Everything You Know About Fitness is a Lie
January 27, 2011 2:54 PM   Subscribe

Everything You Know About Fitness is a Lie
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko (115 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite

 
Anyone else immediately think, "Where can I get me a human-sized hamster wheel?"
posted by dhartung at 2:57 PM on January 27, 2011 [24 favorites]


this comment is a lie
posted by wayofthedodo at 2:58 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


You’ve seen it a hundred times — the same thing I saw upon walking into my first brand-name franchise gym: roughly 5 percent taken up by free weights; 5 percent by stretching areas; 50 percent by cardio machines; 50 percent by weight machines.

This guy works out in a TARDIS? Awesome!

Human-sized hamster wheels are cool!
posted by maudlin at 2:59 PM on January 27, 2011 [17 favorites]


Everything you Know About Fitness is a Lie

Including this.
posted by Faze at 3:01 PM on January 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


I find amusing his assumption that I make three weekly trips to the gym.
posted by Scattercat at 3:03 PM on January 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


Awesome! I guess I'll start going on yo-yo diets and get one of those Bowflex machines. Fitness, here I come!
posted by ODiV at 3:03 PM on January 27, 2011


strong, capable, and durable in the long-lasting way that doesn’t just ward off chronic disease but actually lets a 35-year-old desk drone carry both of his laughing children up a mountain, simultaneously, and take on serious skiing at age 40, trusting his knees to bend deep and firm.
I thought that current research shows that no matter how much a desk drone exercises, he is at an increased risk for all kinds of "unfit" diseases... so forgive me if I read this article with a large helping of salt.
posted by muddgirl at 3:03 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


The link did nit work for me, dropped me instead
of taking me to the article.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 3:04 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not too much salt, muddgirl.
posted by ODiV at 3:04 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, duh? Of course strength is essential to fitness.
posted by gjc at 3:05 PM on January 27, 2011


being told I was unfit to bench-press by the 1999 Mr. Olympia

The 1999 Mr. Olympia, bench-pressing.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:06 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


For me, everything gets back to being on my bike. I'm either on it throughout the warm months and in really good shape as a result, or it's the winter and I'm switching to something else to generally maintain my cardio levels, or at least keep them from going completely to hell. That, and I want that million-meter T-shirt from Concept2. After that, I might switch to swimming or something.

The warm-weather riding is to get ready for the end-of-season century, and that's pretty much it.

It's all a means to an end, the end (for me) being a successful completion of the long ride in a personally acceptable time. Don't get me wrong - having just turned 40, I thoroughly appreciate the health benefits. Without a specific focus though, I'd have burned out and stopped giving a shit a long time ago.
posted by jquinby at 3:06 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this is just the old "Lift weights! It's better than anything else in the universe!" articles, but like 5 pages longer than it needs to be.
posted by muddgirl at 3:06 PM on January 27, 2011 [31 favorites]


Moronic contrarianism is moronic. Film at 11.
posted by delmoi at 3:07 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Exercise and dieting is certainly one thing I am ignorant on. I run a 2-3 times a week, but I do not really pay attention to my diet. I don't feast on pizza every day, but if I want something I don't really pay any mind to it's health concerns.

When I started running on a regular basis I did some online research and had some casual conversations about dieting with people I know and I was fed so much information that I didn't know who was right and who was wrong. They all may have been right, but I had so many different diet suggestions that it was unreal.

Instead, I decided I'll just run and continue eating and we'll see what happens down the road.
posted by CancerStick at 3:08 PM on January 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


What about the cake?
posted by Mr. Palomar at 3:09 PM on January 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


The reason we keep getting inconclusive results on warmups and stretching is that there are right and wrong ways to warm up and stretch and all of it is specific to the type of exercise or activity you're going to be doing.

Things that are good for one sport only increase your injury for another sport. But it's a lot easier to tell people to do a bunch of jumping jacks and the same set of stretches for everything.
posted by yeloson at 3:11 PM on January 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's because Jack Lallane died this week, the last honest strongman. After his death all that is left is lies.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:12 PM on January 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Everything I know about everything is a lie. The internet has not fixed that.
posted by The World Famous at 3:13 PM on January 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


Moronic contrarianism is moronic.

No it isn't.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:14 PM on January 27, 2011 [31 favorites]


All you need is a bench, mat, chin up bar, and the weight of your own body.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:22 PM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Everything you know about moronic contrarianism is a lie.
posted by wayofthedodo at 3:23 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Did I miss the part where the article mentioned oats?
posted by adipocere at 3:24 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


tl;dr - you should be doing squats.
posted by GuyZero at 3:24 PM on January 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


Everything you know is a scaled-down and filtered approximation of a rapidly vibrating high energy unknowable multi-dimensional pulsating love machine.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:25 PM on January 27, 2011 [29 favorites]


I appreciated the image on page 5 demonstrating exercises to prevent injuries.
posted by cyphill at 3:28 PM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I just do 10 pushups every other day.

On a dwarf star.
posted by everichon at 3:33 PM on January 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


Lies are the words that I use when you look at me hopefully.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 3:33 PM on January 27, 2011 [12 favorites]


Years ago I had a fireman friend who on the side taught body building (shaped build; not strength stuff), and he seemed in fine shape. One day at the YMCA he met me running on the track. We talked and he said that he needed a different type of training to accompany what he did because he had to climb ladders and that meant building heart and lungs--aerobic stuff--in addition to strength training.
posted by Postroad at 3:34 PM on January 27, 2011


So what are the flaws in this article? I'd prefer citations, but at least articulating what's correct where this is wrong would be interesting.

