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Iron and the Soul by Henry Rollins
December 7, 2009 5:41 PM   Subscribe

"The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds."
posted by jason's_planet (97 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've just gotten back into working out. I read this one years ago and this was a very timely reposting. I'm inspired all over again. Thank you!
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:50 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this.
I keep a copy on my iPhone and believe me this HELPS YOU in the gym.
When you are feeling like you cant put up the weight, somehow reading these words (even for the hundredth time) actually helps you.

I have thanked Rollins personally two times in my life. Once was for writing this piece.

What was the other one? I'm glad you asked. See, Henry is a huge Caddyshack fan. As am I. As is anyone with a heart and a sense of humor. So I mentioned the flick to him at a show in Pensacola in 1992 and he proceeded to do the Dalai Lama story (with voices) for me.

Forever in yer debt Hank!
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:52 PM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow, that almost makes me want to exercise.

But seriously, thanks for posting it. At first I was just going to quickly scan it but it was worth going back and reading the whole thing.
posted by XMLicious at 5:52 PM on December 7, 2009


Ew brother.
posted by basicchannel at 5:53 PM on December 7, 2009


Less is more, Henry. Less is more.
posted by tkchrist at 6:09 PM on December 7, 2009


"'But Iron—Cold Iron—is master of them all."
posted by namespan at 6:16 PM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


What an awesome essay, I read it twice. The second time in my head I replaced "the Iron" with "the Bike" and it meant a lot more to me.
posted by nowoutside at 6:18 PM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Socially inept boy finds self-respect with the help of a kind-hearted teacher, now views all of life through a narrow lens defined by his geeky safe zone.

And seriously... a Yukio Mishima reference?

Where was D&D when it was needed most?
posted by GameDesignerBen at 6:20 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


To this day, when I work out I usually listen to ballads.

Henry, you buried the lede. Loved you in Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, btw. Kickin' hillbilly cannibal ass. Scowltastic.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:26 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


One of the best things about this post is the fact that you link to an article at rosstraining.com, one of the best physical fitness sites on the web (and one which I've referenced more than once in AskMe answers). Try one of his deceptively simple sample workouts sometime; I just did 25 repetition roulette a couple days ago. And when I say "try," I mean do them as hard and as fast as you can. You'll hurt, bad, but at the end you'll be proud and happy you did it, and you can look around the gym with the steely satisfaction that you have done more work in eight minutes than anyone else there has done in an hour.
posted by googly at 6:28 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Where was D&D when it was needed most?

The first thing I thought of with I read this was The Riddle of Steel.
posted by chambers at 6:30 PM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Never read this before, but I like it. Thanks for posting it, Jason.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 6:31 PM on December 7, 2009


Socially inept boy finds self-respect with the help of a kind-hearted teacher, now views all of life through a narrow lens defined by his geeky safe zone.

I've read/heard enough of Rollins to say what I'm about to say without too much fear of contradiction: Like nowoutside said, when he substituted "the Bike" for "the Iron," this isn't about "the Iron." It's not about how weightlifting is the lens through which he views accomplishment. It's about striving, and mastering yourself, not as a show, but because if we stop trying, we might as well shrivel up and die.

It doesn't have to be "the Iron." It can be "the bike" or "the wall" or "the mountain" or "the shoe" or "the book." It can be anything which is implacable and unaffected by your ego or your desire. Two hundred pounds is two hundred pounds for the iron. A century is a century on a bike.

Anything purely objective by which you can measure yourself, truly get outside of your brain for once and strive against -- that's the Iron. If it's easy, you're doing it wrong, and if you overdo it, you'll know that, too -- you need the right measuring stick. A different weight, a different distance. It's not about the show, it's not about lifting more than that other guy, or running faster or farther than the other guy -- it's about running more than yourself a week ago. Or at least just as much.

Two hundred pounds is two hundred pounds.
posted by chimaera at 6:31 PM on December 7, 2009 [34 favorites]


Nice. I prefer this quote, though:

Physical strength is the most important thing in life. This is true whether we want it to be or not. [...] A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong. This reality is offensive to some people who would like the intellectual or spiritual to take precedence. It is instructive to see what happens to these very people as their squat strength goes up.
-Mark Rippetoe
posted by vorfeed at 6:33 PM on December 7, 2009 [8 favorites]


Okay, I'm a hurf durf bacon eater. I read the text on the FP like he was talking about cast iron cookware, and found myself agreeing with it.

That said, cast iron cookware is quite heavy. And it's a great way to cook lean butterflied chicken.

Granted, even a scrawny and okay with it nerd like me felt the need to go lift something after reading that. But that would require geting enough energy to use the campus gym... And I hate weight lifting in public because of the whole macho thing that seems to propagate around Northeastern college...

And self doubt beats an inspirational passage yet again. I have something of great strength and endless resolve inside me, so long as it's fighting for the status quo in my own life. Go... me?
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:33 PM on December 7, 2009


Vorfeed, from a man who has devoted his whole life to helping others increase their squat strength, that is an understandable and acceptable statement.

As a generalisation that doesn't even attempt to include half the population, it's pathetically myopic, un-empathetic and mono-maniacal.

I say this having increase my squats by 25kg this year. Surprisingly, that awesome statistic is not the most important thing that happened to me in 2009.
posted by smoke at 6:39 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


It doesn't have to be "the Iron." It can be "the bike" or "the wall" or "the mountain" or "the shoe" or "the book."

I'm usually the iron. Sometimes I pick the shoe. My brother always picks the race car.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:44 PM on December 7, 2009 [13 favorites]


I work out; I've learned some martial arts; I get it.

But the Massive Henry Rollins seems to believe body-builders are more mentally healthy than the rest of us. I have always had the impression that Rollins has no lack of self-regard, to say the least. I'm not sure a powerful ego is the best measure of mental equanimity.

I could be wrong about Rollins. I've never met him. But one man's journey from 98-lb. weakling to muscle-bound confidence may not be the ideal blueprint for everyone. The emotional rewards a man reaps from achieving great bodily strength may even keep a man from undergoing an even more necessary course of therapy, meditation, or education.

Good on ya' Henry...but other frontiers await some of us...
posted by kozad at 6:49 PM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


And seriously... a Yukio Mishima reference?

As Mishima said, "rghghhhhhhhhhhhhhhrgghhhhgh."
posted by Your Disapproving Father at 6:55 PM on December 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


But the Massive Henry Rollins seems to believe body-builders are more mentally healthy than the rest of us.

I don't read that in this piece. I think it made him more mentally healthy, but I don't think he's advocating that for all people at all times.

