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Inspired by this post: Can I get an honest review about my workout plan?

I am mainly trying to improve overall health. I'm not training for any particular goal. I only wish to get/stay healthy.

I have always been told that as long as I am getting exercise, it doesn't really matter too much how I do it. However the above post made me wonder if I am doing more harm than good.

Especially since my SO is starting to get into exercising to stay healthy, I want to make sure I don't give her bad information.

From what I understand, if you are exercising only for overall health, then as long as you are safe (no overly strenuous workout that could hurt you) then anything that gets the heart-rate up is a good starting point.

I do know that some things will make exercise detrimental. I don't know what they might be. In particular I noted that my workout has no warm-up at all, and probably misses some key muscle groups.

Is it okay to incorporate an "incomplete" workout into a routine in order to improve fitness? Should I run it past a trainer first? How would I find an honest trainer that wouldn't try to sell me on equipment or memberships?

For example here is my current routine:

  • Daily 15 minutes of elliptical for basic cardio (adjusted daily to achieve ~130 BPM

  • 5 times weekly of alternating calisthenics

    • Consist of 30 seconds of each activity with no breaks between
    • Do 3 sets with 2.5 minutes of rest between them
    • "leg day": squat jumps, split lunge jumps, 4-pointed leg hops (L, then R), Toe lifts
    • "core day": push-ups, russian twists (unweighted), Plank, Leg lifts, lat dips

I feel like I should add a warmup to the calisthenics, but have no idea what to add. Do I need to add specific stretches?

Now I am questioning my entire workout routine and wondering if I have been harming myself more than helping myself.

  • What does it mean that you are "exercising only for overall health"? It's certainly true that moving is healthier than not moving, but smoke one pack of cigarettes is healthier than smoking two. A two point comparison just isn't going to cut it. I guess what I'm asking is a clarification on your objective because it doesn't make sense to me. Qualify what it is that you mean to achieve by exercise, and also clarify what it is that you are concerned about. You say "safety", but are you talking about injury risk? Muscle imbalances? What are you talking about? – JustSnilloc Feb 19 at 2:56
  • What I'm talking about is significant reduced risk of the numerous medical conditions that lack of physical fitness causes. No explicit physical task in mind, but rather overall health. E.g. smoking 1 pack is better than two, but smokers know the goal is to quit. If a smoker asked 'how many packs is low enough' the answer is 0. But if you ask a dentist about brushing they will tend to say ~3 times a day accompanied by flossing done properly and you're fine. However in fitness it is hard to find a static set of explicit exercise that accomplishes similar maintenance. Or is it? – LambdaBeta Feb 19 at 4:47
  • My question could be analogized to: is there a fitness equivalent to brushing but not flossing? Surely it doesn't take a professional to tell you how to exercise enough to stay 'average', but the linked discussion seems to indicate that one such attempt would be detrimental. Is missing warmup like missing flossing? If so how does one do it properly? – LambdaBeta Feb 19 at 4:49
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I am mainly trying to improve overall health. I'm not training for any particular goal. I only wish to get/stay healthy.

Here is my two cents -- I think you can define this more. What does healthy look like to you? Most people asking questions on Fitness.SE want to know how to pack on muscle, developing bodybuilding physique, lose weight (and fast), lose weight without losing muscle, and how to get a six-pack. Those are a bit more complicated. You just want to know, I'm paraphrasing here but, what is the least I need to do in order to stay healthy?

  • Can you get up off the floor?
  • Can you get onto the floor?
  • Can you touch your toes?
  • Is it a struggle to get out of bed?
  • Do two flights of stairs make you winded?
  • Are you having trouble accomplishing household chores?
  • Are you putting on a bit more fat than you'd like?
  • Do you feel weak constantly?

If none of these sounded like you, I'd say you may not even need to work out. Think about people who work labour jobs all day. They're in good shape as long as they eat well. Why would they need to go to the gym after a hard day of work?

Is it okay to incorporate an "incomplete" workout into a routine in order to improve fitness?

No workout routine is "incomplete" until you gauge it against the goal it is trying to achieve. My goal is powerlifting. If I had a workout routine without deadlifts, it would be incomplete. If your goal is to run longer, a workout routine without deadlifts may no longer be incomplete. See what I mean?

I know individuals that run, and only run, a half-hour a day. They're in great shape.

My question could be analogized to: is there a fitness equivalent to brushing but not flossing? Surely it doesn't take a professional to tell you how to exercise enough to stay 'average', but the linked discussion seems to indicate that one such attempt would be detrimental. Is missing warmup like missing flossing? If so how does one do it properly?

I really like your analogy here. However, I don't see where anyone mentioned the word 'detrimental' in the linked post. More so, if the OP's goal was to increase stamina and endurance, their workout was not the way to achieve that.

So let's look at your case, just like brushing. You do your workout routine every day/week which is like the brushing. Now, hopefully, you see a dentist; maybe once a year. What do you see them for? They check to see how things are going. In the same fashion, once a year you should evaluate how you're achieving your staying healthy objectives. You are the dentist in charge of your fitness goals. Do you need to prescribe something different or continue with the same?


Specific to your warm-up question, the elliptical cardio really serves as a warm-up. I don't think you need stretches (that's another hot debate you can search).

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  • While all the responses were super helpful, I think this one does the best job of addressing the question. Basically any exercise is better than none, and like everything, without feedback there's no way to improve. Thank you. – LambdaBeta Feb 20 at 2:16
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To quote Dan John:

If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.