Sure I could summarize it more quickly than 5 pages, but seems pretty much spot on: Limited numbers of sets where you go to failure using exercises that span more than one joint are best for muscle strength however you define it. 20 minutes x 3 of cardio takes care of that, and it can come in a lot of different and interesting forms. A simple balanced diet of an appropriate caloric intake is best.

Sure it may be basic, but he's correct that most people don't understand the basics. Otherwise you wouldn't see all of these "Do 100 push-ups in 7 weeks" posts around the web or the endless stream of fancy new work-out equipment pushing the target fat loss lie.
posted by betaray at 3:35 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm mainly happy about this article being posted for its potential value in starting a flamewar that goads Optimus Chyme into rejoining metafilter. I KNOW YOU'RE READING THIS, MISTER SQUATS
posted by Greg Nog at 3:37 PM on January 27, 2011 [33 favorites]


somewhat related previous post linking to Henry Rollins essay about weightlifting.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:38 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ballet. Look at the old dancers, they just don't get old. Take a ballet technique class each day and maybe an extra bar or two. That's it.
posted by sammyo at 3:43 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait guys, I think LOCAL MOM is on to something this time. We owe it to her after that ONE WEIRD TIP incident.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:44 PM on January 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


The best exercise is the one that you will DO.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:47 PM on January 27, 2011 [18 favorites]


Moronic contrarianism is moronic.

The worst part about it is isn't even contrarianism! It's common sense to anyone who actually exercises, even casually. This article gives contrarianism a bad name.

Also, he disses CrossFit in the lede, then pretty much describes everything that CrossFit does as the "right" kind of exercise through the rest of the piece. Lame.
posted by auto-correct at 3:54 PM on January 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm mainly happy about this article being posted for its potential value in starting a flamewar that goads Optimus Chyme into rejoining metafilter.

To contribute, I will post about the importance of ingesting lots of carbohydrates to ensure weight loss.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:55 PM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


This bit rings true for me:
Commercial health clubs need about 10 times as many members as their facilities can handle, so designing them for athletes, or even aspiring athletes, makes no sense. Fitness fanatics work out too much, making every potential new member think, Nah, this place looks too crowded for me. The winning marketing strategy, according to Recreation Management Magazine, a health club–industry trade rag, focuses strictly on luring in the “out-of-shape public,” meaning all of those people whose doctors have told them, “About 20 minutes three times a week,” who won’t come often if ever, and who definitely won’t join unless everything looks easy, available, and safe. The entire gym, from soup to nuts, has been designed around getting suckers to sign up, and then getting them mildly, vaguely exercised every once in a long while, and then getting them out the door.
posted by memebake at 3:55 PM on January 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


I used to go to a gym somewhat regularly. Did the whole weight machines, treadmill, step machine, cycle circuit. Sometimes rowing and cross country ski machines too. It certainly felt like a lot of work, but after fix or six years I looked exactly the same as when I started. I was in better shape in a cardio-vascular sense, but only slightly.

That gym is long gone, and these days I don't work out at all. But not having a car means I have to walk everywhere or take the bus. I have to carry every food item back to the house, usually in a backpack, along with everything else we use from toilet paper to light furniture, in every kind of weather. And over the years the stores that sell these things have been gradually relocating to the edge of town, forcing me to take longer and longer trips, usually two or three times a week.

It eats up a lot of time, but I've noticed that I'm in much better shape now then I ever was in those car riding, gym using days. Not a lot of extra muscle, but much more endurance, with a greater ability to carry loads and cover distance. So I guess the moral is that a person's everyday routine counts for a lot more than the time they spend exercising. If you walk it burns more energy than driving, and if you walk longer distances you become more fit.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:56 PM on January 27, 2011 [21 favorites]


For some reason mensjournal.com is blocked at my work.

Re: Stretching. Actually, specifically Re: an article I read not so long ago about how people never stretched in the old days and they were fine so we shouldn't stretch now.

My grandfather and his teammates (he was an almost great sportsman) never stretched and rarely got injured. My uncles (30 years younger) never stretched but their injury rate was lower than today but injuries weren't rare. Everyone I know stretches, and injuries are common.

The difference, we think, is that my grandfather walked everywhere (or jogged to work because it was a little way out of town) and his jobs contained some physical labour; my uncle walked to school and walked to work, and then the bus stop, but his work was mostly office based; and I drove to and from school from the age of 15, and I drive or bus to work, and I sit in an office.

Any exercise I do is well defined in my schedule as exercise. It takes very little physical activity for me to do anything or go anywhere in my day to day life. I work on the 18th floor of a building some miles from home but it might as well be my dining room for all the physical effort it takes me to get here. Our family has a boat. Launching the boat involves holding a rope and pushing a button to lower it from a trailer. My grandfather had a boat that they had to carry the x miles to the harbour.

When it came to exercising, my grandfather was already stretched and ready to go because he'd been stretching and warming up all day.
posted by doublehappy at 4:02 PM on January 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


muddgirl: Yeah, this is just the old "Lift weights! It's better than anything else in the universe!" articles, but like 5 pages longer than it needs to be.

But without those extra 5 pages, we'd never get to really understand Daniel Duane as a person, a real human being. Oh right, this is about fitness, not Mr. Duane. Never mind.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:03 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not that all of these people are lying, but here’s what I’ve learned: Their goals are only marginally related to real fitness — goals like reducing the statistical incidence of heart disease across the entire American population

Not dying is apparently part of that "fake fitness" you've been hearing so much about.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 4:11 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not dying is apparently part of that "fake fitness" you've been hearing so much about.