Or what Chimaera wrote.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:56 PM on December 7, 2009


Maybe it is because I am old or sheltered or something, but I never heard of this Henry Rollins cat before. I have seen some of his work in the movies and on TV and never realized it was him. Having said that, I think the less you know about Hank, the more you like the article. I read it before I looked at any other links to him and thought it was inspirational. After I found out he liked to kick audience ass while singing with punk bands, I thought he had taken his physical prowess beyond the article. To me the article was really about mental strength that comes from feeling good about yourself and your body. It was not about working out so you can kick butt in a barroom fight. Still, a good article and a good post.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:57 PM on December 7, 2009


An interesting corollary to some of the stuff he's saying that just occurred to me is that if you do something repetitively without becoming noticeably better at it you probably won't become more confident. That's relevant to me because I'm a bit OCD and hence I often obsessively keep doing things that I'm not very good at or that don't produce much success. If I stuck to primarily doing things I'm fairly good at or that I'm very good at most of the time I bet I'd be a more confident person in general.
posted by XMLicious at 7:02 PM on December 7, 2009


Excellent essay, thanks for posting. This stands out:

Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.

How could you not love Hammerin' Hank Rollins? From Damaged (one of the best records of all time) to getting shoved through a sliding glass door by Al Pacino in the movie Heat, to his spoken word, to buying crazy rare noise/American Tapes/Wolf Eyes on eBay, he's always been a champion in my eyes.
posted by porn in the woods at 7:03 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


As a generalisation that doesn't even attempt to include half the population, it's pathetically myopic, un-empathetic and mono-maniacal.

Yes, I can see where it might be all of those things.

It is also very, very true.

I say that as a woman and as a feminist, by the way... and judging by the many photographs of female lifters in the latest edition of Starting Strength, I very much doubt that Rippetoe's generalization "doesn't even attempt to include half the population", especially given his deliberate use of "people" in the last sentence.

Making a specific statement about men does not necessarily mean excluding women.
posted by vorfeed at 7:04 PM on December 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have a penis.

As a generalisation that doesn't even attempt to include half the population, it's pathetically myopic, un-empathetic and mono-maniacal.

Friends may come and go.

But two hundred pounds of bacon is always two hundred pounds of bacon.
posted by Mike Buechel at 7:15 PM on December 7, 2009


Even after I reach a certain difficult goal with weight lifting I always feel tired and brain dead. So I've stopped, for the sake of my brain. Now I just do cardio... "But treadmill—hot and sweaty 9 miles of treadmill—is master of them all." Plus, I can just listen to Midnight Oil and the Clash etc., and not spend too much time dealing with the gym/weights hassle.
posted by uraniumwilly at 7:20 PM on December 7, 2009


Rollins has been great on Sons of Anarchy.

And my favorite Rollins: Letter to Ann Coulter.

I wrote Coulter too. I got the same response as Henry.

She said
posted by cjorgensen at 7:23 PM on December 7, 2009


Had never read this before, thanks for the heads up.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:34 PM on December 7, 2009


I suddenly want to bury my head into the couch for the next four days.
posted by The Whelk at 7:38 PM on December 7, 2009


Yukio Mishima said that he could not entertain the idea of romance if he was not strong. And then he disembowelled himself, because he was a closet queen who disliked the fact that, rather than being inspired to coup d'etat by his mad speeches, the military jeered and laughed at him.

A much less complex exposition of the importance of 'iron' in building self respect comes from the 'mockney' tradition, espoused by people from the early music hall, through Stanley Holloway to modern mockneys like Chas and Dave and Guy Richey. In fact, it is reputed that it was Ritchey's personal 'iron' that first attracted Madonna to this film director. It certainly can't have been his movies.

So, what does this western tradition of 'iron' have to say?

I won't forget the day I went to London on the spree.
I saw the mayor of London there. That's who I went to see.
He came along in a carriage and a pair.
I shouted, "come on, boys! All throw your hats up in the air."
Just then the mayor, he began to smile,
Pointed to my face and said, "Lor Lummy, what a dial!"
Started Lord-a-mayoring, and then to my dismay,
He pointed to my watch and chain and shouted to me, "Hey,

Any old iron? Any old iron?
Any, any, any old iron?
You look neat. Talk about a treat!
You look so dapper from your napper to your feet.
Dressed in style, brand-new tile,
And your father's old green tie on.
But I wouldn't give you tuppence for your old watch and chain,
Old iron, old iron."

Now that's what I call poetry. Mishima, eat your heart out -- no pun intended.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:44 PM on December 7, 2009


An interesting corollary to some of the stuff he's saying that just occurred to me is that if you do something repetitively without becoming noticeably better at it you probably won't become more confident. That's relevant to me because I'm a bit OCD and hence I often obsessively keep doing things that I'm not very good at or that don't produce much success. If I stuck to primarily doing things I'm fairly good at or that I'm very good at most of the time I bet I'd be a more confident person in general.

I think the point he's trying to make here is that you should pick projects that provide you with a challenge, that is, a goal you can reach with some effort.

What you're describing are two equally unproductive extremes -- the completely unattainable on the one hand and the ridiculously easy on the other. The former will only frustrate you; the latter doesn't force you out of your comfort zone. That which does not force you out of your comfort zone by definition cannot provide you with any opportunities for growth.
posted by jason's_planet at 7:54 PM on December 7, 2009


That made me feel better about the problems I've been working through with my legs. Improvement's coming too slowly and painfully for my taste, and reading that helped me calm down about it and gain some perspective.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:03 PM on December 7, 2009


Two hundred pounds is two hundred pounds.

Yeah, people say it's two hundred pounds, but I bet if you actually checked it'd be more like 175.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:41 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been ironing all evening and now I am the size of the Hulk and the shirts don't fit.
posted by w0mbat at 9:03 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


JohnnyGunn: Rollins's fights at Black Flag shows were all pretty much self-defense. Punk audiences back then were crazy and violent as fuck. Even moreso in Europe, in which audiences didn't even put up the pretense of pretending to listen to the band before assaulting them.
posted by ignignokt at 9:04 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think the repeated use of the phrase "the Iron" is cheesy, yet I'm inspired by this essay every time I read it. Accomplishing concrete things FTW!
posted by ignignokt at 9:05 PM on December 7, 2009


HENRY ROLLINS I MISS YOU ON METAFILTER PLEASE COME BACK
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:24 PM on December 7, 2009


turgid dahlia: Yeah, people say it's two hundred pounds, but I bet if you actually checked it'd be more like 175.

Depends on whether they're counting in decimal, or powers of two.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:51 PM on December 7, 2009


Oh I just learned about burpees from this post. Super!
posted by fuq at 10:02 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


On and off, over several years, I tried to work out for what he calls "cosmetic reasons", and always failed. The thing that finally started packing on the weight and bulk? Carrying my twins around, one in each arm, until my arms felt like they were going to fall off. I think he'd approve.
posted by davejay at 10:07 PM on December 7, 2009


Rollins's fights at Black Flag shows were all pretty much self-defense

Yeah, I'm sure there's some good reason he assaulted Chris Knox, too. No, wait, there wasn't.
posted by rodgerd at 10:19 PM on December 7, 2009


Love Rollins on "Sons of Anarchy". That's some heavy duty intensity right there. The article was nice, too.
posted by flippant at 10:25 PM on December 7, 2009


Yeah. I always believe whatever the commenter on the third page of comments on some blog post has to say about a story involving two celebrities.
posted by ignignokt at 10:28 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh I just learned about burpees from this post. Super!

