These days it’s all the rage for fitness professionals to take a stand on issues facing the industry. After all, everybody wants more hits to their website, more comments on their articles, and more shares on social media.
As it turns out, one of the easiest ways to elicit the desired viral response is to make blanket statements like “Lift heavy,” “Never do crunches,” and “Forget traditional cardio, just lift weights faster.”
The truth is that when it comes to training “” no matter how black and white many “experts” make things out to be “” most issues come in shades of grey. Everything exists on a continuum.
Sure, with this approach we lose out on the top of the newsfeed. However, what we gain in terms of breadth of training adaptations far exceeds the results that come with a narrow-minded, all-or-nothing approach.
Below, I describe ten of the most controversial and hotly debated subjects in fitness and how we might all benefit from plopping ourselves and our clients somewhere in the middle, instead of choosing one side of the debate over the other.
1. Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Stretching
Static stretching inhibits strength and power production  and should be avoided at all costs… Right?
Not so fast. Static stretching feels good, and many folks really need it. Moreover, dynamic stretching following static stretching negates the aforementioned inhibition .
Verdict: Prior to the workout, static stretch then dynamic stretch. Post-workout, static stretch.
2. “Just Squat, Bro!” vs. Corrective Exercise
Just get under the barbell and allow the weight to sort out asymmetries and movement deficiencies… Right?
The big lifts themselves may be corrective in nature to a certain extent, but when a client displays severe valgus, butt wink, and excessive forward inclination of the torso, “Just squat, bro!” isn’t the most sound programming strategy.
While it’s just plain silly to roll around on the floor for an hour and call it personal training, a couple of targeted corrective exercises, as determined by some sort of screening criteria, can go a long way towards improving movement quality and staying safe in the gym .
Verdict: Just squat, bro! But also perform corrective exercise as part of warm-up or as inter-set rest.
Further Study (paid)
Post Rehab Essentials V2.0 – Dean Somerest
3. Compound Exercises vs. Isolation Exercises
Isolation is a waste of time. Just do all the big compound lifts, and the little muscles will take care of themselves… Right?
Take the hamstrings and biceps, for instance. Since they don’t change length appreciably during compound lifts, isolation is actually the best way to strengthen them . Especially if these muscles are weak links in the chain, isolation is a must. Plus, it’s nice to give the people what they want (when it won’t hurt them).
Verdict: Emphasize compound lifts, but also incorporate single-joint exercises to strengthen weak links and as “icing on the cake.”
4. Bilateral Lower Body Training vs. Unilateral Lower Body Training
There’s nothing like the rush of adrenaline that comes with feeling a heavy load on your back… Right?
Maybe “” if you’re a powerlifter, that is. Most everyone else, though, would do better to add some single leg lower body variations.
Unilateral exercises provide the same benefits as their bilateral counterparts  with half the compressive force on the spine and an added stability requirement. Two-legged squats and deadlifts certainly aren’t dead, as some have claimed. The key is to strike an appropriate balance.
Verdict: A one-to-one ratio of unilateral to bilateral lower body exercise is just right. Pair a bilateral knee-dominant exercise with a unilateral hip-dominant exercise in one session, and flip-flop movement patterns in the next.
5. Low Reps vs. High Reps
Anything over 6 reps is cardio, and we all know how cardio destroys gains … Right?
In actuality, due to differences in fiber type composition, different muscles hypertrophy best at different – and often multiple – rep ranges. For maximal muscular development, then, a variety of set and rep schemes should be employed .
Verdict: Hit multiple rep ranges (low, medium, high, super high) throughout the course of a week or training cycle.
A Simple System to Build Better Personal Training Programs – Greg Nuckols
6. Full-body Lifts vs. Direct Core Work
Floor “ab” routines are for sissies. Squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, and overhead presses are all the core work you need… Right?
It’s been shown that full-body barbell lifts do, in fact, elicit high levels of core activation .
Even so, for those with weaker midsections, a few extra sets of direct core work either at the beginning or end of the session are a must. On the opposite end of the spectrum, for clients with extremely strong cores, the best way to provide a significant training stimulus is through direct core work.
Verdict: On top of the big full-body lifts, throw in a couple of direct core exercises each session.
7. Spinal Flexion and Rotation vs. Core Stability
The purpose of the core is to prevent motion, not create it . You see, the human spine is like a credit card. Repeatedly bending and twisting it will, over time, cause it to snap right in half… Right?
At this point, the research is frustratingly equivocal. Anecdotally, there are freaks out there that do hundreds or even thousands of crunches per day and are ripped and back pain-free.
It’s likely that, just like any exercise, too much flexion and rotation can be dangerous. It’s fairly safe to say, though, that a few sets of crunches (mostly through the thoracic spine) or Russian twists (with a short range of motion) – on top of plenty of stability work – won’t wreck the spine. Heck, they may even provide some salubrious effects along with the aesthetic value .
Verdict: Train primarily for core stability, and sporadically hit the glamour muscles with a few sets of low-rep flexion- or rotation-based exercises.
The Real Reason You Still Have Back Pain – Armi Legge
8. Traditional Cardio vs. Metabolic Resistance Training
Weights are meant to be lifted slowly and under control with plenty of rest between sets. For cardio, hop on a treadmill, fan bike, or ergometer… Right?
Indeed, performing heavy, technical lifts in a fatigued state is risky . But with proper training age, appropriate exercise selection, and careful attention to form, metabolic resistance training (i.e., lifting weights faster) can be plenty safe – not to mention boatloads of fun.
Verdict: Use a mix of metabolic resistance training (with appropriate exercise selection) and traditional cardio.