The point he was trying to make here (admittedly poorly) was that the gyms seemingly have no interest in actually getting people to lose weight, increase strength, look better. While reducing heart disease is an admirable goal, it's not what they are selling.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:14 PM on January 27, 2011


Everything I know about everything is a lie. The internet has not fixed that.

What the internet has fixed is the sheer quantity of lies within easy reach.

I used to go to a gym somewhat regularly. Did the whole weight machines, treadmill, step machine, cycle circuit. Sometimes rowing and cross country ski machines too. It certainly felt like a lot of work, but after fix or six years I looked exactly the same as when I started. I was in better shape in a cardio-vascular sense, but only slightly.

I went to the gym 5 or 6 times a week for a year and I lost six stone, YMMV ;)

I think the problem is that people's bodies respond in different ways, and people's attitude and motivations are even more different, there is never going to be a single, over-arching answer to the question "How can I get fit?"
posted by robertc at 4:19 PM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm just glad that the author never explicitly stated that this is no longer considered to be a useful excersize tool.
posted by palacewalls at 4:19 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


how come credible fitness articles are required to have some kind of sad, misogynist horseshit about weak crying little girls in them? isn't it bad enough just to be weak and out of shape? or do you really have to be weak like a woman?
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:29 PM on January 27, 2011 [25 favorites]


1. A lot of what he's describing is the basic BFS—Bigger Faster Stronger—program I was practically raised on by my high-school coaches. I tried to cobble together my own version of the weight-training portion of it at the community gym I'm (nominally) a member of, but I must say, the free-weight room in an adult gym is a bit more intimidating than the one in a high-school gym... That, plus not having a spotter, plus not having any of the cardio stuff BFS uses (ladder drills, dot drills, jumping boxes, etc.) plus not feeling like changing my clothes twice after work, plus a spate of after-hours freelance gigs, kind of did that in... I've been wishing for a while that there were, say, a local high school doing BFS where I could jump into the program again. Or maybe an independently organized group doing it...

2. I'm getting a stitch in my side—literally—just sitting here on the couch reading this.
posted by limeonaire at 4:40 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ballet. Look at the old dancers, they just don't get old. Take a ballet technique class each day and maybe an extra bar or two. That's it.

It might also have something to do with them unwittingly practicing caloric restriction.
posted by gyc at 4:41 PM on January 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ballet. Look at the old dancers, they just don't get old. Take a ballet technique class each day and maybe an extra bar or two. That's it.

It might also have something to do with them unwittingly practicing caloric restriction.


It might also have something to do with them doing more in terms of physical activity and training each day than just a ballet technique class and maybe an extra bar or two.
posted by The World Famous at 4:49 PM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Take a ballet technique class each day and maybe an extra bar or two. That's it.

OK, I'll go to an extra bar or two starting tonight.
posted by Zed at 4:52 PM on January 27, 2011 [12 favorites]


It's common sense to anyone who actually exercises, even casually.

Common sense isn't very common, unfortunately.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 4:53 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


When I was in high school there was a Brother Melchior who taught the weight training class. He was about 80 years old, and was rather slow and hard of hearing, but he personally coached all the school athletes and you didn't graduate without seeing him for at least six weeks.

His area in the basement of the Middle School building was all free weights. It was all he taught, and he obviously believed in them himself. He typically introduced himself to a new class of freshmen by casually walking up to a barbell loaded with 200 lb or so of weights and picking it up. With one hand.

On more than one occasion he physically subdued fairly athletic 18-year-olds who made the mistake of crossing him. He was also in charge of the two very large German Shepherds who patrolled the school grounds (which included the Brothers' rectory) after dark.

For some reason this article reminds me of Brother Melchior. He's a person who would have no use whatsoever for an elliptical machine, and who at the age of 85 could break your arm if you crossed him. This dude is probably on to something.

Meanwhile, I will ponder this as a I surf the internet and digest the pork chop I just ate.
posted by localroger at 5:05 PM on January 27, 2011 [15 favorites]


Man, I think it's great that people have discovered and love using weights and stuff, but fuck this exercise fascism pisses me off to no end.

Who gives a shit how are people are exercising? Or why? Or if they're doing it "wrong"? You don't know them, you don't know what they like. Why do you care so much? Far out, man, not everybody's at the gym for the same reason, earth-shattering, I know.

It would be like a 5 page article talking about how wood-fired pizzas of stoneground flour are the only way to enjoy pizza, and everyone should eat that, and nothing else, and if they do eat some other kind of pizza, they are weak, stupid or ignorant. I mean, those pizzas are delicious, but fuck man, sometimes you just feel like Dominos you know? No need to get on everyone's case about it.

Given the majority of America - and Australia, too - has trouble with any frigging exercise at all, I don't think being an arsehole about it is especially helpful. And I say all this as someone who uses squattish weights programs myself. God, it's as irritating as pro-lifers and libertarians "educating" you.
posted by smoke at 5:06 PM on January 27, 2011 [19 favorites]


Reading all that really wore me out.

I think I'll go take a nap.
posted by bwg at 5:14 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be fair, I guess it is Men's Health - the irony being every issue is jam-packed with the kind of advice this piece completely derides. But still, this whole movement - and so many fitness movements - seem to be about being superior to something: other fitness styles, other people etc. You can feel good about yourself without taking someone else down.
posted by smoke at 5:21 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't read the article that way at all, smoke, and that certainly wasn't what was in my mind when I posted it. I think it's about telling people who feel lost in the sea of fancy-sounding BS pumped out by the fitness industry, or feel frustrated by the lack of results they get from their routine despite their best efforts, that they've been sold a false bill of goods. As the article points out, modern gyms prey on people's ignorance for their own profit. If everyone already knew this stuff, the whole situation would be different.

