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Why Group Fitness Sessions are a Waste of Time


By Zack Hargrove, Fitness Republic

What can be bad about gathering in a group of like-minded people, and collectively achieving the same goal of forming a great physical shape? The answer hides in sky-high risks of wasting your time, energy and even worsen your health. Here is why in most cases this barely productive and possibly even harmful scenario is almost inevitable.


Our Bodies are Different

Since we don’t live in the world of clones, despite our anatomic identity we can all agree that our bodies have features that make us different. That is the case when we talk about our internal as well as external body features. Danish geneticist Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen discovered and coined categories that helped us to understand and describe the nature of our physical development and explain why is it so. The terminology includes such fundamental terms as gene (structural and functional unit of heredity of living organisms), genotype (set of all genes of an organism, which are its hereditary basis) and phenotype (a combination of all the signs and properties of the organism that are identified in the process of individual development). American psychologist William Herbert Sheldon wisely classified body types in three main categories.

Based on the result of work aforementioned phenomenon in the human organism, the watchfulness of American psychologist William Herbert Sheldon helped him to make a useful supplementation in the field of anatomy. He classified body types in three main categories. If an individual didn’t have significant mutations throughout his life, he will be a representative of one of the three somatotypes:
  • ectomorph: skinny or lean.
  • mesomorph: most people or average.
  • endomorph: fat or big boned.
Ectomorphs usually have the best stamina in the wide and diverse spectrum of cardio exercises. But it is difficult for them to do powerlifting. It is extremely easy for them to lose a muscular weight and decrease the body fat percentage. However, they find it hard to gain any weight. But when they are successful, their bodies have the best relief and peculiar vein visibility. Much like a superhero comic book character. For comparison, well-trained ectomorph is someone with physic of the Great Bruce Lee or famous UFC martial artist Nate Diaz.

Mesomorphs, people like Ryan Reynolds or Christian Bale, have almost the same level of endurance as ectomorphs. Even if a person with this type of body is not capable of running, swimming, cycling long distances, he will make progress a lot faster than his lean or big-boned friends. Furthermore, his ability to gain muscle weight in a short time is way better than slim ectomorph’s. Or person of the final body type that we’ll review briefly.

Endomorphs have the toughest time during any cardio activities. It is almost as much easy for them to add extra pounds than it is hard for them to lose it. On the other hand, if an endomorph if productive at his workouts he will be stronger than any ecto or mesomorph. Good examples of well-trained mesomorphs are Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Henry Cavill (late superman).

Considering our body differences, it is fair to say that at least each group of these people needs a specific program of workouts, in order to be productive. But the way we build is not the only factor that makes group sessions not as good for us as we may need.


Different Lifestyles

Regular training groups are not divided into categories for different body types. Furthermore, each of the members also has a specific lifestyle and individual medical history. That said, organism of everyone will react to physical activity of each exercise differently. The reality is that not only you train with people who need different exercises. But each of them also need different amount of reps.

Imagine, if there was a group that consisted of 3 six-footers with not only different somatotypes, but different lifestyles as well:
  • a classical, skinny Ectomorphs. The office worker who lives a sedentary life. He weighs about 150 pounds and has not been exercising for a good 5 years.
  • a medium mesomorph. This person maintains some balance between active and passive lifestyle in terms of his physical activity. His weight is about 170 pounds.
  • a big, 200 pounds endomorph. He barely passed the exams at physical education in high-school, and for the first time, he decided to get himself in the shape.
Let’s skip the part where we deepen in their medical history. If we analyze what would happen to their bodies after regular workouts, as they follow the same training program, we will notice the following changes.

The second guy will have the best result in this group. But it won’t be the top that he could’ve reached if he was practicing on his own. He is capable of doing more than his “teammates.” But he will have to do less so that everyone could keep up with each other. Thus, slim and heavy guy will also have some progress. But as they are very likely to get overtrained, it will be less than it could’ve been if each of them also had an individual program.

If the group of these three people existed, a good coach would explain to them why is it not the best idea to train together. But in reality, the training group includes from 5 to 25 people. And in this case, almost any coach will not do anything about it, and will show “how to do squats” instead. It is as same as babysit with 30 children instead of 3. If a teacher has this amount of kids with a different level of intelligence, any hope that students will get an A’s is every discipline is meaningless. And by “discipline” I mean a group of muscles. But there are also different teachers. So let’s give them a closer look as well.


Coach is by no Means Always Right

Most coaches will not be obsessed with desire to get you in phenomenal shape. However, they are willing to blame the absence of your physical success on your mental weakness. When in reality the main reason will lay in insignificant effectiveness of any group training program and their acceptance of the idea of you practicing with other people simultaneously.

A good trainer will follow the principle of a video game that you will find interesting to play. Most of the games include 3 or 4 levels of difficulty:
  • easy
  • medium
  • hard
  • extreme
Of course, there are coaches that want you to have fun during your workout. Although, it is possible when you choose difficulty by yourself. And when you in the group of people, the vast majority of trainers will choose the same level for everyone. And most likely it will be hard or even extreme right away. Their indicator of a good exercise session is when their students want to end it. Not when they see them having a good time.

People tend to believe coaches and consider their opinion as a useful and reliable source of information. It is easy for someone to buy into this image of a guy who knows the deal. Because:
  • They’re in great shape.
  • They know words like metabolism, blood vessels, myofibrils, muscle mitochondria and they like to use it when they explain something.
  • They tend to have a superficial physiology knowledge and share it with people who may not know anything about it at all.
On top of that, these are the same people who always make the emphasis on the necessity of your mental strength… Every intelligent human being realizes that power of will should be exercised heavily only in the case of an accident. Not with some actor who decided to play a sergeant Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket.” Sure, you may be strong enough to cope with every drill and even do a little bit more. But increasing the possibility of minor joint injuries doesn’t worth a slight and unjustified disappointment of person who thinks of himself as a bad-ass coach. Either way, he is not the only factor that will determine the degree of your success. Because obviously in group training you will work alongside other people who want to progress.


Gym “Teammates” and Self-esteem

Not everyone wants to be the best in the group. But certainly, everyone does not want to be the worst. As you’re being a member of this group, in order to achieve this goal you force yourself to like drills that coach shows you. You become more likely to listen to him and your ego, instead of your body. And while you are exercising, you compare your productivity to other people. And that will make your self-esteem either increase too high or decrease too low.

The first case is much better than the second. Sure, you may get a sense of superiority only because you are surrounded with people who are weaker than you. That way you’ll be less likely to worry about the possibility that you’re doing something wrong. But if it is completely the opposite case and you are among the weak ones, you may force yourself to risk your health in order to prove to everyone that you have what it takes. And that is not kind of routine you want in order to succeed in your physical stats.

On the other hand, if you do everything on your own, you don’t have anyone nearby who will make 10 more reps than you. Thus, you will only have to compare yourself to the previous version of you.

Plus, you will feel a lot better about yourself if you go through this road independently. Or with help of professional personal trainer who will guide you and make sure that you form great habits that will prevent you from injuries in the future.
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