Burpees are satisfyingly hyper efficient!
posted by ignignokt at 10:29 PM on December 7, 2009


Burpees are the way, the truth, and the life! I recommend "100 days of burpees" - do one tomorrow before breakfast, and two the next day, and so on...
posted by thedaniel at 10:46 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Huh. Had never read that before, but had said something like the last paragraph to someone a few years ago. That you can lie to others and lie to yourself, but there's no way to cheat yourself in the gym. Some other endeavours come close but there's always the possibility of a lucky break or a bad one. It is the one place where, guaranteed, what you put in you get out. Immensely satisfying.

My spouse now trains with me and what I like to see isn't the changes in fitness so much as the changes in attitude. The tougher she gets in the gym the tougher she gets everywhere. It is awesome.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:57 PM on December 7, 2009


Yeah. I always believe whatever the commenter on the third page of comments on some blog post has to say about a story involving two celebrities.

Reid, who's the source of the story, and Brown are both professional music writers. But far be it for people who've met Rollins to interfere with your hero worship.
posted by rodgerd at 11:12 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Physical strength is the most important thing in life.

This is such an exaggeration that it is hard to take seriously. The Rollins essay makes a much better case for physical strength as a show of one's engagement with life.

I also like this brief essay by Mark Twight as a pointer to why and how strength is important.
posted by BigSky at 12:21 AM on December 8, 2009


"I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn’t say shit to me."

"He did not care any more... life and death... the same. Only that the crowd would be there to greet him with howls of lust and fury. He began to realize his sense of worth... he mattered."
posted by The Tensor at 2:05 AM on December 8, 2009


Great essay. But you gotta laugh looking at a picture of the guy. He's so determined to be an individual, yet he's covered with tattoos. Pretty original.
posted by Faze at 4:32 AM on December 8, 2009


This essay is good but anything from Rippetoe is much, much better and generally hilarious. If you haven't had a chance, check out the Q&A on his Starting Strength site. First, it is awesome he takes the time to answer most questions and second his answers make me laugh almost every time.

Q: This is as SERIOUS, question... life and death. Are you a trekkie Rip? Be honest.

A: I watch the show, yes. Okay, **** you. I am one of the proud folks who, at the age of 9, 10, and 11 were privileged to watch the first series in its entirety every week without missing a single episode. Mr. Spock raised me, Captain Kirk taught me about women, and Mr. Scott is responsible for my malt whisky habit. I have not watched TV hardly at all since about 1980, but I did see all of the Next Generation shows. I have no use for Deep Space Nine, Voyager, or Enterprise. Once again, **** you.

posted by Loto at 7:11 AM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


He's so determined to be an individual, yet he's covered with tattoos.

But they all have individual meaning to him...?
posted by ao4047 at 8:14 AM on December 8, 2009


This is such an exaggeration that it is hard to take seriously. [...] I also like this brief essay by Mark Twight as a pointer to why and how strength is important.

It seems to me that "physical strength is the most important thing in life" is simply a slightly less-subtle way of saying "what you know does not matter - what you do matters. [...] Any deficiency in physical fitness affects confidence". If the latter statement is not an exaggeration, then how is the former?

All of this stuff is dancing around one single fact: we live in these bodies, and these bodies affect and influence everything we think and say and do. On a certain level, physical strength is the most important thing in life, because it's the foundation upon which everything else we do is built. The nice thing about Rippetoe is that he's not going to lie about that, or bother to put it "nicely" just because many people are uncomfortable with the idea.
posted by vorfeed at 8:17 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


There's always someone bigger.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:51 AM on December 8, 2009


You know...

My spouse now trains with me and what I like to see isn't the changes in fitness so much as the changes in attitude. The tougher she gets in the gym the tougher she gets everywhere. It is awesome.

I agree with this completely. I think some people are missing the point (especially the idiot who declared that Rip was excluding half the population).

Watching my 110 pound wife, whose _upper_ arms not more than a year ago I could wrap my fingers around, and who was so weak that she spent the first month and a half sore from struggling to lift a 20lb polyurethane-wrapped metal bar instead of even an unladen ladies bar, approach a bodyweight deadlift and backsquat, has been quite interesting and has genuinely changed my (long held, geeky, skeptical) opinion about weightlifting.

We started at the same time after 10+ years of basically being idle and have progressed at the same rate as a %age of bodyweight, but I've been there before (20 years ago) and she's never, ever in her life been strong.

It has made a HUGE difference for her. She doesn't notice it, but I do. She is far more confident in many areas.

So.. scoff if you like.
posted by rr at 9:15 AM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Great essay. But you gotta laugh looking at a picture of the guy. He's so determined to be an individual, yet he's covered with tattoos. Pretty original.

Is it more original to not be covered with tattoos, or to be half-covered (Rollins has a lot of untattooed skin--it's not like he's Lucky Diamond Rich or something), or what?
posted by box at 10:25 AM on December 8, 2009


Great essay. But you gotta laugh looking at a picture of the guy. He's so determined to be an individual, yet he's covered with tattoos. Pretty original.

Great essay. But you gotta laugh looking at a picture of the guy. He's so determined to be an individual, yet he has a haircut. Pretty original.

Great essay. But you gotta laugh looking at a picture of the guy. He's so determined to be an individual, yet he's wearing a shirt. Pretty original.

Great essay. But you gotta laugh looking at a picture of the guy. He's so determined to be an individual, yet he's using the process of respiration and circulation to deliver oxygen to his cells. Pretty original.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:53 AM on December 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's ironic that this is a popular article on Stormfront. Wonder what Hank thinks of that?
posted by fixedgear at 11:57 AM on December 8, 2009


It's ironic that this is a popular article on Stormfront. Wonder what Hank thinks of that?

VH1: Henry Rollins on racist fans in punk music:

[...]
VH1: These people aren’t your standard fans, why did they gravitate towards punk music?

HR: If they went to go see Judas Priest, they might get their butts kicked in the parking lot by Priest guys who are pretty heavy-duty dudes themselves. If you’re a skinhead and go to the Depeche Mode show, you’re not going to get any recruits or play with the ladies, because they look at you and go "eek." If you go to a punk rock show, you might meet some people. The music might be aggressive enough. A lot of skinheads thought they liked Black Flag until they met us and saw that we weren’t into their program.

VH1: What would you do if a racist skinhead stepped up to you during a show?

HR: These guys would badger us between songs. I would go, ‘Look at the gut on this guy. You wouldn’t make it a day in the Marines, much less Hitler’s army. You’re gonna have a heart attack if you keep yelling at me.’ It’s like baiting a five year old. The downside of all this merriment is you have to deal with them after the show, and it’s never one on one. It’s five on one, and they’re waiting for you behind a van.

