Common mistake: “What’s the best thing for…?”

A common mistake I’ve seen from many people I have trained with (from absolute beginners to those who are really very good).  They want to know “The best thing for…”


  • Losing belly/thigh/arm fat
  • Getting bigger biceps
  • Getting faster
  • Improving coordination/balance
  • strengthening their back
  • etc

In other words, they want to know the single exercise/training drill/food that will give them their goals with the minimum effort and time.  Last week, I was asked this question by a very large man…

“What single exercise can I do to strengthen my back?”

A reduced calory, balanced and healthy diet and long term increase in his background activity.  This will help reduce his weight so his back (and all other joints) are being put under less stress, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.Unfortunately, the human body does not work like that.  Don’t try to find a “single, best thing” to improve.  Instead, have a “package of many, good things“. So in the above example, there is no point in the man spending 5 minutes, 2-3 times a week “strengthening his back”.  Instead, he needs to implement a “package” of things including:

  • Basic posture correction and rudimentary training in how to actually move both himself and objects in the world around him.  This will further reduce the stresses on his back (and all other joints).

With this package in place, there is a very good chance he won’t need to strengthen his back, because it will easily cope with the reduced stresses on it. Without this package in place, strengthening the back will just involve putting more stress on the back.  So try to avoid the mistake of looking for a single “wonder exercise” that will cure all your ills.  The real answer is almost certainly in the package of dull, boring, unsexy exercises/foods that have been around since the stone age. And in the rare cases when a sexy, exciting and new exercise/food is the answer…it won’t work unless you have the basic fundamental package in place first.  Otherwise, you are just papering over the cracks…it might look good, but it’s not going to stop the wall from collapsing.