Posted May 19, 2016

5 Black Holes of Fitness That Are Holding You Back

Greetings from Oslo!! We arrived very late last night after flying out from Prague, and spent most of the day touring the city, especially the fortress and castle down by the harbour. It was like walking through an episode of Game of Thrones, except without the risk of imminent death.

So as the vacation continues, today’s guest post comes from Joey Percia from New York City. Enjoy!!


The first time in the gym can be intimidating, most people pray their experience doesn’t resemble a Planet Fitness commercial, but you never know what to expect.

In the squat rack monstrous guys that look like ‘The Mountain’ are throwing weights around. So you stroll over to check out the stretching section where beautiful women with round booty’s are doing the latest butt shaping workout in the new edition of Shape Magazine.

So you want to be a part of the fun, but you don’t know where to start?

The guy jacked out of his mind tells you heavy weight and low reps, but the chick who looks like a swimsuit model with the round booty told you light weight and high reps.

Who do you listen to and why? Man, this can be confusing. It’s hard to fight the urge to get sucked into the black hole of fitness myths. I know, I’ve been there before and people are damn convincing, especially the ones who look great.

Do you listen to the snake oil salesman trying to get you to sell your soul for their latest supplement, others just don’t know any better?

Not having a formal education in an exercise related degree, it’s easy to fall victim to the hype.

Let’s rock bottom a few of these fitness black holes where your gains go to die


Black Hole #1: Cardio Kills Your Gains

Let’s clear the air. Saying “I don’t do cardio” in a snarky and condescending tone doesn’t make you cool.

If you are out of shape, can’t breathe, and sweat like a pig from an unimpressive sexual performance with your girlfriend, it’s time to rethink things.

What’s considered cardio?

  • Longer duration low-intensity movement (i.e. walking),
  • High-intensity interval training (i.e. hill sprints),
  • Complexes and circuits
  • Cardio can even come in the form of cutting down rest times in your weight training.

There are countless health and stress relieving benefits to improving your cardiovascular health. One of my all time favorite, it increases your chances of living longer. That’s a pretty big plus to me.

Alex Viada and team over at Complete Human Performance have been on a rampage providing great information about bridging the gap between strength and endurance athletes



When trying to gain muscle cardio can actually help. A healthy cardiovascular system will allow your body to function smoother and more efficiently. Not to mention low-intensity training can improve recovery, so you can up your training frequency without running yourself into the ground.

Cardio isn’t killing your gains, you need to eat more food and in the proper amounts.

The reality: You aren’t eating enough.

The advantages of cardiovascular training outweigh the disadvantages, even if your primary goal is muscle gain, and especially if your goal is to keep fat gain low and improve health.

Include cardio into your workout regimen to keep your body working like a well-oiled machine, reduce stress and improve recovery time. The frequency, duration, and intensity will vary depending on your goal.


Black Hole #2: You MUST Squat, Bench and Deadlift No Matter What

I am a powerlifter, so I’ll be the first to admit I am a huge fan of ‘the big 3’ (squat, bench press, deadlift.) That being said, they are not the ‘holy grail of strength training,’ especially true for beginners, athletes, and lifters who get beat up and injured easy.

It’s possible to train the muscles and movement in a similar way which is beneficial for injury prone exercisers.

These variations still lead to awesome strength, hypertrophy and performance gains. In some cases, they result in better gains because they can be much harder and help target weaknesses.

The necessity of training ‘The Big 3’ overwhelms their training. They need to practice and perfect the movement for their sport. They MUST get better at that movement so they MUST perform that movement, it’s the law of specificity at its finest.

This isn’t the case for someone who is lifting weights just to get jacked for the ladies, improve performance in a different sport, to relieve stress or improve health and body composition.

The reality: If a movement hurts or makes you feel like crap there is a safer alternative.

Joint-friendly exercises:

  • Upper Body: floor press, Swiss bar press, neutral grip dumbbell press variations, landmine press variations, weighted pushup variations, TRX row variations, single arm row variations, chest supported dumbbell row variations
  • Full body: Turkish get-ups, farmers carry variations, kettlebell swings, RKC plank, Pallof press variations, suitcase hold, hollow-body hold

There are thousands of joint-friendly variations you can use. Change where you hold the weight, the type of load you use, the speed of the exercise or add in isometrics, etc.

Like I said, the possibilities are endless and to be honest, I prefer these no-so-conventional exercises.

Pick some of the joint-friendly exercises listed above to add into your training. Train smart, stay healthy and get better.


Black Hole #3: I Can’t Walk, It Was a Good Workout

Not being able to walk for 4 days after a leg workout is not a badge of honor. It makes it look like you are holding in a massive poop, and I am sorry to tell you this won’t help you attract the opposite sex or get you into better shape quicker.

One of the key factors for gaining strength, growing a muscle or burning fat is training frequency.

The more you can train, fully recover, and train again, the better your results become.

So why would it be a good idea to beat your legs to death so that you are barely walking for days on end? Doesn’t this just decrease training frequency? You guessed it, it’s not a good idea.

Sounds like a loss of gains to me. Keep your leg destroying meme’s to yourself.

