What are the best web exercise resources
April 2, 2016 7:31 AM   Subscribe

Where should I go to find out what exercises I should do to tone and build muscle? I am getting conflicting information.

After an injury, a physical therapist told me that I need to build core strength. Physical therapist told me that the general wisdom these days was to do plank exercises to build ab/core strength. Physical therapist said sit ups are bad news. (To clarify, this was a general comment, not just about me/my injury.)

I went to another authority who disagreed, said planks are great but the idea that sit ups are not considered good form any longer is ridiculous.

I give that disagreement as an illustration, my actual question is: how can I figure out where to get the best guidance for a home work out? I'm mostly hoping for web resources, but I guess I would consider books as well. Please don't suggest exercises, guide me to information or a method for figuring out who is giving the best information.
posted by emmatrotsky to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
For the explanation of different exercises I really like ExRx.net.

The problem with situps is that they can lead to spinal injuries, allegedly:
Sit-ups can put hundreds of pounds of compressive force on the spine, says Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at Canada’s University of Waterloo. In dozens of published studies, Dr. McGill has found that the forces, combined with the repeated flexing motion, in sit-ups can squeeze the discs in the spine. That combination eventually can cause discs to bulge, pressing on nerves and causing back pain, potentially leading to disc herniation.
Probably they are fine if you have a good base of back and abdominal strength already.
posted by dis_integration at 7:52 AM on April 2, 2016

Disclaimer: I coach for a living, I have rather distinct opinions on the value of coaching generally and specifically.

The trouble with this sort of conflicting advice isn't that one side is right and the other wrong or that new information comes to light and current advice changes as opinions come in and out of fashion. The problem is the gap between theory and execution. Sit-ups for example - there's nothing inherently wrong with sit-ups but done poorly they can put undu stress on your neck and lower back resulting in a net loss. Push-ups? Another good example, nothing wrong with them done well but they're terrible for shoulders, not great for your back and rather ineffective if they're not done well. Running? Same thing - if you like your knees and back but can not be trusted to run with good form the safe advice will be to avoid running all together.

All of these things require skill and the skills are enabled by basic skills referred to as physical literacy. One of the reasons why it is so important for children to run, walk & play far more than they are likely to do so is so that they may acquire the physical literacy that will empower their fitness options as future adults.

Missing this, or losing access to skills and movements from disuse or injury complicates ones effective fitness plans dramatically. Performing any activity to a degree required to be efficacious for excercise and remain safe also requires some non-zero level of skill. Some activities will require decidedly more stringent levels of 'non-zero'. As with any other type of skill acquisition attempting to both self teach and self assess leaves one in a precarious position where the process is unlikely to be efficient missing the perspective required to have solid judgement on the quality of the developing skill.

My best advice is to seek advice elsewhere. The most important part of the feedback cycle is, y'know, actually getting feedback.i think the better option is to find something you like, an activity you can invest in, and spend some time (and probably money) becoming somewhat proficient. From there your options for seeking further ideas and/or 'spot-check' coaching/feedback get a lot better.
posted by mce at 8:04 AM on April 2, 2016 [8 favorites]

I found this site recently, seems to have sound explanations for core exercises: AbsExperiment
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:57 AM on April 2, 2016

In line with a lot of the common sense advice mce offers, I'd suggest Gretchen Reynolds's book, The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer. She's the author of the Phys Ed blog at the New York Times, so you can check out her column and see if what she says makes sense before dropping money on the book. I first came across her on the Blue (or the Green) and I've really benefited from reading her book.

It demystified for me a lot of exercise-related stuff and has some very common-sense observations about controversial (and, to noobs like me, confusing) exercise topics like how much exercise we need to do, what those exercises are, and what we can safely leave out, in order to be healthy (as opposed to athletes).

As to your specific dilemma, Reynolds has a guide on how to do them correctly without risking injury and some more observations about crunches and core training here. Hope this helps.
posted by Ziggy500 at 9:32 PM on April 2, 2016

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