Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?
~ Brothers Grimm
Mirrors have gotten a bad rap.
I’m going to do my best in this article to restore them to their rightful place of honor.
Confession: I’m a low-tech guy. I’ve always inherently trusted low tech, and distrusted high tech. Perhaps this is a reflection of my background – my parents were middle class, blue-collar people who were heavily influenced by the Great Depression. They learned to trust real, tangible things, and so have I.
Don’t get me wrong – high tech has brought us so many amazing breakthroughs. I’m well aware, and grateful, for instance, that this column itself would not be possible without the magic of the Internet.
In the fitness world, so much these days seems to be about the hottest trends. And right now, wearable technology is IT. Gotta have a FitBit, or an Apple Watch, or a Garmin, or a Huwai. You’ve gotta track your steps, your heart rate, your “perceived” exertion, your calories, and your macros (protein, carbs, and fats). Hey – again, I ain’t hatin’!’ I like and recommend MyFitnessPal and other nutrition trackers to my clients for just this purpose.
But at some point, we need to be able to progress without losing something valuable in the process. A prime danger is failing to use our God-given common sense and instead relying on machines to do our thinking for us.
I mean, do we really need a watch to tell us when we’ve had enough?!
The new tools are indeed amazing, and have their place, yet one the most useful pieces of equipment in the fitness industry, in my opinion, is the “humble” mirror.
What is more low-tech than a mirror? No moving parts, no batteries, power cord, or online connection. No monthly fee either. It won’t wear out, and it won’t break, unless you break it.
Yes, the mirror has historically gotten a bad rap as an ego-inflating device; and in the fitness industry, perhaps this is deserved. Think of the vain bodybuilder flexing as he (or she) admires themselves in front of it. Or is there more to the story than that?
Actually, there is.
Certainly, as the tidal wave of gratuitous Instagram posts and YouTube videos well document, there’s a great deal of ego in the fitness industry in general, and within bodybuilding in particular. But a major reason bodybuilders gaze into the mirror is to see how a particular exercise is affecting a particular body part. After all, this is the point of bodybuilding—to grow and show muscles in a dramatic and symmetrical fashion. And what provides the most immediate and honest feedback? Yup, the mirror. In the end, isn’t this the same image the judges consider?
1. Body Fat – There are many ways to check – or at least estimate – the amount of body fat on an individual. Some of these methods are complicated and costly. But the simplest and most accurate way to ascertain how much fat you’re carrying is to look into a mirror. For men, excess body fat is typically carried in the belly. You either show “abs” (meaning body fat is low) or you don’t. For women, fat is also carried in the belly, as well as in the thighs and glutes. So just have a look, my brothers and sisters!
2. Muscle – Look in the mirror and hit any pose you want to accentuate a muscle group. You can see the front of your body. And if you want to see the back too, just turn away from the mirror, hold another mirror in front of you, gaze into it and see the reflection of the back of your body from the main mirror. Any man who shaves, and any woman who wants to know what she looks like in an outfit from behind knows how to do this.
3. Form – This is where the mirror really shines (no pun intended, really!). I constantly use the mirror to monitor my barbell, kettlebell, and bodyweight calisthenics workouts and encourage my clients to do the same; particularly to be sure they’re using proper form, which usually requires a neutral back. I particularly like to utilize the mirror for exercises like these:
So, even in this hyper high-tech age of ours, don’t be afraid to go “old school” and use this great tool.
Next to your own mind and body, a strong overhead bar, a good lifting bar and (weight) plates, I rank the humble mirror as the most important piece of equipment you can use to help create supreme fitness. So let’s remove the stigma, forget the cool fads for a moment, and return the mirror to the place of honor it so richly deserves!
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Patrick Rooney is the Founder and President of GREEK PHYSIQUE™, LLC, which specializes in functional body sculpting for men and women in Middle Tennessee and worldwide via phone and Skype. Patrick is Certified through the National Association of Fitness Certification (NAFC). Email questions or training inquiries to [email protected].