In my previous post, I listed the best resources I’ve found for learning about diet and nutrition. In this post, I’ll do the same for exercise and fitness.
While doing any exercise is better than none at all, not all routines are created equal. Chances are that the amount of time you have to dedicate to exercise is fairly limited, so it’s essential to pick a routine that most efficiently meets your goals. As it turns out, optimal training very rarely consists of a light jogging and some situps, so if you actually want to see some results, spend a few hours up-front reading and learning.
When it comes to exercise, I’m completely self-taught. Just about everything I know—including powerlifting, olympic lifting, gymnastics, kettlebells, running, rowing, jump rope, programming, nutrition, strength, endurance, power, speed, etc - comes from these resources, so hopefully they will be helpful to others. Of course, I’m still learning, so if you know of other great resources, share them in the comments.
If you’re going to set foot in a gym, this book is required reading. Do not pick up a dumbbell, do a situp, or look at a power rack until you read this thing cover to cover. Yes, it’s worth the $30. Yes, the complementary DVD is worth it too. No, I don’t make cent off of promoting this book.
I simply believe that this book, better than any other resource I’ve ever seen, manages to cover an enormous range of the most important topics in exercise: adaptation, functional movements, why strength training is important for everyone (men, women, children, old people), the proper technique for all the major exercises, back and knee safety, a freakishly effective routine for beginners, diet, and a whole lot more. Whether you’ve never picked up a weight in your life or have been lifting for 15 years, I guarantee you will learn a lot and that this book will have a significant impact on how you train.
Some of the related resources you may want to look at are startingstrength.com (especially the awesome articles in the resources section) and the Starting Strength Wiki (especially the Wit and Wisdom of Mark Rippetoe for some laughs).
If you really want to understand fitness, Crossfit is your go-to resource. Start with What is Fitness?, the article that’ll make you re-think whether triathletes and ultra runners are really the “fittest” people on earth. Move onto the Foundations article and then Understanding Crossfit. If you still think bicep curls and 30 minutes on the elliptical is the most efficient way to reach your goals, then my blog probably isn’t for you.
On the other hand, if you’re intrigued, here are some other extremely useful resources provided by Crossfit:
- Crossfit Exercises: videos and demos of just about every Crossfit exercise and workout.
- Crossfit Discussion Board: lots of great discussions about every topic and tons of helpful people willing to field your questions.
- Crossfit FAQ: essential reading if you do Crossfit
- The Crossfit Journal: articles discussing all things Crossfit, including exercise instruction, routines, equipment, nutrition and more. Well worth the $25/year.
- Crossfit Football: Crossfit site tailored for football players, biasing the workouts for strength, power and speed.
- Crossfit Endurance: Crossfit site tailored for endurance athletes, biasing the workouts for endurance and stamina.
- SealFit: Crossfit site tailored for military (Navy SEAL) athletes, biasing the workouts for being a badass.
An awesome free online resource for all things strength. The 5x5 beginner routine is a good starting point (and very similar to the routine in Starting Strength). Follow up with the lifting tutorials and diet tutorials.
Decent guide to the how and why of olympic weightlifting. Very useful if your routine includes lots of cleans, jerks and snatches. Even more useful if your routine doesn’t include them so you know what you’re missing. Though not quite as comprehensive and generally useful as Starting Strength, it’s a useful resource. Moreover, Everett’s gym, Catalyst Athletics, has a good listing of daily workouts, exercise videos, and articles.
Drills and Skills
If you want to learn to run correctly and especially if you run barefoot or in minimalist shoes, you should check out the POSE technique of running. The Crossfit Journal and Crossfit Endurance also have lots of useful running tutorials.
Stack Exchange Fitness and Nutrition
You’re probably more familiar with StackOverflow, but the Stack Exchange sites cover a broad range of topics, including a great forum for asking questions about fitness and nutrition.
Although the site gets more and more commercialized every day, the articles section is still useful for tutorials on bodyweight and kettlebell training.
Resources I don’t recommend
There are a few resources you’ll come across frequently that are best avoided. The two most common while searching online are bodybuilding.com and t-nation.com. I find that both of these sites are much more concerned with selling stuff than educating people and that the quality of the articles is very uneven. If you dig, you can uncover some gems in both those sites, but they are surrounded by a bunch of marketing gimmicks, bro-science, and utter garbage.
Other disseminators of misinformation include about.com’s exercise section, Men’s Health, and just about every single magazine you see at the gym/newstand and every product you see advertised on TV (BowFlex, Total Gym, p90x, etc). Again, it’s not that these don’t occasionally contain useful info or effective strategies, it’s that you have to pick through so much garbage to get there that you’re better off avoiding them entirely.