Press, Deadlifts, Back Squats, and maybe pull ups. Then you have the Olympic lifting snobs, who only believe in Snatches, Jerks, and Cleans. The bodybuilding snob who only follows the advice of Mr Olympia winners and Flex Magazine.
There are also Functional Movement snobs, who would tell you that any exercise that involves just one plane of movement should be ignored, and do you want to check out their multi-plane lunge circuit?
You also have the Free Weight Snob who looks down on anyone who uses a resistance machine, the Bodyweight Snob, who feels that only bodyweight exercises (performed shirtless of course) should be performed. The CrossFit snob…Who only believes in CrossFit, and the Exercise Class snob, who thinks that everyone else is just lazy compared to him or her.
These Fitness Snobs are not doing anything wrong by following these types of workout, each one can be an effective way to increase muscle, lose fat, and improve health. But the mistake that they are all making is believing that there is just one approach to training, and that their approach is the best. The best training style to follow is the one that suits you personally the best, but you should not be afraid to try different approaches.
Let’s give you an example, say you are a free weight adherent and believe (correctly) that they are more effective than resistance machines because they increase testosterone and growth hormone more, and target more muscle fibers per rep . But you get to the gym and find that all the benches are in use. There looks like there is a ten minute wait, minimum before you can get on it. But the chest press machine is empty.
Would it not make sense to just jump on that and get on with your workout, rather than waiting around for ten minutes? Assuming that time is a factor of course (as it is for 90% of gym goers). The chest press is still going to target the pectoral muscles and the triceps. It is still going to burn calories, and hit muscle fibres. You’ll still get a hormonal response, even if it isn’t quite as high as the free weight version. You might also enjoy it!
Another example of a perfectly valid piece of equipment that gets ignored due to fitness snobbery is the Smith Machine. It doesn’t matter how many fitness experts (including Brad Schoenfeld, Bret Contreras, and many more) vouch for the effectiveness of Smith Machines in certain situations. You still get Fitness Snobs looking down on them. Pointing out their flaws without even considering their potential benefits.
As a fixed resistance machine they are great for exercises that can get negatively affected by balance – for example Barbell Split Squats. If you are struggling to master an exercise then a Smith Machine could make a great alternative.
Keep an open mind, listen to the experts in the field. Don’t follow anyone who deals in absolutes. If someone says that “exercise A” has no value, see if this opinion is being challenged elsewhere. If it is, then try the exercise out for yourself and see if it suits you. If it does then feel free to use it when the situation demands, if it doesn’t then carry on – but don’t look down on people that the exercise does suit. This will prevent you from 1) missing out on great exercises 2) looking stupid in 5 years’ time when the belief you have held is proven to be completely wrong!
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 Shaner, A., Vingren, J., Hatfield, D., Budnar, R., Duplanty, A., Hill, D. 2014. The Acute Hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 28 (4): 1032-40