[...]

VH1: Do you think the white power movement is broader or smaller than people think it is?

[HR:] It’s probably smaller than people think it is. One depressing evening, I spent three or four hours going to as many hate websites as I could find. I think these get hits from the same four mouth-breathers every day, so the numbers of people checking in is probably deceiving. I hate to break it to all these racists, but their numbers are decreasing. Racism is not a human trait. You don’t come out of the womb racially biased. It’s acquired information. Now that we have more access to information, I think we’ll get around the ignorance. We’re going to lose the gills and the fins, get on dry land and start walking now.
posted by Errant at 12:35 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


“There's always someone bigger.”
And if you’re doing it right, that’s you – later.
Only standard that matters is that you do better than you did yesterday. Or try to.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:40 PM on December 8, 2009


It seems to me that "physical strength is the most important thing in life" is simply a slightly less-subtle way of saying "what you know does not matter - what you do matters. [...] Any deficiency in physical fitness affects confidence". If the latter statement is not an exaggeration, then how is the former?

All of this stuff is dancing around one single fact: we live in these bodies, and these bodies affect and influence everything we think and say and do. On a certain level, physical strength is the most important thing in life, because it's the foundation upon which everything else we do is built. The nice thing about Rippetoe is that he's not going to lie about that, or bother to put it "nicely" just because many people are uncomfortable with the idea.


What I like about Twight's and Rollins' words is that they speak about strength as a means of increasing one's capability. Perhaps that's what Rippetoe is on about as well, but that quote doesn't point to it as directly. To me, it suggests that the gym rat is a better model for how one should orient to the world than, say, the scientist. And while I agree with the emphasis on our physical presence, that implicit comparison is not one I can buy into.

As for the excerpt from Twight, it works in context but I wouldn't agree with it in isolation. After all, knowing / thinking / (academic) learning is a doing as well.
posted by BigSky at 2:44 PM on December 8, 2009


To me, it suggests that the gym rat is a better model for how one should orient to the world than, say, the scientist. And while I agree with the emphasis on our physical presence, that implicit comparison is not one I can buy into.

To me, the comparison Rippetoe is making is not between a hypothetical gym rat and a hypothetical scientist, but between a weak scientist and a strong one. IMHO, he makes this explicitly clear: "a weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong" (emphasis mine). Thus, the point isn't to draw a qualitative line between scientists and gym rats. The point is that the importance of physical strength applies to everyone, whether they like it or not.

Like Smedleyman said, this is not about the other guy. It's not about who is biggest, who is best, who has a better model for how one should orient to the world, etc. This is about a process of self-improvement which is open to every able-bodied human being, and acknowledges the absolute primacy that physical existence has in all of our lives. That goes for gym rats and scientists alike.
posted by vorfeed at 3:23 PM on December 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


I reiterate that it is a ridiculous statement, based on a host of unknowns and a definition of 'strength - both physical and otherwise - that is ridiculously limited, making a huge sweeping generalisation that seems pitched at telling +6 billion people what they really think.

I'm not arguing against what it might mean, or could mean, I'm arguing against the literal words (hence my bristling at talk of 'strong men').

Certainly, it holds true(ish) for me, but I am not so arrogant or self-gazing to assume it would hold true for everyone else, or even the majority. Lots of people don't value 'strength', Vorfeed, and would be no happier with or without it.

A vision of a world where "physical strength is the most important thing" horrifies and terrifies me. If that were the case we would be ruled by bison. I don't know how it could even be in the top ten.

I feel it likely many people who believe in that statement have been either victims to, or wielders of, physical strength, possibly both. It's an empowering thing to believe when you have the currency, and a depressing thing when you don't - but either way it's just different sides of the same misguided coin. Physical strength didn't come up with antibiotics, it didn't sign the universal declaration of human rights, end slavery in the west or prove that the earth revolves around the sun. It's not in Copenhagen this week trying to negotiate an agreement to save the majority of human life on the planet, and frankly I don't know what use it would be in any of those situations.

This is not to downplay the importance of feeling strong, but that is completely different from what Rippetoe is talking about.
posted by smoke at 4:36 PM on December 8, 2009


It's ironic that this is a popular article on Stormfront. Wonder what Hank thinks of that?

Cockroaches like wedding cake too.
posted by jason's_planet at 4:36 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Before I forget:

Thanks to everyone who enjoyed this post! Ah 'preciate it! Sorry I didn't reply earlier; work (yeah! actual work! ) has been goofy and they don't let us use teh intarwebz.
posted by jason's_planet at 4:41 PM on December 8, 2009


Vorfeed the word you are looking for is Areté. To strive and compete is to learn that ones self is our only true opponent.

The ultimate paradox is that physical strength is not merely tied to the physical. In crossing thresholds and riding plateaus where the body fails, or should fail, the mind carries the body. And then when the mind should fail the spirit carries both. Pushing yourself physically is truly the only way to discover this beautiful truth. To access reserves and potential you never knew you had.

It is such sad failure of our educational system that Areté is not taught in it's full complexity. Our physical education programs are basically about mining for natural talent for our school sports teams. Which is so myopic. Natural talent is limited. Potential is unlimited.

So many people don't rediscover the beauty of physical expression until it's much too late in life. Look how many self described nerds on metafilter were turned off by "sports" and have been programed to hate physical culture. What a terrible shame.
posted by tkchrist at 4:46 PM on December 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I'm sure there's some good reason he assaulted Chris Knox, too. No, wait, there wasn't.

Major dick move if it's true; Knox is one of the nicest guys in the music biz.

Between Mark E. Smith hollering at him over the phone in 1982 when the double live in New Zealand Fall in a Hole (on Flying Nun Records, recording and designed by Chris) showed up in shops in the UK before the band got their copies and (maybe) getting bullied by Henry Rollins, Knox just can't get a break.
posted by porn in the woods at 4:55 PM on December 8, 2009


I'm not arguing against what it might mean, or could mean, I'm arguing against the literal words (hence my bristling at talk of 'strong men').

And yet you don't seem to have noticed that Rippetoe is not making a moral claim, here. He's not claiming that strength should be the most important thing -- he's claiming that it is the most important thing, whether we like it or not, and whether we "value" it or not. As I pointed out above, in a fundamental way, he's absolutely right.

Physical strength didn't come up with antibiotics, it didn't sign the universal declaration of human rights, end slavery in the west or prove that the earth revolves around the sun. It's not in Copenhagen this week trying to negotiate an agreement to save the majority of human life on the planet, and frankly I don't know what use it would be in any of those situations.

The idea that all this stuff happened without physical strength is, frankly, bizarre. First of all, some of those things were accomplished partially by force of arms (ending slavery is an obvious example; it's also worth noting that the universal declaration of human rights was a direct consequence of WWII). Also, unless you want me to believe that Copernicus and Pasteur were actually disembodied spirits, physical strength was a necessary condition for their discoveries -- and furthermore, both men depended on the physical strength it takes to build and maintain societies in which discoveries can be made and then passed down to others.