The reality: You’re wasting precious recovery time and decreasing training frequency.

Stimulate don’t annihilate. If you did 15 sets of legs in 40 minutes your last training session DO NOT do 30 sets this week.

Overload in a progressive and realistic manner. Be able to act like a kid and give your girl a piggy back ride or play with your nephew without looking like a doof.

Full disclaimer: In all honesty some soreness makes me feel like I had a productive workout and can be ‘ok’ but not at the expensive of affecting my training or my quality of life. 


Black Hole #4: Machines and Cables Suck, They’re Useless.

The intense hatred for machines and cables is pretty overwhelming.

Common ‘arguments’ against them: they aren’t functional, you can’t go super heavy, they isolate muscles, they don’t require as much coordination, you don’t use your stabilizer muscles as much, etc.

But what if that is what I want?

  • What if I am training around an injury and rather than sit at home and do nothing I want to train?
  • What if I am a beginner lifter who doesn’t have a spotter and am new to lifting. Having free weights dropping on my neck is a better idea?
  • What if I am using these tools to compliment by main compound movements, are they still useless?
  • What if I am a seasoned lifter trying to bring up a lagging body part for aesthetic or performance purposes?

Most people fall into the trap judging others training on their own goals.  In reality, that person might be training perfect for their goals and fitness level, but completely counterproductive to yours.

The real problem is not understanding the proper time and place to use these tools for your benefit.

The reality: These tools deserve their time and place in a program.

I believe all personal trainers and fitness coaches should get lean as hell (~6% bodyfat) at least once in their life. Last year I was dealing with knee issues which didn’t allow me to compete in powerlifting, so I got shredded instead.

Throughout my cut, 90% of my lower body training involved MACHINES ONLY. 1 week after my mini photo shoot, where I was by far the leanest I have ever been in my entire life, I decided to deadlift for the first time in months.

I pulled a repetition record of 545lbs for 6 reps, which was easier, smoother and stronger than my previous record with 545lbs for 5 reps. I almost forgot to mention I was close to 8lbs lighter.


So much for machines sucking and making you weak.

One of the many experiences machines or properly dosed machinery along with some rehabilitation work.

In fitness things aren’t so black and white. When used the correct way, most tools can have their time and place. I like machines and have incorporated them into my clients programs with great results. A well balanced program includes what is necessary, it doesn’t matter if it is a machine or cable.


Black Hole #5: To Get Stronger, Gain Weight at All Costs

Eating anything and everything for the sole purpose of watching the number on the scale go up sucks. Eat more, when you are full eat some more, then eat some more.

This unhealthy approach does more harm than good. No one likes someone who is farts all the time. The days of fat out shape powerlifters and off-season bodybuilders is on the way out. It’s not healthy or fun.

But I read gaining weight (fat or muscle) what will increase my bench press and squat but not my deadlift because of my leverages, what gives?

There is very little truth when it comes to gaining weight to increase leverages which allow you to lift more in the bench and squat BUT the net gain is small. This thinking came from the sport of geared powerlifting, which an increase in weight (fat or muscle) meant your suit fitting tighter. A tighter fitting suit also means getting more pounds out of it. Keep that in mind.

To gain weight you must be in a calorie surplus. The number of calories you ingest has to be greater than the number of calories you burn.

A small calorie surplus is better to increase lean body mass while keeping fat gain on the low side. When you start going into ‘blow out mode’ and power shoving food into your face you’re going to put on more fat.

The reality: The goal is to provide your body with enough calories to function and recover at it’s best.

A good starting point for those looking to increase lean body mass and minimize fat gain is taking your bodyweight (in pounds) and multiplying it by 16-18. This will give you a BASELINE to start at.

*This is a general guideline: if your daily activity is low (desk job) or you have a slower metabolism, start on the lower end. If your daily activity is higher (physical labor all day) or you have higher metabolism can start at the higher end.*

In most cases you will have to adjust this baseline. Shoot for 1lb per week, as long as you are training hard this will ensure the majority of the new weight comes from lean body mass rather than fat.

The higher above maintenance you go the more likely you are to gain fat. If you are gaining weight to quick, adjust your daily intake by ~200 calories and reassess. Give the process at least 2 weeks at a time to see the effects.

Macronutrient guidelines will vary depending on your goals, energy requirements, and other variables. The key is to make sure you are getting enough protein, .8-1.4 g/lb of bodyweight is generally recommended.

Don’t go into all out ‘blow-out mode’ in hopes of putting on muscle quick. Your body does not work like that. Make smart adjustments and continue to make progress.

Wrapping It Up

Fitness myth black holes are everywhere. They plague the industry and are hold back people who bust their ass on a regular basis, just because they overheard a conversation from a bro with above average genetics.

Use this article as a guide to breaking through plateaus and make good use of your sweat.

About the Author


Joey is an online coach at and an in-person strength coach at a boutique training studio in New York City. He is a 181lb competitive power lifter who has totalled over 1400lbs. Joey has his Master’s in Exercise Science and is a CSCS, CPPS coach and a Westside Barbell certified coach. He likes cheesy pick-up lines, brussel sprouts and giving great high fives. Learn more about Joey at