March 19, 2018 by VAHVA Fitness

Let's talk about one big issue that is going on in the fitness industry: clickbaits, misinformation and bad advice. 

Right now platforms like YouTube and Instagram are filled with overly dramatized content, clickbaits, false information and just bad rationale. 

Videos such as "THIS EXERCISE IS KILLING YOUR GAINS" or "STOP DOING THIS!" get a lot of views but these videos are rarely entirely honest or the authors aren't very smart. 

One of the most common clickbait tactics is labeling some exercises as inherently dangerous while at the same time offering the "right exercise" or variation for you to do. 

This creates tons of unnecessary stress, confusion and bewilderment among beginners because obviously no one wants to get hurt or train in "a wrong and bad way". 

The problem with this approach is that the authors always oversimplify very complex matters without taking into account the entire picture.

It's a form of cheap authority which is very easy to do: just start labeling exercises as good and bad and you will get tons of views.

Moreover, this entire premise of labeling exercises as dangerous is false and overly simplified.

First of all, it implies that how you do an exercise doesn't actually matter. This creates a false sense of security that as long as you avoid the "dangerous" exercises and do the good ones, you will be alright. 

This is not the case - in fact any exercise has some risk and can get you hurt and this means that you have to start taking personal responsibility for your training. 

In all exercises the CONTEXT has to be understood: who is doing the exercise, how, at what level and at what frequency/intensity the exercise is done. 

ANY exercise that is outside of your scope of fitness can hurt you. Any exercise that is done too much, too often with too much resistance can hurt you. Any exercise you do carelessly without being mindful can hurt you.

No exercise is inherently dangerous, it's all about whether you are capable of doing the exercise safely - are you properly prepared to do the given exercise?

sissy squat

Sissy squat.

Sissy squat is a perfect example for this because it can put heavy strain on your knees IF your lower body (especially quadriceps) and core aren't properly developed and prepared for the task.

A beginner should be able to feel immediately if there is discomfort in the movement and realize that traditional squats and lunges need to be mastered first. Pain is a sign that the exercise shouldn't be done, but that doesn't mean the exercise is bad for everyone. 

The reason we don't label exercises as dangerous is because it's simply not that simple. A beginner should do different exercises than an advanced trainee who has been training for years. 

Moreover, how majority of the fitness industry understands danger and safety is completely irrational. 

Somehow placing extreme stress on your spine with back squats or practicing advanced skills like planche are fine, while articulating your spine is immediately dangerous no matter the weight or the resistance. 

Nothing wrong with back squats or planches - as long as they are done in a good manner. This is just to show that as long as the exercise is conventional it's fine to do no matter how crazy it is, but if it's unconventional, it's immediately labeled as dangerous.

The way you actually exercise safely is not picking the "safe" exercises and avoiding the "dangerous" exercises which someone else has dictated for you.  

This is how you train safely and longevity in mind:

  • Accept personal responsibility or pick a coach you can trust.
  • Train within your limits and don't overdo it.
  • Focus on control and mindfulness in all exercises and movements.

There is a reason why we frequently talk about control, body intelligence and mindfulness in our videos and articles. It's because they are the most important things when it comes to making progress and staying safe while exercising. 

Although we sometimes do advanced exercises, our entire approach is geared towards long term results. Long terms gains happen when you drop the ego and focus on building strength instead of demonstrating strength.

We focus on mobility training in our training programs and training in general because it's the way to improve your posture and keep your joints and ligaments safe. We focus on the quality principle because it is how any exercise can be done safely.

"The Perfect Form" - SCAM?

wide push up snap

Another problem you see on social media is everyone clickbaiting with "the perfect form". This often comes with a bad rationale and by pedestalizing one variation over others while also making the other variations seem useless.

It's an easy clickbait tactic because obviously everyone wants to do the exercises with the perfect form and focus on the variations that are considered the best.

Yet, similar to labeling exercises as dangerous, there is too much over-simplification, clickbaiting and misinformation going on.

There is no such a thing as the perfect form that is universally true. Before you make a decision to use an exercise, you have to understand the purpose of the exercise and the context it is presented in.