We tend to "outsource" physical strength in modern society, but it's still there in everything we do. Physical strength built the house you're living in, the chair you're sitting on, and the computer you're typing on. Physical strength raised your food. Physical strength lies behind the army and the rule of law, and thus behind security, commerce, and culture. Someone had to make all those things happen, physically, through great effort -- they didn't just appear through some disembodied act of intellect or will.

This is why physical strength is the most important thing: because without it, all the other things we value would quickly fall to dust. Value itself would fall to dust, and our species shortly thereafter.
posted by vorfeed at 7:22 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


The idea that all this stuff happened without physical strength is, frankly, bizarre

What's really bizare is that people are seriously arguing that one is better than the other. It's a team effort ya'll. The body needs the mind to direct it, the mind needs the body to implement its desires.

There's no I in the word team, ok? there is the word "me", though, but we're going to ignore that in the interest of making a larger point)
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:45 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's really bizare is that people are seriously arguing that one is better than the other. It's a team effort ya'll. The body needs the mind to direct it, the mind needs the body to implement its desires.

Neuroscience suggests that the mind is nothing more (or less!) than a property of the body. Descartes' Error is an excellent overview of the many ways the body directs and influences the mind, as well as vice-versa. Among other things, it suggests that the "team effort" model of consciousness is less accurate than a model in which the mind is intrinsic to the body.

Likewise, as I said above, I'm not making a moral statement here. My point isn't that physical strength is "better" than intellectual ability, it's that physical strength is more important, in a very basic and fundamental way. A great oak, a coral reef, or a stand of aspen has strength without mind; what has mind without strength? Even the slightest glance at evolutionary history should suggest that one of these things is more fundamental than the other...
posted by vorfeed at 8:35 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Come now, Vorfeed, that's a little disingenuous; Rippetoe is clearly referring to muscular strength, specifically from weight-lifting.

I am addressing the contention that weight-lifting strength is most important, and that everybody secretly values it, and will be happier (and arguably better) for it. I'm not addressing a hypothetical form of life where no on has any muscular strength at all.
posted by smoke at 9:07 PM on December 8, 2009


I am addressing the contention that weight-lifting strength is most important, and that everybody secretly values it, and will be happier (and arguably better) for it. I'm not addressing a hypothetical form of life where no on has any muscular strength at all.

The subject at hand is "physical strength is the most important thing in life". Everything I've written here has just as much bearing on that subject as what you've written (I'm not addressing a hypothetical civilization ruled by bison, either, for instance). You seem to have a very narrow view of what Rippetoe is talking about, but IMHO it is not borne out by the actual quote.

Case in point: Rippetoe's contention has nothing to do with what people "secretly value", and everything to do with the biological fact that physical strength is essential to survival, and that the human body evolved to perform under load. Again, Rippetoe's statement does not make a moral claim... and in the absence of moral claims, what we have is reality, namely biology. Discussing this in biological terms is not "disingenuous", it's at the absolute heart of Rippetoe's philosophy.

A similar quote of his here makes that perfectly clear:

"Humans now live in a completely different environment than that in which human biology evolved, and the concept of fitness must reflect the reality that we are physiologically normal only when that ages-gone environment to which we are still adapted is simulated with exercise and diet.
[...]
Strength, the ability to move the body under load, is the most important thing in life as it is a physical certainty that gravity will act on the human body and every item it moves, from lifting a fork to pushing a stalled car. If we fail to conquer gravity, as in even the simplest of tasks involving our own bodyweight as we age, we reduce our quality of life and our ability to survive.

Strength, within the context of physical fitness, relates to the ability to generate force across a spectrum of movement speeds, as life is a variable-speed endeavor."
[emphasis mine]

The quote I posted earlier is not just about weightlifting. It really is about physical strength, which really is the most important thing in life, whether we secretly value it or not.
posted by vorfeed at 10:18 PM on December 8, 2009


A great oak, a coral reef, or a stand of aspen has strength without mind; what has mind without strength?

The mind figured out a way to build tools to chop down that oak tree.

Even the slightest glance at evolutionary history should suggest that one of these things is more fundamental than the other...

Very true. Humans are far from the strongest animal on the planet, yet they are the dominant, thanks to their intelligence.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:16 AM on December 9, 2009


It really is about physical strength, which really is the most important thing in life, whether we secretly value it or not.

Who's going to tell Stephen Hawking?
posted by zamboni at 8:14 AM on December 9, 2009


Also, the idea that strength is self-evidently the most important thing because, "A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong" seems more than a little silly to me. A poor man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were rich -- is money "the most important thing" then as well? Vorfeed might think he's talking about physical strength, but he's not -- he's talking about mastery, which applies to purely intellectual pursuits as much as anything he mentions, and the same thing Rollins was getting at, only less myopically.
posted by Amanojaku at 12:56 PM on December 9, 2009


Also, the idea that strength is self-evidently the most important thing because, "A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong" seems more than a little silly to me.

You're right. It's not self-evident. It's really an insight that depends on experience.

Squat three days a week for three months, increasing the weight by five pounds every session and you'll know exactly what he's talking about.

Having a stronger body improves your mood exponentially.
posted by jason's_planet at 1:01 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


“A vision of a world where "physical strength is the most important thing" horrifies and terrifies me…I feel it likely many people who believe in that statement have been either victims to, or wielders of, physical strength, possibly both. … I am addressing the contention that weight-lifting strength is most important, and that everybody secretly values it…”

Not much room for augment if we’re taking the statements purely literally. I completely disagree with that perspective. And I agree with the statements on biology – hell, endorphins alone radically alter your mental outlook. I’ve pushed my mind and body to their limits separately and in concert. While the work I did mentally was productive and satisfying it did not have the effect on my body that physical effort had on my mind. Taking them as one piece – the body must be exercised in order to enhance clarity of thought. There is little the mind can do without physical effort. Indeed, I’ve stayed awake for very long hours, it’s not possible to do this without some physical response/effort/coordination.

“‘It really is about physical strength, which really is the most important thing in life, whether we secretly value it or not.’
“‘Who's going to tell Stephen Hawking?’ “

Totally. Now there’s a guy who’s much much happier being nearly completely paralyzed and requiring great effort simply to communicate. It’s not like he loved running as a child and riding horses with other kids or was on the rowing team in college or anything. No chance he was a wild man before he became this icon. No, he pretty much sat around all day wishing he had some excuse to sit around all day not moving at all. Yeah, he’s a weak man who’s much happier, y’know, being in a wheelchair than he would ever be if he had the strength to, y’know, walk.

