We love hacks. The quick fixes, the shortcuts, the simple solutions that promise to solve our most complex issues. Most hacks give us a false sense of hope that we can skip the long road ahead. They lure us away from the actual work in hopes of an easier way.
And can we blame the hacks for finding them appealing and search worthy. After all, when a good hack is applied at right place and time, the benefits can be tremendous, almost magical.
The bad fitness hacks
At best, bad hacks are empty promises that don’t teach us anything. They often scratch the surface instead of digging into the core.
Hack is a software solution to a fundamentally poor time-management skills. It’s a short-term restrictive diet and excessive exercise solution to a lifetime unhealthy habits. It’s a surgical solution to psychological problem. It’s the Drain-O when you need to stop forcing hair and used coffee grounds down the sink.
What to look out for then when deciding if the recommended hack is a hoax, often played on your emotions and your deep pockets. The bad hacks usually have one, or multiple similarities:
– A promise of instant results without the work
– Sounds too good to be true
– Emotionally loaded
– Scientific sounding explanation with fancy, liberal, smarty-pants and hardly quantifiable words (detox, energy of the Earth, universe, cleansing, systematic overhaul)
As in, “Day 7 of the detoxification you will feel the universe working through you as the energy of the Earth brings you closer with the colliding planets of the west. As the cleansing of your body finally completes the cycle of the systematic overhaul you can begin again within the shape of your soul animal. Which is a parrot.”
The bad fitness hacks are leaving you worse. They give you false hope and let you down time and time again. They don’t permanently solve the problem for you. You don’t learn anything in the process. Instead of putting in the effort and the work you move from one bad hack to another, wasting time, money and empty prayers.
Some of the bad hacks work for short term. Like focusing on the quantity of fitness instead of quality. You might be ripped by the 10th week, but where are you by the 20th? Did you learn how to keep your results, or are you relying on someone else’s military-like accountability? Did you see rapid progress and pay for it with ache, pain and injury?
The one thing that all the bad hacks have? They keep you away from getting sustainable results.
The good fitness hacks
Yes, there are some good fitness hacks that work. And yes, some of them might even seem magical. But even the “magical” ones can be proven by science, reason and logic.
The reason why something seems magical is only because we don’t understand how they work. But an expert should be able to explain it to us with simple words that we associate with.
It’s cool to see someone flicking you in the shoulder blade and suddenly you have more hip internal rotation. Or pulling your ear to improve your leg raise. But you should be given a reason why it works, in as lay terms as possible.
Is the expert teaching you how to maintain that range of motion? Because it shouldn’t be a god-like moment for the one demonstrating the “trick”. Usually done for the sake of views on Facebook.
So, here are some good fitness “hacks”.
– Breathing drills can have an immediate effect to improved mobility in hips, spine and shoulders. You are taking your nervous system from flight or flight to chill, homie. To keep that range you need to work on some isometric contractions to start-off with. Then build it to a more functional pattern.
– High tension isometric muscle contraction can provide an immediate increase in short-term mobility. You are “telling” your nervous system that it can stop protecting the area. To keep the mobility, follow the advice here. And eventually build it to a more functional pattern.
– Improving ankle mobility can have an immediate effect on hip and core stability. As Gray Cook said, “Core hears the floor through the ankle”. It’s all about putting your joints in positions where they can work optimally. If one joint doesn’t work properly the body compensates somewhere above or below of that joint.
– Improving core stability can immediately give you more hip mobility. Your hips don’t have to overwork on stability that your core wasn’t giving before. Think side plank releasing tension from the groin, or half-kneeling halo improving leg raise and therefore improving single leg deadlift.
– Keeping ribs down can immediately make you better at chin ups. You didn’t suddenly get stronger. You just discovered how not to leak the strength you create. The caveat? You will do better looking reps but less of them as each rep will be more taxing. Think one step back to take two forward.
– Headbanging to Machine Head on full volume will make you stronger in farmer carries. Because… metal in your ears will transfer to the metal in your hands… No, I can’t prove it. But who are you to question my authority!
When you see a good hack working for you, ask why does it work? You don’t need to understand the deep science of it (unless you want to). But learn just enough so you know the reason for why it works.
The knowledge dissolves the magicality of the hack. And that allows us to talk about it with terms and facts based in reality instead of folk-lore.