I read the essay as a concise, clear attempt to cut through the nonsense and tell people there might be a more efficient way to do things that doesn't require paying a personal trainer, learning a million different exercises, using a whole lot of equipment, or spending hour after hour in the gym. It seems like an encouraging message to me and I thought some people would find it useful. I sure wish I had known this stuff when I was younger.

And I also found it surprising and encouraging to see this in what seems to me to be a mainstream magazine.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 5:27 PM on January 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


. I think it's about telling people who feel lost in the sea of fancy-sounding BS pumped out by the fitness industry,

I don't know - maybe I'm making some bad assumptions about the demographics of guys who read Men's Health, but I'm sure most of them have heard of the internet, and therefore have probably heard recommendations for Starting Strength. There's no reason for the author to pretend that he's preachin' something heretical or counter-cultural. I think that tone of "These are the fitness secrets they don't want you to know" that most of us critical Mefites are responding to.
posted by muddgirl at 5:32 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Great, yet another article about how one's fitness regime isn't hardcore enough...

One perspective (among many) that seems to be totally missing from this article is that people do fitness with differing goals. Frankly, I don't care that much about physical strength, as I never have to lift more than about 50 lbs, and if I were to start carrying my kids up a mountain, they'd be terrified, not laughing.

And as someone with an artificial hip, squatting is not going to be a big part of my resistance training, thanks.

I've been doing cardio and cybex resistance training for about 40 days now, and I'm starting to lose weight, I'm more flexible, I'm walking better (and faster), etc., etc.

Agreed that one doesn't need a complicated regime or, in most cases, a personal trainer. Otherwise, meh. And yeah, it is funny coming from Men's Health.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:37 PM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think everyone has heard about Starting Strength. I don't think most people who have read the name "Starting Strength" somewhere on the internet have read the book or attempted the program. And I don't think that the majority of people with gym memberships already know all of the stuff that was in this article, but it might be nice to live in a world where that were true. Besides, books cost money and Starting Strength is 320 pages -- this article is 6 pages and free.

Also this was from Men's Journal, not Men's Health.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 5:41 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


well anatoly, I thought it was a good article, and not saying something that's entirely 100 percent obvious to everyone, so while mefites can't ever help but snark, I found it interesting and potentially useful. Thanks.
posted by wilful at 6:23 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Great, yet another article about how one's fitness regime isn't hardcore enough...

Yep, and unsurprisingly this is about SS and less about fitness *ahem* "lies".
posted by P.o.B. at 6:24 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everything you know is a lie, but everything this guy says is the God's Honest Gospel. Glad we got that mess tidied up.

Perhaps the real answer is that what you do to improve your fitness depends on your goals and your starting point. Maybe you want to build muscle strength; maybe you want to run a marathon. Maybe you want to be able to chase your kids at the park. Adjust your training to meet your personal goals. And then stop reading articles that try to guilt trip you into believing that their way is the only way.
posted by 26.2 at 6:24 PM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think everyone has heard about Starting Strength.

They definitely aren't mefi readers then, lol. It seems there's some SS missionaries in every thread even close to mentioning weights or gyms these days.
posted by smoke at 6:46 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess I must be dense or clueless because I'd never heard of SS up till now. I'd like to learn more about it, and my doctor has told me that strength training needs to be in my future plans, so in that sense this article (and this thread) was useful to me. Thanks.
posted by blucevalo at 7:01 PM on January 27, 2011


Just train Brazilian jiu jitsu. Everything else will fall into place.
posted by LordSludge at 7:02 PM on January 27, 2011


He wants to be better at Surfing Ocean beach? I have the perfect workout for him. Surf Ocean Beach more. It'll either get him in the best shape of his life or kill him.
posted by En0rm0 at 7:09 PM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Needs more Shovelglove.
posted by benzenedream at 7:09 PM on January 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ya know how sometimes you learn a new word and then suddenly BAM that word is in every other place you look and you feel like the world really has gone straight Truman Show?

Well this week I began reading Starting Strength (thanks to MetaFilter btw) and then I change my gym to get more in line with it and then THIS article appears here which pretty much falls in line with all of that.

Now if you will excuse me, a studio light seems to have plummeted into the middle of the street outside.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 7:35 PM on January 27, 2011


Just train Brazilian jiu jitsu. Everything else will fall into place.

Except your vertebrae. They will fall out of place.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:43 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Being fit and losing weight are two different things. After two years of being an all-weather bike commuter, I lost... nothing. Not an ounce. I'm still 325+. I don't get winded shoveling heavy snow or trotting up stairs (tho my knees complain) like I did before I got on the bike kick, but that don't put my butt in those size 36 leather jeans like I had hoped.

I suppose I can try strength training, but I'm skeptical, and also easily bored. Riding a bike in the snow is fun. Grunting in a gym is smelly and repetitious and dull and also hurts. I've also had issues with agressive gym-rats in the past - I'm physically strong, with tons of endurance - but flabby and fat, and they see this as an insult, like I have to earn the 35lb dumbbells or something.

I'm beginning to think surgery might be the way to go... bypass or lap-band. It'd be nice if I could snack on a slice of pizza and feel full and happy, rather than, you know, a pizza.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:56 PM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


then THIS article appears here which pretty much falls in line with all of that.