If we’re speaking literally I will say – it wasn’t gym rats who invented the atomic bomb. Nerve agents like sarin, I’m pretty sure it was a series of scientists who invented mustard gas. Matter of fact chemist Albert Niemann worked on that and helped bring us cocaine as well. Pharmaceutical ceo George Merck was the first director of the biological warfare program at Ft. Detrick – pretty sure he didn’t pump iron all through high school.
So if we’re talking violence, yeah, I’m pretty sure the world would be better off with purely interpersonal violence predicated on physical strength than the 1,001 ways people have come up with to destroy everyone on the planet.

But no, it’s pretty much a statement on the mental and emotional (and obvious physical benefits of physical activity. One of which being increased confidence (and resulting increased mastery), and there’s a lot of bean plating in terms of word choice here and I suspect that fixation is by design.

That some folks see this piece as antagonistic only points to their desire to somehow assert some mental superiority as perhaps a way of assuaging feelings of inferiority or guilt over not meeting one’s own self-image in terms of capability.
I have seen this a number of times in reaction to my own physical presence. People assume I’m stupid. It ceased to bother me when I realized that it was more about their own self-doubt than anything to do with me personally. (I’ve been told I have a somewhat commanding but kind face and look nothing like a fool.)

Indeed, assert there is something more to exercise than narcissism and some infantile urge to dominate (as opposed to the far more sophisticated urge to utterly destroy the countryside) or God forbid, because it might make you happier, and you get this massive resistance.

I like playing chess. But it seems I get called a potzer and every other passive aggressive b.s. game that goes on, but that’s not competitive or hurtful because y’know, it’s mental. Gimme a break. For me it’s recreation and some simple mental training to keep my wits sharp. I’m never going to be a grandmaster. But I catch more aggressive bullshit from chess players than I’ve ever caught in the gym.

That applies to gamers as well. I have played some Left for Dead online. Guh, that’s been mostly lousy experience. Buddy of my cousin kept harping on how he beat me in Call of Duty (whatever the latest one is), even though I’m a vet. (Because yah, it’s just like war).
So this intellectual pursuit mastery – not so much. I’ve hung out with engineers.
Although I do like all the physicists and mathematicians I’ve met. They seem pretty laid back. Of course, I met them in the gym.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:53 PM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Amongst a growing list of things we can now say Metafilter doesn't do allegory very well.
posted by tkchrist at 2:10 PM on December 9, 2009


Vorfeed might think he's talking about physical strength, but he's not -- he's talking about mastery, which applies to purely intellectual pursuits as much as anything he mentions, and the same thing Rollins was getting at, only less myopically.

I pointed out another Rippetoe quote above, one which makes it clear that he is actually, seriously talking about physical strength, as defined as the ability to move the body under load.

I don't get what it is about this quote that causes so many people to read in wildly different things for "physical strength", as if that were somehow an ambiguous phrase.
posted by vorfeed at 3:47 PM on December 9, 2009


The Rippetoe quote isn't abridged, is it? Some people seem to be reading it as "physical strength, which really is the most important thing [for contributing to general happiness and well being]", while others read it as "physical strength, which really is the most important thing in life [and is the point of life, other pursuits or goals being less important or worthy]". I can see my way clear to understanding the first, but not the second.

If I put in hundreds of hours at the gym, then that's clearly important to me, and achieving the difficult goals I set will be satisfying. (There's also the associated health benefits.) It doesn't necessarily follow that exercise has the same priority for other folks. There's probably some cognitive dissonance on both sides - the value of the thing you spend a large amount of time and effort doing is reinforced by the expenditure of said time and effort.

Physical strength is a good thing. It's not the most important thing for living my life the way I want to live it.
posted by zamboni at 4:31 PM on December 9, 2009


The Rippetoe quote isn't abridged, is it?

Yes, it is (as I clearly noted with the ellipsis in my original post), but not in a misleading way. Here's the entire opening paragraph from Starting Strength, 2nd ed., typed by yours truly:

"Physical strength is the most important thing in life. This is true whether we want it to be or not. As humanity has developed throughout history, physical strength has become less critical to our daily existence, but no less important to our lives. Our strength, more than any other thing we possess, still determines the quality and quantity of our time here in these bodies. Whereas previously our physical strength determined how much food we ate and how warm and dry we stayed, it now merely determines how well we function in these new surroundings we have crafted for ourselves as our culture has accumulated. But we are still animals -- our physical existence is, in the final analysis, the only one which actually matters. A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong. This reality is offensive to some people who would like the intellectual or spiritual to take precedence. It is instructive to see what happens to these very people as their squat strength goes up."

This is the first paragraph in the book, and for good reason. Rippetoe goes on to explain in more detail -- anybody who wants more clarification should buy the book or read the first chapter on Amazon (this paragraph is at the top of the first sample page after the Contents).
posted by vorfeed at 5:19 PM on December 9, 2009


You're right. It's not self-evident. It's really an insight that depends on experience.

Squat three days a week for three months, increasing the weight by five pounds every session and you'll know exactly what he's talking about.


That was poorly phrased on my part. I wasn't saying that "people become happy as they exercise" was being treated as self-evident; no argument there. I was saying that "strength is the most important thing in life because it makes you happy" was being treated as self-evident.

There are tons of things that can have transformative effects on your mood, and the idea that one of them is actually objectively more important than the others is a good example of mistaking anecdote for data. Maybe physical strength is the most important thing in life to Rippetoe, but not everybody has the same priorities. It's just that basic.

The argument is "A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong." True. But so what? Again, I say a poor man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were rich. An ugly man is not as happy as he would be if he were handsome. And so on.

Everybody would love to be buff, rich, attractive, geniuses. But most people aren't, and only one of those things is comparatively easy to change, particularly without any kind of external support -- you don't need the stock market or plastic surgery or books to start doing push-ups (or the beloved burpees) right now. That aspect makes it mighty appealing to a lot of people. But mistaking that for objective value is foolish.

I pointed out another Rippetoe quote above, one which makes it clear that he is actually, seriously talking about physical strength, as defined as the ability to move the body under load.

I don't get what it is about this quote that causes so many people to read in wildly different things for "physical strength", as if that were somehow an ambiguous phrase.


Two points. First, I totally mistyped when I wrote "Vorfeed" -- I meant to write "Rippetoe." Sorry 'bout that. Second, I get that he thinks he's talking about literal, non-abstract, muscle-mass related activity. But that's baloney, for the reasons I went into above. I think he's sniffing around something deeper (and possibly true), but doesn't really understand that it's not solely the province of the area in which he first encountered it.

If he meant it in a more abstract way, such as "the ability to move the body under load," then I'd suggest that traits like the ability to metabolize oxygen might also be on the list of "things that might be most important in life," but at that point, it's not really something that most people are going to worry much about, is it? It's a bit like saying the most important thing in life is physically existing.

He might also simply mean that health is the most important thing in life, and exercise is an important part of that ... but they're all quotes about "strength," not "the importance of regular cancer screenings." So what we're left with is a bunch of stuff that seems like transparent nonsense to me, frankly.