Metabolic Conditioning – Don’t Say it if You Don’t Know What it Means – Brad Schoenfeld
9. Advanced Monitoring Techniques (Quantified Self) vs. Wellness Questionnaire
If you’re not having clients spend a few minutes every morning before they get out of bed assessing their heart rate variability, you’re doing them an extreme disservice… Right?
No doubt, these new-fangled bio-monitoring tools are highly effective in measuring recovery .
But for trainees who don’t have hundreds of dollars lying around waiting to buy up the equipment, a simple daily wellness questionnaire is A-okay . (How well did I sleep? How sore am I? How excited am I to train today?) That is, being in tune with your own body still goes a long way.
For the middle ground, a regular heart rate monitor provides a ton of information and can be purchased for well under $50.
Verdict: Heart rate variability is all the rage, but a daily wellness questionnaire and a cheap heart rate monitor will also do the trick.
10. Interval Training vs. Steady-State Cardio
Train slow, be slow. Steady-state cardio makes you skinny fat. If you want to get in shape, intervals are all you need… Right?
It’s true, when it comes to slimming down, intervals are far superior to “slogging” away on a treadmill for an hour while reading a magazine .
Plus, interval training has some great perks, like shorter workout times  and endless variety in terms of work-to-rest ratios. With that said, steady state cardio does provide certain benefits to the cardiovascular system that intervals do not . It’s also good for recovery . Heck, some people even enjoy it!
Verdict: Alternate between interval training and steady-state cardio.
Never forego an entire training methodology simply because one expert, in an effort to get attention, insists on its uselessness. Avoid such polarization and debates on fitness topics. Instead, keep an open mind and stick to the middle of the road on most issues. By exposing your clients to broader training stimulus, you give them that much more of an opportunity to improve and succeed.
What to do next?
There’s a lot of conflicting information and it’s easy to get confused or influenced by the wrong sources.
That’s why we’ve built a free course called the Nuts and Bolts of Personal Training.
Go through the course on your own schedule from home (it’s all email lessons) and benefit from practical solutions to everyday problems trainers face in addition to systems for making more, helping more people, and having a more fulfilling career.
Reserve your spot for the course and start today here:
–> The Nuts and Bolts of Personal Training (free. Do it from home on your own time)
 E. Peck, G. Chomko, D. V. Gaz, and A. M. Farrell, “The Effects of Stretching on Performance,” pp. 179-185, 2014.
 K. Kraus, E. SchÃ¼tz, W. R. Taylor, and R. Doyscher, “Efficacy of the functional movement screen: A review,” J. Strength Cond. Res., vol. 28, no. 12, pp. 3571-3584, 2014.
 B. Schoenfeld and B. Contreras, “Do Single-Joint Exercises Enhance Functional Fitness?,” Strength Cond. J., pp. 63-65, 2012.
 M. Jones, J. Ambegaonkar, B. C. Nindl, J. A. Smith, and S. A. Headley, “Effects of unilateral and bilateral lower-body heavy resistance exercise on muscle activity and testosterone responses,” J. Strength Cond. Res., pp. 1094-1100, 2012.
 R. C. Hickson, “Physiology Interference of Strength Development by Simultaneously Training for Strength and Endurance *,” Eur. J. Appl. Physiol., vol. 263, no. 45, pp. 255-263, 1980.
 B. J. Schoenfeld, B. Contreras, J. M. Willardson, F. Fontana, and G. Tiryaki-Sonmez, “Muscle activation during low- versus high-load resistance training in well-trained men.,” Eur. J. Appl. Physiol., vol. 114, pp. 2491-2497, Aug. 2014.
 N. Hamlyn, D. Behm, and W. Young, “Trunk muscle activation during dynamic weight-training exercises and isometric instability activities,” J. Strength Cond. Res., vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 1108-1112, 2007.
 S. McGill, “Core training: Evidence translating to better performance and injury prevention,” Strength Cond. J., vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 33-46, 2010.
 B. Contreras, B. Schoenfeld, N. Zealand, and G. F. Services, “To Crunch or Not to Crunch”¯: An Evidence- Based Examination of Spinal Flexion Exercises , Their Potential Risks , and Their Applicability to Program Design,” Strength Cond. J., vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 8-18, 2011.
 P. T. Hak, E. Hodzovic, and B. Hickey, “The nature and prevalence of injury during CrossFit training,” J. Strength Cond. Res., Nov. 2013.
 S. H. Boutcher, “High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss.,” J. Obes., vol. 2011, p. 868305, Jan. 2011.
 M. Gibala and S. McGee, “Metabolic adaptations to short-term high-intensity interval training: a little pain for a lot of gain?,” Exerc. Sport Sci. Rev., vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 58-63, 2008.
 S. Seiler and E. TÃ¸nnessen, “Intervals, thresholds, and long slow distance: the role of intensity and duration in endurance training,” Sportscience, vol. 13, pp. 32-53, 2009.
 J. Tufano and L. Brown, “Effect of aerobic recovery intensity on delayed-onset muscle soreness and strength,” J. Strength Cond. Res., vol. 26, no. 10, pp. 2777-2782, 2012.
 D. J. Berkoff, C. B. Cairns, L. D. Sanchez, and C. T. Moorman, “Heart rate variability in elite American track-and-field athletes.,” J. Strength Cond. Res., vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 227-231, 2007.
 P. Gastin, D. Meyer, and D. Robinson, “Perceptions of wellness to monitor adaptive responses to training and competition in elite Australian football,” J. Strength Cond. Res., vol. 27, no. 9, pp. 2518-2526, 2013.