Not for nothing there, there are some people *coughonecough* here who endlessly flog SS so it's not like serendipity or anything but just a matter of time (before you see another FPP about it). That's not to take anything away from the book because it's a great beginner book, but I'm kind of surprised anybody who's interested in weight training and is on Metafilter hasn't heard of it.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:59 PM on January 27, 2011


Being fit and losing weight are two different things.

Definitely. Because it's hard, and I'm lazy, I haven't gotten around to getting a Japanese driver's license. That means, like the post above, that I don't get to drive to the store. I go pretty much everywhere by bicycle, if it's close by, or by train, which then means walking from the station. I'm about 40 pounds overweight, but when my (skinnier, healthier looking) friends came to visit, I took them to Kyoto, which is a great city for walking. There was much grumbling and "Can we take a break" every five or ten minutes. I know I need to lose weight, but at the same time, I know I can walk all day if I need to, and while not fun, biking to and from Costco is completely doable (it's the ride home, with the loaded basket and backpack that sucks).
posted by Ghidorah at 8:39 PM on January 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


One perspective (among many) that seems to be totally missing from this article is that people do fitness with differing goals.

The point is that for most folks getting into fitness, the goals they have are incoherent and proceed from bad assumptions. One of the worst being that the benefits of getting stronger stop and end at the amount of weight you can lift.

Frankly, if you took the most disparate group of people with the most wildly different fitness goals and made them commit to six short months of basic linear progression, they would probably have a HUGE leg up on whatever their original fitness goals were.

Just train Brazilian jiu jitsu. Everything else will fall into place.
BJJ is a full contact martial art with an injury rate much, much higher than weightlifting, which has an injury rate lower than most other athletic activities. I happen to train BJJ at one of the best schools in the US (arguably) and I will admit the conditioning is first rate, but injuries are very, very common: I have gotten banged up a hell of a lot more doing it than weightlifting, which I have been doing four times as long. Incidentally, most of the competitive folks at my school lift and we have a few competitive powerlifters/strongmen (absolute nightmares to roll with).

Here is the thing: weightlifting is not that hardcore. It is easy to go hardcore with it and it is easy to get addicted to being strong and wanting to keep getting stronger, sure, and certainly the meathead macho culture that surrounds it is intimidating, but for health and fitness benefits it is among the safest of activities that are, you know, actually beneficial. Suggesting BJJ/Ballet/Surfing/whatever as more sensible alternatives misses the point entirely.
posted by Theodore Sign at 8:42 PM on January 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also, he disses CrossFit in the lede, then pretty much describes everything that CrossFit does as the "right" kind of exercise through the rest of the piece. Lame.

Sort of, auto-correct, but also kinda not.

He distinctly disses using lots of variety, which is a core precept of CrossFit (hell, it's implied in the name); instead, he emphasizes that four basic exercises are all you need.

However, he also admits later that, without variety, people tend to get bored and drop out.

--

For those complaining that any exercise is better than none, this guy isn't really denying that. What he is saying (as I read him) is that if you really want to move forward, and get better than 'meh'/'ok' in your fitness, time-tested, simple free-weight exercises are the ticket.

This article isn't for someone who wants to lose 5% of their bodyfat. It's for someone who is ready to suffer, in order to convert 10% of their bodyfat into muscle.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:43 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


it all starts with understanding the four basic muscular aptitudes: strength, power, muscle mass, and muscular endurance

This is, basically, the only statement I agreed with in the article. The author then proceeds to show his bias throughout his article: strength.

My goals happen to be endurance, both lower and upper body. Starting Strength has lots of bad advice for me. In fact my upper-arm routine has caused me to build up too much muscle, so I'm considering reducing the weight and increasing the reps. Oh horror of horrors!

If you are into strength, that's great. Just appreciate that there can be other goals too. This article is actually pretty typical of the super-macho Men's Health magazine attitude. I don't think you'd be allowed to write an article telling how to reduce your weight and muscles and so you can improve your endurance. (But heck, isn't that what Lance Armstrong did before winning the Tour de France, any supposed helpful supplements notwithstanding? )
posted by eye of newt at 8:49 PM on January 27, 2011


In fact my upper-arm routine has caused me to build up too much muscle, so I'm considering reducing the weight and increasing the reps.

I hear that's a good way to get toned.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 9:19 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Frankly, if you took the most disparate group of people with the most wildly different fitness goals and made them commit to six short months of basic linear progression, they would probably have a HUGE leg up on whatever their original fitness goals were.

I'd have to disagree with you on that one, and actually this is my pet peeve with people who think weight training starts and ends with that idea. You take anyone who is a casual lifter that's probably true enough, but you could give them a basic linear periodization program or something similiar and it would work just as well.
The point all this becomes bad advice is when you're actually dealing with competitive athletes. Especially if the idea is that all you need to do is make someone strong and everything else falls inline, unfortunately that's not the case and can actually be detrimental to the athlete's abilities.

I hear that's a good way to get toned.

Yeah, we don't want people to get skinnyfat.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:41 PM on January 27, 2011


The article that really opened my eyes and changed my thinking was Is your workout wasting your time? I had been wasting my time, for years. I finally stopped, and it's made all the difference.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:57 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd have to disagree with you on that one, and actually this is my pet peeve with people who think weight training starts and ends with that idea. You take anyone who is a casual lifter that's probably true enough, but you could give them a basic linear periodization program or something similiar and it would work just as well.

Sure, sure, but why confuse the issue? Linear progression is stupid simple and relatively easy for novices to get the hang of. If you are able to weigh the differences between periodization and linear progression and are not just faffing around looking for a "special snowflake" program, then you are not one of the folks who would find the "revelation" of the article very surprising and are not really its target audience.