On preview: I'll definitely read that first chapter at least, because I know full well how hard it is to suss out a nuanced position from a small snippet of material. Thanks, Vorfeed.
posted by Amanojaku at 5:43 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The argument is "A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong." True. But so what? Again, I say a poor man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were rich. An ugly man is not as happy as he would be if he were handsome. And so on.

This is not an ego-based phenomenon we're talking about here, where you consciously take stock of your good qualities, add those qualities to your self-image and experience an increase in self-esteem as a result. "I have shitloads of money in the bank/a six hundred pound squat/a body that inspires members of the appropriate sex to make complete asses of themselves to get my attention/ a genius-level IQ, therefore I am awesome."

No, this is a more pre-verbal sense of happiness and well-being and it's rooted in using your body the way it was meant to be used. It's a little hard to convey that to people who haven't experienced it themselves or, for that matter, to people who associate physical strength with brutishness and domination.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:01 PM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


“So what we're left with is a bunch of stuff that seems like transparent nonsense to me, frankly.”
Look, lift some weight for a little bit, grow some muscle – your metabolic rate goes up your body produces more ‘happy’ chemicals, your brain sends out more ‘feel good’ juice and your circulation improves and, among other things, you think more clearly …

Making a million dollars or having plastic surgery isn’t going to do any of that for you. It makes you happy in a biologically certain, intrinsically good way. Not in an externalized goal sort of way. But indeed, you can learn to lift weights and produce that good as a certainty in your physical being in a way no other act can. You can do everything right and still wind up poor. You can groom well and still be ugly. You can learn to be Mr. Charisma and still strike out with women. But if you learn to lift properly – you will get stronger and you will receive all those physical benefits.
And again - yeah, he is saying the most important thing in life is physically existing - because that's how you exist. The debate is all swell in the abstract, but it's not an abstract sort of concept. Ever run? Ever felt good afterwards? Why? You didn't accomplish anything. You didn't win anything.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:29 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I popped a pill that did this, would I be just as happy as if I'd exercised? Are people with that gene 40% happier than those who aren't?
posted by zamboni at 5:05 AM on December 10, 2009


Being physically stronger will make you happier. This is a statement with which I agree.

How do you get stronger? Slowly and progressively increasing the amount you lift. Strength training is an activity that has a strictly defined metric for improvement: weight lifted. When you go to the gym and move more weight than last time, you will feel accomplished. You did something hard and succeeded. Sure, strength training isn't the only way to accomplish this but strength training is one activity that has a lot of carry over to your daily life. You will notice improvements in many other aspects of your life from strength training. Moving furniture or carrying your groceries gets easier. Your back doesn't hurt as much from sitting at the office all day. Stairs won't leave you sweaty and winded. Hell, sex when I'm in shape is a lot more enjoyable than sex when I'm out of shape. Being strong is a very general thing and will have an impact on a greater number of activities than, say, becoming a C guru or even sport-specific things like becoming a great fencer.

Physical strength being the most important thing? This is something I disagree with Rippetoe on. It's the interplay between your physical and mental being that is important; if one is lacking you'll notice it in the other and I think that everyone has some happy balance between the two. However, you'll never find it if you don't at least give some consideration to both.
posted by Loto at 6:49 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I popped a pill that did this, would I be just as happy as if I'd exercised? Are people with that gene 40% happier than those who aren't?

I'm sorry, can you re-phrase that in role-playing terms?

If you're asking: "would you be happier with Gauntlets of Ogre Power" then the answer is definitely: yes.
But if you're asking: "would you be happier with a Girdle of (any) Giant Strength" then possibly not. The guantlets give you bulk as well as strength, you see. You're liable to hurt yourself with one of those girdles (ironically).

Also: I second everything Loto just said. I'll add: lack of exercise makes me feel like I've dropped 10-15 points of IQ. Mental activity without exercise not only leaves me feeling unbalanced, but seems to rob me of the ability to reach my potential mentally, as well. I can feel it distinctly at work. It's not just distraction from restlessness -- though there's that, too.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:49 AM on December 10, 2009


If we are just going to pick physical attributes out of a grab bag and proclaim it as the one we want most, I'd probably go for speed over strength nine times out of ten.
And ffs people, if Rippetoe is your only reference for weightlifting maybe you should read a bit more like: Zatsiorsky, Bompa, Simmons, Cosgrove, Poliquin, Thibaudeau, Boyle, or Cressey.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:14 AM on December 11, 2009


Don't forget Dave Tate and Dan John, two of my favorites.
posted by Loto at 5:19 AM on December 11, 2009


And ffs people, if Rippetoe is your only reference for weightlifting maybe you should read a bit more like: Zatsiorsky, Bompa, Simmons, Cosgrove, Poliquin, Thibaudeau, Boyle, or Cressey.

And maybe you could do some FPPs!
posted by jason's_planet at 11:00 AM on December 11, 2009


If we are just going to pick physical attributes out of a grab bag and proclaim it as the one we want most, I'd probably go for speed over strength nine times out of ten.
And ffs people, if Rippetoe is your only reference for weightlifting maybe you should read a bit more like: Zatsiorsky, Bompa, Simmons, Cosgrove, Poliquin, Thibaudeau, Boyle, or Cressey.


"ffs people", if you still think this is about "picking physical attributes out of a grab bag and proclaiming it as the one we want most", even after everything I've said here, then maybe you should read a bit more... of the thread.

Thanks for the links; no thanks for the condescending bullshit.
posted by vorfeed at 11:20 AM on December 11, 2009


And maybe you could do some FPPs!

To be clear I don't have a problem with your fpp, the article or Rippetoe. I do take a certain umbrage with the fact that some *people around here who a) link to Rippetoe's books so much that it seems as if they're selling it themselves b) don't link to free articles by the coach or about his techniques and/or c) don't have a viewpoint out of that particular coaches choice of training.

So, no, I'm not going to do an fpp selling books for these coaches and it should take people all of a couple of minutes to find free articles on what they're talking about; and I'm talking free as in you don't have to do anything illegal for it.
That said let's do some proper linking: Dave Tate, Dan John, Ian King, Pavel Tsatsouline and any of those previous names should be perfectly google-able for info.

Thanks for the links; no thanks for the condescending bullshit.

Well I don't know if I was the only one being condescending here, but based upon what you said I would flat out disagree that physical strength is the most important thing. That is assuming a base level to any and all attributes and also assuming we could parse through different physiological and neuromuscular factors. And that we have specifics on the instances of usage to importance.

*not calling out anybody specific here, but there are some people who link the fuck out of his book -coughcough- on Metafilter
posted by P.o.B. at 11:56 AM on December 11, 2009


I do take a certain umbrage with the fact that some *people around here who a) link to Rippetoe's books so much that it seems as if they're selling it themselves b) don't link to free articles by the coach or about his techniques and/or c) don't have a viewpoint out of that particular coaches choice of training.

