This Is Why We Changed How We Exercise [Generalist vs Specialist Explained]
Posted on August 8th, 2018
Why do so many people hurt themselves doing the very thing that’s meant to prevent injury?
I’m not talking about freak accidents … I’m talking about those annoying issues you pick up when you’re exercising.
Before I share our take on training injuries, let me quickly explain my absence from blogging. And, introduce myself to all our new community members.
Not that I’m much of an excuse man … but this is who I’m blaming for not writing my regular daily and weekly blog articles this year.
Meet Elijah Carsten Burmeister (Carsten after my dad)
Born on Australia day, January 26th, 2018. In the initial stage after his triumphant entry to the world I decided to be a little more selective of how I spent my time each day. I didn’t take any paternity leave so to speak. But I did choose to cut back slightly on my daily work-load.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it), I put a temporary hold on my blogging for Unity Gym.
But I’m back. Kal and I have survived the first six months with two little creatures roaming the house.
It’s been a wild ride (any parent will agree) … and we’ve loved the challenge! But now I plan to re-ignite my blogging, starting with once or twice a week … let’s see how I go 🙂
With that all said and done, let’s get back to today’s article.
The majority of people who exercise are specialists. First let me explain what that means.
For example, if you do yoga you become a yogi; if you do gymnastics you call yourself a gymnast; lifting weights regularly, you’ll usually refer to yourself as a weightlifter (or perhaps a bodybuilder) … and if you do parkour, then you are a traceur, or freerunner (or whatever they call themselves now). I think you get my point tho.
We call all of these people specialists.
Because they specialise in one thing. And when you’re a specialist you tend to reject all other forms of movement because you don’t have time to explore other disciplines.
Most specialists are aware that to master their specialisation they must practice that discipline 2, 3 or even 4 or 5 hours per day. There’s obviously not much time for anything else.
I personally have been some form of a specialist all my life. Initially I started with a variety of martial arts … then it was rugby league. Then boxing … and eventually bodybuilding (although I never competed, that’s how, and why I exercised).
Funny thing is, as I got older (and wiser), I started to question whether my tactics were really working for me. Sure I had built a pretty good looking body from the outside. But I was hurting physically on the inside.
My shoulders hurt, my knees hurt and I was often carrying an injury.
Naturally I wanted to explore why … and here’s what I found.
When you specialise on something you’re far more likely to sustain overuse injuries. You know, those super annoying injuries that don’t usually start with any obvious incident.
They kinda feel like they come out of nowhere.
All of a sudden you feel a sharp pain in your elbow when you grip something. Or, your shoulder starts hurting when you do your regular chest workout.
It could be a pain in your knee when you run … or your shin starts to burn afterwards!
Ouch!! These injuries are usually caused by repetitive strain (an abusive load sustained over time) repeatedly to the same area.
And they suck BIG time!
They’re usually very hard to fix. And often the fix is to stop doing what caused the issue … the very thing you love doing so much!
When you’re a tennis player and you get tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), the last thing you want to be told is to hang up the tennis racket!
If you’re a golfer, and you develop golfers elbow (medial epicondylitis), the last thing you want to be told is to garage the golf clubs!
Just like if you love Crossfit or any heavy lifting and you develop a nasty case of shoulder impingement (supraspinatus syndrome) you’ll be hating life if you’re told you can’t snatch or press anymore!
Here’s what Rad and I have recently discovered.
You don’t have to be one thing or another (a specialist) … you don’t need to be anything … you can be a generalist.
A generalist might do a little of everything … some gymnastics, calisthenics and weightlifting.
When you’re a generalist you look at movement as a whole … you draw on anything that will benefit you, and try to reject only things that are a waste of your time.
A generalist thrives on the principle of Kaizen (meaning constant, continued progression). But not necessarily in the one discipline.
The obvious downside to being a generalist is that you’ll be slightly less skilled in each discipline as a specialist. But in most cases, that doesn’t matter. 99% of people who exercise don’t exercise to compete in a sport. They exercise to live longer and appeal to a potential mate.
The upside to being a generalist is that you get a lot more brain stimulation and a lot less annoying injury! And most of the time … you get a much more balanced body.
I’ve recently got sucked into watching Ninja Warrior on tele. What started as a little friendly support for some colleagues of mine has turned into general interest. My observation of the people who do well is that the majority are generalists.
Especially on the first season. Now most the competitors train more specific to the courses. But in season one there wasn’t as many Ninja courses to practice on.
And the people who seemed to do best were people who didn’t specialise in anything.
They were generalists.
Our personal experience having trained as a generalist over the past three years has been extremely rewarding.
Sure, initially it took a massive mindset shift. But since changing my attitude, I’ve explored mobility training, calisthenics, gymnastics and even some flow and dance.
The alterations in my training has fix old injuries in my back and shoulder provided a huge increase in motivation and general happiness.
Funny thing is … although I no longer train like a weightlifter … I still look amazing and feel stronger than ever!
I just hurt less.
Our advice here at Unity Gym, don’t be struck with the dogma of pursuing something that isn’t serving you to your true potential.
The best program for you right now is the program you’ve never done!
And the better way to train is a realization that there’s always something more to learn.
Cool Opportunity For 20 People In North Sydney!!
P.S. Great News … In Conjunction with the launch of the Federal Government’s Sport 2030 plan and Sport Australia’s ‘Move it’ initiative we want to help encourage people to MOVE more. Not just any old movement! Optimal … Unity Gym … style movement. Interested in joining the movement culture? Register by clicking here.
- Shoot Rad a brief email with your details
- He’ll be in touch to chat about the program
- You’ll get a unique opportunity to join the movement culture
This is NOT your average gym program folks! This will be a unique opportunity for a few lucky people to come a try our Foundation Movement System (FMS).
You’ll learn to lift weights, bend and stretch, do handstands, muscle-ups, levers and flags … whilst developing core foundation strength and mobility … and a balanced body with a generalists approach to exercise.
Before I go … please note, due to our cosey gym and limited trainers we can only offer 10 places … so get in touch quick!