The point all this becomes bad advice is when you're actually dealing with competitive athletes.

Competitive athletics is not a good source of direct programming advice for the general public, which was the group I was talking about (if that wasn't clear). It is a no-brainer that the demands of a specific sport take precedence over general fitness advice. I reiterate that if you haven't gotten your novice strength gains (which, granted, many athletes will probably get through as they do their sport in a top-down sort of way even if they don't lift), then they should be a priority. After that, go nuts.
posted by Theodore Sign at 10:12 PM on January 27, 2011


my own father, who broke his back in a climbing accident at age 69, spent months in bed, and recovered strong only because he’d been lifting for 35 years.

Ah, but if he hadn't left the house, he wouldn't have broken his back, and therefore, wouldn't have needed to be lifting for 35 years, would he?

Moral: Active living breaks backs.

Check.
Mate.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:39 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I do not need to read this to know that the title is a lie.
posted by Decani at 10:51 PM on January 27, 2011


Ballet. Look at the old dancers, they just don't get old. Take a ballet technique class each day and maybe an extra bar or two. That's it.

Are you fucking nuts!? Have you ever even met an old ballet dancer? Because my aunt used to be a professional dancer (would have been a Rockette but wasn't tall enough) and her body is a mess because of the training they had to undergo. Particularly the legs: knees? shot. ankles? shot. toes? all fucked up. Train like they do in the Bolshoi and you will suffer in your old age, that I can assure you.

As for this article: everything he said is pretty-much spot-on, except the CrossFit dissing at the start. If anything, CrossFit is far more practical and purposeful training than standard weightlifting, though they do throw in a lot of the basic movements as well.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:59 PM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thank you, that was the funniest thing I've read in a long time.

I must confess, I don't know that much about strength training - I dare say the things that the author quotes people as saying are probably true, even down to his "little-girl weakness" - but the article isn't so much about those things as the author's quest to maintain his ability to feel superior to all around him through the use of bluster and elaborate rationalisation, by identifying with a series of bullying gurus, and in that he makes himself look deliciously ridiculous.

It's worth noting that the author does not stop going to the gym - he returns at the end in order to feel superior to everyone else, which is possibly the point of his "journey", more than anything to do with strength training - looking around him at the flabby weaklings and (shudder) women who populate the gym, afraid that he might be turning into one of them, he heads out west to commune with a true macho man in a proper cowboy state, at which point he can come back, read a few books and look down his nose at the milquetoasts and girls in their pastel training clothes.

(If Duane could build it up into a full-length book, he might have the men's Eat Pray Love here. Or alternatively make it into a movie with Will Farrell. Either way: gold.)

Rob Shaul, Louie Simmons and Kevin Brown may well be people with decades of hands-on experience and understanding and insight into the workings of the human body, but Daniel Duane is a journalist who's read a few books, and most of this is Duane diving headfirst into some strange kind of Nitzschian thing. Very, very funny, though.

(I don't have anything against reading books, it's just not really the same thing as years of practical experience, especially in an essentially practical activity.)

I was disappointed to hear about "gorilla-style competitive power lifting" because I was kind of hoping that gorillas were too intelligent to spend their time seeing who could lift up the heaviest object, thinking challenges to the silverback's authority to be relatively rare. But then I don't know that much about gorillas either. Perhaps it means they beat their breasts and bellow before picking the barbells up.

The diagrams look quite informative, though.
posted by Grangousier at 12:18 AM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm just excited that the guy actually used the phrase "from soup to nuts" in an article. I don't believe I have ever seen that written down before except to explain what it means.

I think I could manage to make space in my tiny apartment for a human-sized hamster wheel. And the most important thing I take away from this article is that it would totally be worth it to do so, because that thing looks awesome.
posted by Because at 4:21 AM on January 28, 2011


Being fit and losing weight are two different things.

This suggestion seems to be so deeply ingrained in societal thinking that I believed it myself until recently. I had a friend of mine come along to my gym on a day pass (he's very slender, where I'm still fairly overweight), and we worked out for the evening together. Far from outdoing me on every machine, I was still running, rowing, cross-training and lifting for 2-3 times as long, on higher settings and weights.

When I expressed some polite surprise, he said, "Well, I never work out- I'm really unfit."

"Unfit?" my hindbrain screeched. "But he's thin!"
posted by malusmoriendumest at 4:35 AM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Snark away, and fitness writing is annoying to be sure - but TFA is basically correct. Do the damn squats. With free weights. You will feel better and stronger in two weeks, and feel guilty about it because this is so much less "work" than typical weight machine circuit routines.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 4:37 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


That article may have good info but it was horribly written. Isn't this supposed to be journalism? Didn't this guy get the lecture on day one of journalism class that the the most important information goes at the top? Do they not teach the inverted pyramid outline any more?

On the subject of health clubs, I sometimes go for a free introduction session. Most of the ones around here have big shiny posters advertising local plastic surgeons. They are like those shopping mall clothing stores where all the staff look like fashion models. I am way too ugly to hang out there regularly even if they had the most best perfect equipment to help me get in / stay in shape.
posted by bukvich at 5:30 AM on January 28, 2011


A friend of mine is an N/P. I was reading a book off of his bookshelf about things fathers needed to teach their sons'. One of those things was how to handle yourself around free weights. I mentioned it to him, and he looked embarrassed by the suggestion. Even a little revolted. "But that's for meatheads and guys who use 'roids. I don't want him to know that."

I just nodded at him and I told him it needn't be that way, and asked if he wanted to lift with me. He didn't say yes or no.