You say you're training to get / stay healthy, which is great, but it depends on your definition of health.

Health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being in which disease and infirmity are absent (from Wikipedia)

The state of being well, without disease or dysfunction (from our own tag definition)

In a way, this leads back to your goals.

For me, looking at it in a purely physical sense (the mental and social well-being aspects are a different point), I would worry about my health if I lost the ability to perform certain movements.

Dan John (again) mentions that the inability to stand on one leg for 30 seconds is a sign of poor health, and has a few anecdotes to go along with it. Likewise, if you look at the older population, getting up from the floor is a movement that people seem to lose in ailing health (someone told me last night that the difference between older people and younger is that younger people fall over, and older people have falls, made me smile).

For myself, along with standing on one leg and getting up from the floor easily, I would add the ability to deadlift my own bodyweight for reps, do at least one pull up (this could be regressed to hanging from a pull up bar for 30 seconds if my shoulder injury flares up) and overhead press half my bodyweight for reps and do some press ups.

Why these? Because they're easy standards that I've held myself to for much of my adult life, and if I lose one of them, then it's normally down to injury or illness.

Is your current routine going to lead to any physical dysfunction or infirmity? Honestly, this depends on you. I couldn't do your "leg day" as I'm currently dealing with both an ankle and knee injury, the thought of jump lunges sends a cold chill down my spine. Likewise I wouldn't recommend your routine to someone who's heavily overweight, again, jump squats and jump lunges wouldn't be a great idea for an obese person who's never exercised before.

For yourself, assuming you're not injured or seriously overweight, and are used to the movement, then I don't see an issue with your current routine, even without any sort of warm up.

Should you stretch? Again, it depends on you and your goals. Typical desk jockey computer folk, like myself, tend to suffer from tight chest and hip flexor muscles due to sitting all day, so I stretch those parts daily. Once I've fixed my knee, I'd also like to achieve side splits, so I'll start stretching to work towards that.

If you don't have a flexibility based goal, and you have an active job, then you might be fine without any stretching (lack of joint mobility is another issue with the older population, so you should probably have a few mobility related markers for health, I occasionally check to make sure I can still touch the floor without bending my legs).

Is your routine good? I would say no, but I've seen worse.

I like to run through a variation of the primal movement patterns in my training, so I tend to go with or use variations of:

  • Hinge - deadlift or kettlebell swing

  • Squat - goblet squat in the warm up, I'm no longer interested in a heavy back squat, got a few too many injuries for that

  • Push - overhead work mainly as I do sit at a desk all day

  • Pull - pull ups and front lever progressions, because I'm also a climber

  • Everything else - Turkish get-ups, loaded carries, 1 arm kettlebell swings, bouldering and climbing

You address some of these, but I don't see any hinge or pull based movements in your routine (though you could argue lat dips are a pull variation).

I would say, pick some goals and work towards them. It might be working towards harder press up and squat variations (one arm press up and pistol squat, Pavel's Naked Warrior program), or a farther distance on the eliptical trainer while maintaining a constant heart rate. Whatever you choose, having something to work towards gives your training sessions more direction, and can make answering questions on here much more helpful and concise (though not if I'm the one who answers them ;)

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Since you asked about quality, I'd like to add something to your list, which is posture. I danced ballet for about ten years, and in ballet, bad posture isn't acceptable. When I was too old for ballet, I started lifting weights. The postural habits I see in the weight room are appalling. For example, many people have kyphotic posture - including healthy, young people - but most of these people aren't doing exercises to address this posture. Here are some exercises to address kyphosis: Face pulls, Prone Y-extension, close grip row, foam roller thoracic opener.

When I'm at the gym, my priority is posture; I don't want to throw away ten years of ballet. So if I'm doing standing bicep curls or the close grip row, for examples, I make sure I'm not clamping my chin down, or thrusting my chin up, or pulling my neck down into my shoulders, ect. I think about keeping the weight of my head over my pelvic floor. Most personal trainers aren't very aware of this stuff, so you will have to hunt for one who is.

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  • @DavidScarlett - Are we reading the same studies? The first one you linked explores poor posture in children and adolescents, and it specifically mentions that almost 40% of those who have poor posture, have back pain. The third study doesn't even mention the kyphotic posture that Chris wants the asker to address. – Alec Feb 19 at 9:07
  • From what I've read, the connection between lumbar lordosis and back pain is not clear. But kyphotic posture is a completely different matter ! The research suggests that kyphotic posture puts a burden on your heart and lungs: see ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5964740 Research also strongly suggests that kyphotic posture contributes to poor balance and vertebral fractures: bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-015-0018-z . Kyphotic posture is also of special concern today because of cell phone use among the young. – Chris Feb 19 at 17:26
  • @Alex "Occasional low back pain was reported by 38% of the children at the age of 15–16 years, but back pain was not related to posture" So the LBP was reported by 38% of all children, not just those with bad posture, and it was not related to posture. – David Scarlett Feb 20 at 0:18
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    @David Yes, the studies on hyperkyphosis are almost always done on people in advancing age. This is because that is age when the associated health problems manifest themselves. It possible that you could slouch all through your teen age and middle years and not go on to develop hyperkyphosis. No causal connection has been proven in this regard, but neither is it disproven; there is no longitudinal research to guide us. So I guess we all just have to decide for ourselves what our plan is for getting older. – Chris Feb 20 at 1:49

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