It’s not exactly telling tales out of school to say that there’s a lot of snake oil being sold in the fitness world. Or that gym novices are the group most susceptible to thinking that they can sidestep hard work and maximize their results simply by purchasing the correct gadgets and chemicals. The truth is, even if you had access to the most effective muscle-growing substances in the world, you’d still be obligated to test your body’s physical limits on a near-daily basis in order to achieve any discernible results from your chemical investments.
While this list is far from exhaustive, here are a few of the most misbegotten fitness items that tantalize gym novices — as well as experienced fitness aficionados who ought to know better. I’m not excluding myself from this latter group either. I’ve wasted my fair share of money on products in several of these categories, and I’m prepared to offer myself up as the sacrificial numbskull whose many mistakes you’d be wise to learn from.
I’m sure I’ve worn through at least a dozen pairs of weight gloves in my life, and no matter how fancy they were, what materials were included in their composition or what kind of fancy built-in doohickeys they came with, none of them ever lasted me an entire year. To top it off, I can’t honestly say that any of them provided me with a better grip than I experienced by using my bare hands, nor did those gloves ever prevent any sort of calluses from forming.
Elevation masks are intended to give you the feeling that you’re training at altitude, and they simply can’t do it. The benefits of training at altitude include achieving a higher VO2 max, adding more red blood cells and hemoglobin to their overall counts and increasing capillary density. Living and training at altitude can accomplish all of these things; obstructing your airway will not.
I once had an elementary school classmate (yes, elementary school) who wore ankle weights all day just before the big year-end race because she felt it would make it easier for her to achieve victory. She was the fastest girl in the school, but she lost. My theory: She pre-fatigued her legs while wearing the ankle weights, and they left her too enervated to compete on equal footing with the girls who hadn’t artificially exhausted their legs.
This doesn’t mean ankle weights are completely useless, but you should probably wait until you’re certifiably fast before you worry about employing tactics to make yourself faster. Even if you’re using ankle weights to accelerate the rate at which you add mass to your booty, there are far better ways to achieve the same (rear) end. This is especially true if you’re venturing to the gym — in which case, leave the ankle weights at home.
There have been at least half a dozen exercise machines that have hit the market claiming to target the abdominal muscles. But they neither defeat the floor as far as workout effectiveness is concerned, nor do they exceed the benefits of simple abdominal stabilization that occurs while you’re performing any number of other resistance exercises. Moreover, some of these apparatuses are so laughably huge that they’ll eat up a much larger footprint in your home than even the most productive pieces of home fitness equipment, like a foldable weight bench or a set of adjustable dumbbells.
Nowadays, everyone wants a nice butt. That said, it’s no secret that the majority of reliable booty builders also happen to be exceedingly challenging exercises that there’s really no working around — except by performing other very challenging exercises. Aware of the fact that many people would love to have a squatter’s booty without having to perform squats, fitness manufacturers have developed products that promise to deliver exactly that: Optimized squats that can be performed using bodyweight alone.
These machines either lock the body into angles it would never find itself in naturally, or provide the body with so much assistance that it resembles a rehabilitative exercise. In either case, the machines make it pragmatically impossible to add any of the additional weight or resistance that causes the squat to be such an effective gluteal growth exercise in the first place.
No matter what else is in these concoctions, the ingredient that makes you feel like something is actually happening to you is the megadose of caffeine. Certainly, it’s helpful to be alert for your workout, but there’s no additional advantage to feeling buzzed and jittery, and you also don’t want to warp yourself into thinking that you need to be at a Ryan Gosling level of being jacked to the tits before you can engage in a run-of-the-mill workout.
If you’re a competitive athlete whose success or failure is measured in hundredths of seconds or one or two pounds, I won’t begrudge you the use of creatine. It enhances the ATP production of your system, which can help you get in a few more reps, or squeeze out another half of a second at your peak effort level. It also enables your muscles to recover more rapidly, which is beneficial if you’re breaking them down during every one of your training days.
Other than these exceptions, however, it’s difficult to advise someone who is training for general fitness, or who isn’t training with a competitive performance goal in mind, to begin a creatine-enhanced training regimen when all of the results they’re looking for are achievable without it.
Here’s the takeaway overall: When in doubt, buy nothing. I’d suggest working out diligently for four or five solid years before trying to enhance your workout with any sort of gizmos. At least that way you’ll have a better sense of what you’re capable of achieving without augmentations, and you’ll also be knowledgeable enough to spot the charlatans. More often than not, anyone offering you an easy road to success is usually taking you for a ride.