And because he's an endocrine specialist, those are the only kind of people he sees that lift weights. Those people have usually destroyed their bodies lifting weights, and whole systems have stopped functioning. That's fair, because it's his data.

Free weights encourage you to always be pushing a little farther. Unless you can control that impulse, you'll get hurt. You may also proselytize and look like a prick, because you'll be pushing a little harder on the people around you.

I really like free weights. I like long runs too, but free weights are big fun.
posted by Arquimedez Pozo at 5:56 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm afraid to read it. Is this article going to kick dirt in my face?
posted by Theta States at 6:05 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


(or maybe it's just a ploy to free up more cardio machines for himself... f you buster, wait in line! momma's not done her 35 minutes yet.)
posted by Theta States at 6:06 AM on January 28, 2011


You take anyone who is a casual lifter that's probably true enough, but you could give them a basic linear periodization program or something similiar and it would work just as well.

That article is about a program for intermediate to advanced competitive powerlifters, which is a far cry from the intended audience of the FPP article. You might as well say that you can teach a child to ride a bicycle, but a Harley Davidson works just as well. The majority of gym-goers don't know how to perform a correct barbell squat. They certainly have no concept of their one rep max, peaking for a competition, or using squat suits, and very very few of them will ever have any reason to.

I think the fact that several people seemed to see this article as being about macho posturing and condescension and reacted defensively to it is very unfortunate, and indicative of the foreignness and suspicion that's still attached to this approach to fitness in the general public consciousness. Sometimes I think that's changing, and for all the criticisms I have of CrossFit (and the author of this article is explicitly not describing CrossFit), it's done a whole lot in the past few years to shine a greater spotlight on this sort of thing. On the other hand, there's the growing popularity of Planet Fitness.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 7:17 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the fact that several people seemed to see this article as being about macho posturing and condescension and reacted defensively to it is very unfortunate, and indicative of the foreignness and suspicion that's still attached to this approach to fitness in the general public consciousness.

Really? Do you know that I lift freeweights, and yet I was turned off by the macho posturing, condescention, and general dead weight in the article?
posted by muddgirl at 7:48 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do, because this is about the 3rd time you've said it now. The article had more in it than just "lift freeweights." I guess we'll have to agree to disagree about the tone and usefulness of the article. I'm sorry that you didn't get anything out of it.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 7:55 AM on January 28, 2011


Ok look, you didn't write this article, right? You just found it, liked it, and posted to it on Metafilter?

There's no need to defend it against the slings and arrows of others. It's something you liked, but others didn't. No offense is implied or intended to you. You don't have to convince others to like it. Really, you don't.
posted by muddgirl at 7:59 AM on January 28, 2011


The point is that for most folks getting into fitness, the goals they have are incoherent and proceed from bad assumptions. One of the worst being that the benefits of getting stronger stop and end at the amount of weight you can lift...

With the greatest respect, Theodore Sign, how the fuck do you know that "most" people have "incoherent" goals are when they first get into fitness?

I got into fitness because I wanted to be fitter than me.
(I assume that's the reason most people start).

I assume I am getting fitter as I notice I can now manage 4 and 5 mile circuits with my dvd lady, when a year ago I was having trouble with her beginners' programs.
(I assume most people have a similar story).

And part of the reason this "special snowflake" sticks with a dvd lady, in the privacy of home, is that dvd lady doesn't mock me for assuming I'm "flaffing around" (to quote from another of your comments) with "incoherent" goals based on "bad assumptions"....
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:00 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think we could have summarized this thread as follows:

This article is silly. I know that because I once exercised.
(Of course, I agree with that sentiment.)
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:01 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm glad to know that apparently I do enough cardio ;)

I have an entirely different problem with free weights - you have to claim your space to use them. Weight machines have a defined perimiter and process for waiting for them (assuming there's a line). Free weights, though... you have to go over to the mats, and pick a part of the mat, and what if someone else comes along? Do you move over? If someone's already there, is it ok to ask them to shift over? All my social anxiety kicks in and I just decide to skip the weights if I think there will be other people there. (Also, all of the people over there are on the thin side, and I always figure they're thinking "why are you over here using our space, fatty?")
posted by Karmakaze at 8:07 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


he heads out west to commune with a true macho man in a proper cowboy state

If you take the almost 1,000 mile trip from San Francisco's Ocean Beach to Jackson, Wyoming you will not be heading out west.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:27 AM on January 28, 2011


The tone of the article is kind of over the top, but the author isn't that far off. The Fitness Industrial Complex does mislead many people into ineffective workouts. While I won't argue one method is the best (though I have my opinions) I think it's important that each of us who is interested in fitness really research what methods will best achieve our individual goals. It is also important to realize that getting fit can be very difficult, and anyone selling a program for its ease is probably best to be avoided. Exercise is difficult, but it also should be fun - and one should perceive some sort of benefit from it.
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:38 AM on January 28, 2011


It'd be nice if I could snack on a slice of pizza and feel full and happy, rather than, you know, a pizza.

This is very easy - shrink your stomach. No, I don't mean pay a doctor to surgically shrink your stomach. I mean, your stomach is an elastic organ which stretches and shrinks based on use. Start rightnowtoday drastically cutting your food intake down to small, high-protein/fat portions and drink water when you feel hungry. Get down to about 800 calories a day. Do this for a week

Now a slice of pizza will make you feel full. Two slices will make you feel sick. As long as you make a conscientious effort to recognize your new feeling of full and not re-stretching your stomach out, it will now be a lot easier to eat less and feel full

And in general, drink water any time you feel "empty stomach" but should not actually be eating
posted by crayz at 10:23 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, it's very very important to start mentally distinguishing between the variety of different states which most people just summarize as "I'm hungry":
* low blood sugar
* empty stomach
* bored / sad / it's meal time / that food looks delicious

And learn different strategies for reacting to each
posted by crayz at 10:29 AM on January 28, 2011


With the greatest respect, Theodore Sign, how the fuck do you know that "most" people have "incoherent" goals are when they first get into fitness?

