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So everyone will know that heavily marketed fitness plans are one of my absolute biggest nightmares as far as health and fitness goes. The amount of conversations that start with “Well, I was doing the insane (…) workout for a bit but I really hurt my…”, or, “I nearly got to the end of it but then I got ill…” when people speak to me in the gym is astounding. This is why I would like to take a moment to give my opinion as to why the workout DVD is bad.

First of all these workouts wouldn’t be so high on my disapprove list if it wasn’t marketed at completely the wrong people. The home workout DVD market is targeted at those people who are having epiphany moments in their lives and have decided to make the right decision to introduce health and fitness into it. However, these poor people are preyed upon by marketing companies who take advantage of the shy and unconfident people who don’t feel like they can go into a gym yet. What this means is people who have no experience with exercise are suddenly shut away from anyone who can help guide them in their form or watch for any adverse medical complaints whilst they’re exercising.

In the health and fitness industry these days, where blame culture pushes litigation, personal trainers and gyms have to be exceptionally careful. When a new participant joins or signs up to the plan they should fill out a PAR-Q. This basically makes sure that the participant knows of no medical reasons why they cant take part in the sessions or, if they do know of something, they bring it to the attention of the trainer who will then seek GP approval prior to training taking place. Even though the DVD’s sometimes come with warnings no one actually sits there to make sure the participants are safe doing the exercises; i.e. do they have a murmur that they think will be alright? Do they have a joint issue that they think they can work through?

The second issue also relates to the experience of the target audience. In the first 8 weeks of training the majority of the adaptation that takes place is to the central nervous system. Whilst there is some hypertrophy adaptation during this period the most part is your brain  upgrading from the equivalent  of dial-up nervous system to broadband nervous system. This is why you see the big adaptations in strength in the first 8 weeks because your brain is able to control your muscles better.

However, during this period you only need minimal amounts of stimulus to cause the adaptations. The exact amount requires analysis from a fitness professional otherwise the participant could overtrain and injure themselves or under-train and see no adaptation. The more worrying for me is the likelihood is that the participant will overtrain; especially with the recent spate of insane workout dvd’s that can bring even experienced personal trainers to their knees.

The obvious problems with overtraining is muscle strains, impact injuries in the knees, tendon strains and even severe DOMS. There is, however, a subtle response to overtraining that many people don’t actually acknowledge and that is the exercise induced immunosuppression. This is where the immune system gets bogged down repairing the body from exercise and lets down its guard to other nasties that take advantage. This is why people get ill when they train too hard but don’t actually tie the two together.

However, fear not! There is a way to break into the fitness world that is both safe and you will be able to progress onto more advanced training styles like HIIT training. If you aren’t ready to go into a public gym get yourself a personal trainer who can professionally train you so that you don’t go over the overtraining threshold or encounter any other issues like bad form.

In my opinion, workout DVD’s are a means to an end for amateur trainee’s who are looking for a home workout when they cant hit the gym. However, in my opinion workout DVD’s should not be used as an introduction to fitness; that is the job of a personal trainer or gym coach.

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