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New Year's resolutions kick into high gear on January 1st—actually, probably more like January 2nd. Gyms around the country are suddenly packed to the brim.

Resolutions have their own problems. According to data from the University of Scranton, only 8 percent of people achieve their resolution goal. But also of concern is the time leading up to the new year.

So let's set the situation.

You plan to recommit to achieving your performance, fitness or aesthetic goal in the new year. But from Thanksgiving until yearend, you don't do all that much, since you foresee a lot of hard work ahead of you. Watching Christmas movies and indulging in holiday desserts sounds a lot better than hitting the gym and being careful about what you eat.

Your resolution deadline has become an excuse to forget about fitness and healthy eating. You say to yourself, "I'm not going to work out now because I'm going to get after it in January," or "I can eat an entire apple pie because I'm going to start eating healthy in the new year."

"I think people look at it like I can just hit the reset button in January," says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a registered dietitian based in the Cleveland area.

Ultimately, during period of more than a month, it's easy to take a massive step backward. You might lose some strength because you're not consistently challenging yourself, or you pack on a few extra pounds.

If you're like 92 percent of the people out there, this tendency becomes particularly problematic.


It should be a crime for a gym to have a seated twist machine. It's almost guaranteed to cause a spinal injury, and it's not even very effective at strengthening your core muscles.

Yet, many fitness facilities around the country have this old-school piece of equipment. At my local gym, I've personally seen a wide variety of people using the seated twist machine—there's a kneeling version that's just as bad—from teenagers to old-timers. And I cringe every single time.

So what's the issue with the machine that looks like a high-tech torture device? We spoke with world-renowned spinal biomechanist Dr. Stuart McGill to find out.

RELATED: Why Everything You Know About Core Training is Wrong

Problem 1: Twisting Damages Your Discs

Seated Twist Machine 1

The seated twist machine is based on the idea that to train the obliques and improve rotational power, you need to perform exercises that involve some sort of rotation or twisting through the core. When you use this machine, your upper body stays in a fixed position while your lower body rotates on a swivel, creating a twisting motion through your lower torso, which you can see here.

Read more: Everyone Should Avoid This Sadistic-Looking Core Machine

The most common complaint we hear from our members is "my hips are so tight." The response is always, "Here, try this hip flexor stretch."

Why are everyone's hips so tight?

Take a step back and think about where you spend most of your day. If you're a young athlete, you probably spend most of your time at school or maybe work or practice and even a little time at home, if you're lucky. Now think about what position your body is in during those periods. I would bet that you spend most of your day sitting down. You may walk to class or run in practice, but the majority of your day is spent in a seated position.

So, who cares right? Wrong. Everyone has seen that little old man walking with a cane, hunched over almost to the point of staring at the ground. Do you think he always walked like that? I'd bet you he didn't. Maybe he had an injury that never healed properly, or maybe after spending years and years in a similar position, his body became tighter and tighter until eventually he ended up bent over.

RELATED: Essential Hip Flexor Strengthening Exercises

Repetitive motions over time can change the positioning of your body.


When a muscle contracts, it shortens. Take the biceps for example. Without getting too technical, the biceps are attached at the forearm and shoulder. When your biceps contract, they shorten and bring those two points closer together. When you rest, the muscle returns to its normal length, and the two points move farther away. Constantly contracting your biceps over a long period of time would cause them to get shorter, even at rest.

Why Are My Hips Tight?

Apply the above concept to your hips. When you sit, your hips are in a "flexed" position. Therefore, the muscles that flex your hips are in a shortened state. You probably spend at least a third of your day sitting down. Think about how much time those hip flexor muscles stay shortened. A lot. Over time, they become tighter and tighter until you look like the old man in the picture. So unless you want to look like that, perform the stretches shown below.


1. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch


The days of casually grabbing a barbell or a set of dumbbells and doing an exercise are no more. To instantly make a move more effective, try to crush the bejesus out of whatever weight you are holding with your hands.

In the early 1900s, British scientist Sir Charles Scott Sherrington published breakthrough research on the neurological system and how it controls the body. One of his discoveries was the Law of Irradiation, which states that when a muscle is working, the muscles around it tend to turn on. The harder a muscle works, the greater the activation of surrounding muscles.

Read more: Increase Your Strength 30 Percent With This Exercise Grip Hack

To make gains, you need to gradually increase the difficulty of your workouts. As your workouts get harder, your muscles will become bigger and stronger.

This is the concept of progressive overload. Exercises must place additional stress on your muscles, either by lifting more weight or doing more reps. Over time, your muscles adapt to the stress, and you must once again increase the weight or reps. This is the marker of progress.

RELATED: 7 Ridiculous Broscience Myths You Should Stop Believing Immediately

However, progressive overload can be a bit complicated. Weight percentage adjustments, exercise types and progression schemes are typically left to strength coaches or hardcore lifters. Besides trying to lift more weight on a few exercises, you might not be putting much thought into this aspect of your training. And this is the number one reason for poor results. If you don't continually challenge your body, you will never make progress.

Luckily, there's a simple solution. The following system has progressive overload built in, so it virtually guarantee that you will make gains. All you need to do is compete with yourself each week.

Here are five steps to knowing when you should add more weight to an exercise:

Step 1: Choose a Volume

Choose a Volume

No, we aren't talking about the volume of your music. Volume in this context refers to the number of sets and reps you do of an exercise—or it can be the total amount of work you do in an entire workout.

With strength training, you will fall into one of two general categories:

Hypertrophy (muscle building), which requires a moderately high volume—3 or 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

Strength and power training, which typically involves 3 to 6 sets of 1 to 6 reps. The exact number depends on whom you talk to and their style of training. To keep things simple, we generally prefer 4-6 sets of 3-6 reps.

For the next steps, let's assume you're trying to do 3 sets of 8 reps.

Step 2: Choose a weight


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