The Best Exercise Routine Ever, Part 1

“The only reason I would take up jogging is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.ErmaBombeck

I’m filling my gas tank this morning and this guy jogs by. He’s in his early fifties and he’s in very good shape – muscular and lean. Standing still, he’d probably look like a specimen of perfect health. But he’s moving like something is seriously wrong with him. Like he’s in pain. His shoulders are tight, his spine is curved forward, his gait is labored.

What’s going on here?

My best guess is that this guy is the victim of today’s two most popular forms of exercise: weightlifting and jogging.

I say “victim,” because anyone who bases his fitness program on these two exercises is unwittingly damaging his body. Not just in the most obvious way – atrophying the joints – but in a host of other ways.

Take a look around and you’ll see a lot of joggers who look unhealthy – skinny arms and legs, rounded shoulders, knobby knees and elbows, and little paunches. They are also unhealthy on the inside. Their tendons and ligaments are shot, their joints are worn, and their organs are too wimpy to do the work they are designed to do.

Then there are the iron pumpers …

If they get a good tan, weightlifters can look healthy in a bizarre, superhero sort of way. But if you’ve ever played sports with someone whose primary sport is bodybuilding,
you know how inefficient (sometimes even totally useless) their overbuilt bodies are.

Weightlifting – done the way it’s usually done – is a scientific method for reshaping the body so that the limbs don’t work well. When you combine weightlifting and jogging, as the guy I saw apparently did, you can create a nice, lean, muscular look. But you risk converting your body into something that only works well when it is not in motion.

Before you write too many letters to me telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about, let me say that I spent 20 years jogging and 30 years weightlifting. (At one time, I weighed 235 and could bench press 335, dead lift 510, and squat 450.)

My years of weightlifting and jogging did for me what these exercises do for most people: My hips were so tight I couldn’t walk more than three or four minutes without sitting down, and my shoulders were so damaged I couldn’t do a single pull-up or push-up. I could still lift weights after I warmed up, but I could barely do anything else.

I was all set to have rotator cuff surgery, back surgery, and even knee surgery, when I woke up one day and decided to heal myself naturally. Over a 12- to 18- month period, I relearned everything I had ever learned about exercise and physiology (assisted greatly by Dr. Al Sears and more recently by Matt Furey), and have gradually dropped weightlifting and jogging completely from my exercise routine.

(By the way, I’m not talking about running. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it is sprints and it gets your heart rate up. It’s those long, slow plodding jogs that are bad.)

These are the exercises that I’ve found to be much more effective:

1 Matt Furey’s Hindu squats and push-ups

2. Pull-ups and chin-ups that utilize the full range of motion

3. Doc Darville’s Wall Flower stretch

4. Yoga (when stretching) for overall flexibility

5. Pilates (when stretching) to release hips and shoulders

6. Dr. Sears’ PACE program

My new routine has completely healed and rejuvenated me. I have no back pain, no shoulder pain, no knee pain, and no foot pain. I can do pull-ups and push-ups again. More importantly, I can wrestle without any impediments, walk or run without pain, and play pretty much any sport without fear of injury.

I may not have quite the leanness of my jogging nemesis (he looked like he was at 6 percent or 8 percent body fat), but I am 100 percent sure I could outperform him in just about any natural physical challenge – from sprinting to wrestling to carrying furniture.

To put it more directly, ever since I gave up weights and jogging, I’ve been getting stronger, faster, more limber, and more healthy.

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]