Believe it or not, science is as important to the fitness culture as the invention of the bench press – with the help of scientific research, we can easily separate the truths from the myths and use that knowledge to substantially better our workouts as well as diminish the risk of injury.
Here are 5 scientific findings that shed new light on some popular beliefs and practices in the world of exercise and fitness and can potentially upgrade your performance if employed in your regular routine.
#1. Lousy squats are dangerous
Yep, performing squats with improper form can lead to a number of serious injuries, both acute and chronic, and that’s why it’s of vital importance to learn how to squat safely and effectively. According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, squatting should be a controlled movement performed with a neutral spine and hinging as much as possible at the hips. Don’t rush it – squatting too fast can be both ineffective and increase the risk of injury. Ideal form includes a wider stance and placing the bar lower on the back.
#2. The best ab exercise
Since maintaining a ripped midsection is widely recognized as mandatory for any serious bodybuilder, the search for the perfect ab exercise will never end. But regardless of personal experiences, researchers have tried to end this quest by measuring levels of ab muscle activation during different popular exercises, including the crunch, supine V-up, prone V-up on a ball, prone V-up on a slide board, prone V-up on a TRX and prone V-up on a Power Wheel.
The results? No significant differences in ab muscle activation were found between the exercises and all seem to work the midsection muscles equally, with the exception of the crunch, which activates the internal oblique muscles a bit less.
#3. The Perfect Push-Up device doesn’t stand up to its name
The Perfect Push-Up is a small fitness device that utilizes two handles which rotate on a circular base, allowing your arms to rotate throughout the movement. Although the manufacturer’s claims about the effectiveness of device are pretty wild, a study from the Mayo Clinic found that it provided zero advantage compared to traditional push-ups.
The researchers measured muscle activation levels during three different positions (wide, medium and narrow base), and found that there are the rotational handles didn’t lead to increased muscle activity, but the greater range of motion did. That’s the reason why the wide-grip and standard pushups performed with The Perfect Push-Up elicited more muscle activity in the chest, triceps and front shoulders, while the narrow-grip pushups had a lower effect on these muscles. Therefore, you don’t need rotating handles to engage your muscles more – you could get the same elevation effect on many simpler ways. In addition, exercise physiologists claim that the rotating handles could increase your risk of shoulder injury.
#4. Vibration training improves muscle endurance
Vibration training, which includes a manufactured vibration with the help of a device in order to stimulate your muscles to work harder, looks more and more promising. Usually, the vibration is transferred through the feet, hands or butt, which are in direct contact with the vibrating device, and it’s supposed to help you increase the number of muscle fibers trained during any basic exercise.
Does it work? One recent study found that long-term vibration training improves posture stability of young men in the frontal plane, while another study published in the European Journal of Sports Science in 2010 found that subjects could complete more biceps curls when exercising on a vibration platform, compared to exercising without it. These and other similar studies conclude that vibration training indeed improves muscle fitness in untrained adults and other specific groups of gym-goers, but that it’s not worth the effort for athletes or experienced bodybuilders who train regularly.
#5. Fast-tempo music improves bodybuilding performance
Many bodybuilders think that working out with fast-tempo or aggressive music helps them unleash their full potential, and science seems to strongly support this belief. One British study found that listening to faster music leads subjects to work harder, compared to exercising with slow-tempo music. Also, another study conducted by sports psychologists from Brunel University in London found that specific genres of music are best suited to specific types of exercise – more specifically, rap music is best suited for stretching and running, while dance music is a better match for strength training. In addition, the frequent tempo changes in rock music can negatively influence your workout rhythm, so keep that in mind when choosing motivational tunes for your next workout.