I can only speak for myself: I often link to Starting Strength because I think it's the best beginning weightlifting book I've seen, and is cheap compared to most other books of similar quality (note that all but three of the eight books you linked to are at least a third more expensive). I fully intend to keep linking to it, PepsiBlue or not, because I think it's a great book which is ideal for people thinking about starting out with weightlifting, and that applies to many of the people on mefi.

As for "not having a viewpoint out of that particular coaches choice of training", I quote Rippetoe on this because I think he's correct. There are plenty of issues where I think other trainers may be more correct (f.ex. lifters should definitely plan to get another book for the intermediate/advanced stage, and his strong dislike of everything from soymilk to supplemental/isolation exercises can also be taken with a big grain of salt depending on personal preference), but I think this particular quote has a lot of truth to it... and more than that, I find it quite inspiring in my own life, which was the original point of the thread.

Well I don't know if I was the only one being condescending here, but based upon what you said I would flat out disagree that physical strength is the most important thing. That is assuming a base level to any and all attributes and also assuming we could parse through different physiological and neuromuscular factors. And that we have specifics on the instances of usage to importance.

Again, I think you may be mistaking Rippetoe's quote for some sort of qualitative comparison between different "attributes". I don't think that's what he means at all, as I said above. Physical strength (defined as "the ability to move the body under load") is called into service whenever we act, which is precisely why it's so important. He's not saying "physical strength is better than speed, so it's more important", he's saying "physical strength affects speed and all other human attributes, so it's more important". Reading the chapter in question makes it pretty clear that this is an evolutionary and physiological argument, not just "rah rah strength is the best".

At any rate, you're free to disagree. Sorry if you found me condescending as well... but I'll admit that I did take "a certain umbrage" because you came in late to the thread, implied I was poorly-read, and then didn't bother to provide a nuanced argument as to why I was wrong.
posted by vorfeed at 1:03 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe you could try to point people to free resources to get them started? Just a thought because like I said there is a shit ton of information about working out and people should be able to get it virtually free and shouldn't have to pay. Nor do I think Metafilter should be a shill for Rippetoe. Or just link away, I don't really care that much. I just wouldn't mind seeing it in more appropiate places instead of every single question or post that has to do with working out.

Again, I think you may be mistaking Rippetoe's quote for some sort of qualitative comparison between different "attributes". I don't think that's what he means at all, as I said above. Physical strength (defined as "the ability to move the body under load") is called into service whenever we act, which is precisely why it's so important. He's not saying "physical strength is better than speed, so it's more important", he's saying "physical strength affects speed and all other human attributes, so it's more important". Reading the chapter in question makes it pretty clear that this is an evolutionary and physiological argument, not just "rah rah strength is the best".

I don't think you're being specific, and you actually are conflating multiple ideas, but... see this is where I get conflicted because I could be really specific and make a nice long & informed Smedlyman post with point by point reasoning but I don't think I'll see a return on that when you simply could just be a bit more specific about what instances you're talking about. If you are just stating that strength = "the ability to move the body under load" then I would say that is a vastly simplified idea which doesn't have much traction outside of that statement. Lot's of things come into play every single time we physically act, soooo...*shrug* I don't know...it's kind of like saying "Hot damn, I'm glad I have a Central Nervous System!"

because you came in late to the thread, implied I was poorly-read, and then didn't bother to provide a nuanced argument as to why I was wrong.

Didn't know I was supposed to come in early to insert my own opinion.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:30 PM on December 11, 2009


Maybe you could try to point people to free resources to get them started?

I already linked to the Amazon page where you can read the short chapter in question in its entirety, for free, right after I linked to where you can buy the book. The topic of discussion is this particular quote, not Rippetoe's program in general, so I don't see what more you want me to have done.

Just a thought because like I said there is a shit ton of information about working out and people should be able to get it virtually free and shouldn't have to pay. Nor do I think Metafilter should be a shill for Rippetoe.

If the equivalent of Starting Strength were on the web for free, I'd certainly link to it. To my knowledge, it's not. Yes, there's "a shit ton of information about working out", but there's something to be said for a book that concentrates on just a few effective exercises and explains them entirely.

Rippetoe wrote 60 pages on the squat, 40 each on the bench press, power clean, and deadlift, and 20 on the press. The equivalent on most websites is one page for each exercise. For a beginner who does not know the right way to do these exercises, this level of walk-you-through-the-proper-form detail is more than worth $30, because you're not going to find it in a concise, collated format on the web. And we're not talking Amway, here -- it's just a book, one which isn't particularly expensive. Personally, I have zero qualms in linking to it and recommending that people buy it. An honest, personal recommendation of something that's actually good has nothing to do with PepsiBlue.

Free information is fine, but there are some things that are worth the money, and part of the point of this website is separating the wheat from the chaff. People recommend books all the time on mefi, so I'm not sure what the problem is.

see this is where I get conflicted because I could be really specific and make a nice long & informed Smedlyman post with point by point reasoning but I don't think I'll see a return on that when you simply could just be a bit more specific about what instances you're talking about. If you are just stating that strength = "the ability to move the body under load" then I would say that is a vastly simplified idea which doesn't have much traction outside of that statement.

I've made posts here, here, and here which lay out what I mean, in specifics. And like I said in my last post, "reading the chapter in question (which I linked to, for free) makes it pretty clear that this is an evolutionary and physiological argument". At this point, you're asking me to repeat myself and/or type in the entire chapter for you... and I'm sure not going to bother if you're "conflicted" about "seeing a return" on making an argument in support of your opinion.

In short, it's not that you "have to come in early to insert your own opinion", it's that you come off as either not having read the rest of the thread or not being willing to address what's already been said.
posted by vorfeed at 7:44 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


An honest, personal recommendation of something that's actually good has nothing to do with PepsiBlue.

Oh, jeez. I could make the same exact argument you are making for any worthwhile product, and what you're trying to assert is some kind of okayness for marketing that you believe in. That conversation belongs in Meta, and I don't care right now. Although, I just may at some point, but have at it. Speaking of, congratulations on you're third (or fourth?) link to the same damn book in one thread though. *thumbsup*

In short, it's not that you "have to come in early to insert your own opinion", it's that you come off as either not having read the rest of the thread or not being willing to address what's already been said.

No, I've read and reread what you've said and "you come off" as pretty wobbly on the specifics so let's leave it and you can keep believing unquantifiable "physical strength" is intrinsically topmost to human beings.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:23 PM on December 11, 2009


At the sake of dredging up a stupid argument where somebody wanted to sell a book rather than discuss, I had time to think about it and I'd should point leave one (or two) links to refute the stupid noise:
Muscle power is a better predictor of mortality than strength.

Oh, and the bs about quality of said book and whether you can freely find the info is completely lame, given the fact I offered up more than a few links to quality material. Not to mention the site the fpp'd article is linked from.

*grind*grind*grind*
posted by P.o.B. at 6:05 PM on December 22, 2009


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