It became fashionable in the fitness industry over the last 10-15 years to bash the use of single joint exercises. Single joint exercises meaning things like biceps curls, pec flys, leg curls etc. This has been done all in the name of “functional” training (side bar- I wish I could put air quotes around the word functional but since this is a written medium I have to use real ones). As a result, things like barbell curls and calf raises gave way to more “integrated” (side bar II- yet another word I wish I could use air quotes around) activities like standing on a bosu on one leg with your eyes closed doing a lateral deltoid raise. I have to be honest here. I am as guilty as everyone else of doing this.
Now it seems the pendulum has swung back the other way. You are starting to see some really well educated fitness pros going back to more hypertrophy/bodybuilding style of workouts depending on who the client is. And see, that’s the rub. Both the old school bodybuilding style (I’m talking Arnold’s generation) of lifting as well as the Bosu crowd both have a place at the table. It comes down to the goal of the program. If improving ankle stability/proprioception after an injury has taken place is the goal, then heck yeah, bring on the balance work. But what if the goal is to increase lean muscle tissue in order to fight off a host of metabolic diseases that seem to plague our culture? Well then, the bosu needs to step back and let some of the old school bodybuilding take over. For the record, it’s still not okay to curl in a squat rack. It’s just not. So don’t do it. Ever. Moving on.
The key element that so many of us missed here was that there is a time and a place for all of this depending on the job to be done. Neither tool/approach is wrong when it’s applied to the right goal. You wouldn’t use a hammer to tighten a nut or a screwdriver to get one loose would you? No. Because they aren’t the right tool for those jobs. The other key element is that it’s okay to use both of them over the course of a training year. Work hard, build some muscle and then do some “un-loading” with the bosu to recover. As Coach Dan John says, “everything works”. You just have to know what it works for.