Most people have incoherent fitness goals because, as the article describes, the entire fitness and diet industry is based around obfuscation and outright deception. Shit is arrayed against us.

I got into fitness because I wanted to be fitter than me.
(I assume that's the reason most people start).


Sure, but what is "fitter?" Is it being better conditioned? Being stronger? Being thinner? Being more mobile/flexible? Looking better? Doing better at a recreational athletic activity?

I assume I am getting fitter as I notice I can now manage 4 and 5 mile circuits with my dvd lady, when a year ago I was having trouble with her beginners' programs.
(I assume most people have a similar story).


Most people don't stick with an exercise program for anything approaching a year. Congratulations: you aren't most people and need not be defensive about what I wrote. I will say though that there is something called the "novice effect" which is where a physically untrained individual will get stronger/better conditioned through pretty much any sort of exercise, no matter what it is...to a point. People in this thread talking about walking a lot or lifting their kids around as exercise are experiencing it. The fitness industry kind of relies on it, actually, but that is another discussion, I think.

And part of the reason this "special snowflake" sticks with a dvd lady, in the privacy of home, is that dvd lady doesn't mock me for assuming I'm "flaffing around" (to quote from another of your comments) with "incoherent" goals based on "bad assumptions"....

Okay, first, the snowflake comment was specifically referencing those on a strength program who can't stop tweaking reps/sets/exercises/etc. for bullshit reasons and just lift the weights. It is also a form analysis-paralysis that some trainees have (I did), and one which they have to get over if they are going to progress. It was a throwaway line specifically referring to periodization vs. linear progression and has nothing to do with the other comment I made that you didn't like.
posted by Theodore Sign at 11:42 AM on January 28, 2011


Sure, but what is "fitter?" Is it being better conditioned? Being stronger? Being thinner? Being more mobile/flexible? Looking better? Doing better at a recreational athletic activity?

Objection! Badgering the witness:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:03 PM on January 28, 2011


If you take the almost 1,000 mile trip from San Francisco's Ocean Beach to Jackson, Wyoming you will not be heading out west.

I expect a real man would go the long way.
posted by Grangousier at 12:53 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also this was from Men's Journal, not Men's Health.

Is there really a difference?
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:27 PM on January 28, 2011


I think the fact that several people seemed to see this article as being about macho posturing and condescension and reacted defensively to it is very unfortunate, and indicative of the foreignness and suspicion that's still attached to this approach to fitness in the general public consciousness.

Or it's indicative of the fact that the article is condescending and full of macho posturing. I'm not suspicious of this approach to fitness, and plan to start doing this sort of workout soon. But this guy does not strike me as a really great proponent for free weights, except maybe to other guys who think it's ok to use variations on "you're female" as an insult.

(Problematic tone aside, I did really like the charts/illustrations, so thanks for posting it.)
posted by Mavri at 2:49 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is this article going to kick dirt in my face?

No. Just sand, because you're a puny weakling!

That article is about a program for intermediate to advanced competitive powerlifters

I don't think it matters what I post as opposed to SS's basic linear 5x5 program, you're going to call it intermediate or advanced. How about Wendler's article on The World's Simplest Training Template? And just to head you off at the pass, Wendler's program is used successfully by and for begginners all the time.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:59 PM on January 28, 2011


Fitness: It's like that.
posted by bwg at 4:11 PM on January 28, 2011


How about Wendler's article on The World's Simplest Training Template?

It seems reasonable. It's still more involved than what I'd give someone who was just getting started. Beginners don't need complexity.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 4:38 PM on January 28, 2011


Free weights, though... you have to go over to the mats, and pick a part of the mat, and what if someone else comes along? Do you move over? If someone's already there, is it ok to ask them to shift over?

You can come lift with me, karmakaze. I'm the loon over on the mats doing figure-8 passes with the heaviest medicine ball, cause it's tricky, exhausting, and wears me out fast. also it feels really good and makes your abs and arms look fab.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:20 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting this. I feel sorry for all those girls running on the treadmill for the whole hour it takes me to do my barbell routine, and the guys who do random things with dumbbells in front of the mirror or weight machines for just as long.

But not too sorry, because there's only one power rack at my fitness room, and it's mine, dammit.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 6:59 PM on January 28, 2011


The 1999 Mr. Olympia, bench-pressing

Why do I get the feeling I would not even be able to move that barbell, let alone bench-press two of them?
posted by madajb at 7:09 PM on January 28, 2011


Also this was from Men's Journal, not Men's Health.-- Anatoly Pisarenko

Aw, man! I hate making mistakes like that. And you posted this before me too.
posted by eye of newt at 10:19 PM on January 28, 2011


This is very easy - shrink your stomach.

No. It's not. That doesn't stop any number of thin people from telling me it's easy, tho.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:03 AM on January 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is very easy - shrink your stomach.

No. It's not. That doesn't stop any number of thin people from telling me it's easy, tho.


Dude, just eat only 800 calories a day and supplement most consumption with water. Didn't you read what they said? It's easy!
My god, fat people must be daft.

/gah
posted by Theta States at 6:03 AM on January 31, 2011


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