Push up is a perfect example of this phenomenon because everyone likes to talk about "the perfect push up".

In many circles the perfect push up is considered a push up with the most range of motion and a hollow body where you retract the scapula at the bottom, keep the arms quite narrow and protract the shoulder blades at the top. 

This push up is only perfect in the scope of gymnastics or calisthenics (street workout) and only when it comes to developing mobility. Everything has been overly simplified and dramatized once again.

Body position such as the hollow body is only the best variation for gymnastic skills. When it comes to athleticism and well-rounded strength, hollow body is only one of the many areas you should develop.

The standards for most people in the fitness industry are shallow. Basically any exercise that is done with "a full range of motion" is correct when in reality it's not even remotely as simple as that.

Many practitioners and even trainees don't understand higher level concepts such as joint stabilization or advanced training techniques.

Does then a perfect form exist? - The perfect form of any exercise is the form that gives you the results you want to achieve from the exercise. 

Every variation is good as long as you are doing it right for the right reasons. An exercise with a partial range of motion can be the best if you want to focus on certain areas of the exercise. 

One exercise variation can have increased muscle activation in one area than another variation, but that still doesn't mean the other variation is not useful. Different variations simply emphasize different areas. 

If you want to develop your triceps with the push up, the perfect form is the form where you keep your scapula and core stable, take a narrow grip and focus solely on the elbow extension by utilizing mind-muscle connection. 

Demonstrating perfect forms for different purposes like this would be perfectly fine if the different fitness authorities didn't demonstrate everything as universally true and as facts.

Many fitness authorities pedestalize one variation and talk negatively about the other variations telling you to avoid doing them. The worst people over-dramatize everything: "STOP DOING THIS!" for increased views.

Basically the authors aren't entirely honest or they aren't very smart (which is more likely the case). Not everyone has integrity and many are willing to sacrifice their craft for better views. 

In order to make an informed decision of what exercise you should do, you have to understand the full picture. 

The full picture is: who is giving you the advice, why and for what purpose. 

For example, calisthenics practitioners work inside the scope of calisthenics (street workout). For them, the perfect form is the form that translates the best into improved performance in their sport (calisthenics).

There will be plenty of truth in their explanations and they can have real points but it's still only true in their context and narrow scope.

If you ask a powerlifter what is the best squat variation, the powerlifter will obviously demonstrate a variation that will best transfer to enhanced back squat performance. 

The real problem is that these different sportsmen think their sport skills are synonymous with universal strength. Their definition of strength is morphed by their sport and should not be considered pure strength.

A calisthenics practitioner thinks strength is the ability to do one arm pull ups or levers without realizing these are mostly skills. A powerlifter thinks heavy back squat, deadlift and bench press are the real standards for strength. 

Ultimately, it comes down to definition of strength, the context and the purpose

What are you looking for? Skills are not the same as strength. There is more to performance than just squatting heavy. Are you looking for real strength or just want to become better in your chosen sport?

As we talked about in our mission statement ("Become an Athlete"), we are focused on building universal strength which we have attempted to define in the article. 

We want you to be able to thrive in any environment you participate in. We are not focused on skills, because we cannot tell you what skills you want to learn (it's up to your personal preference).

Another reason why we aren't focused on skills is because skills come and go. Achieving a straight handstand may appear exciting and important now, but in 5-20 years you have probably moved onto something else.

This doesn't mean skills are a waste of time (far from it), but they are something we as true strength coaches can't primarily focus on. They simply don't transfer directly to well-rounded fitness. 

We want to make you strong, mobile and structurally balanced (posture) so that you can learn anything new fast and safely. This is a long term approach that will strengthen the body for life.

If in 10 years you grow an interest in yoga, you will be quite good at it straight from the bat. If you want to play basketball, you can play fully without physical restrictions. If you want to play with your kids or hike a mountain, it will be easy.

We are not caught up in trends because they come and go. A body that is properly developed will serve you in anything you do at any stage of life and it will last a lifetime.

Train hard, stay safe.


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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  • Seriously well-written. You put a lot of points I’ve been thinking about, out there. Thank you for this article.

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