Critical Thinking

What if the Fitness Industry Really Was Scientific?

By Eric Troy

I'm sitting here after typing out the title, wondering if I should hit the backspace key until it disappears. I've just bit off quite a piece of jerky. After all, you could write an article about "what if scientists really were scientific." Even at the best of times, scientists don't completely live up to their ideals. But scientists, at least, do science rather than just wave a banner. The fitness industry reminds me, sometimes, of Tom Hanks in "A League of Their Own." When I see how personal so many fitness scientists take things, I want to incredulously cry "There's no CRYING in science!"

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What Can the Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) Tell Us About Strength Training?

Critical thinking, like "evidence based training" is all the rage these days. That's great, if it was anything more than a couple of buzz-words. However, it seems that people in the fitness industry want to talk about good thinking, rather than do it. It's hard work. It's never-ending. It's kind of like deadlifts. There are those who do them, and there are those who shout "Booyah, arrrgh, deadlifts, BEASTMODE! Hardcore!" One of my main reasons for not believing that critical thinking is really something the fitness industry, at large, cares about, is that too many of its members do it selectively. In other words, they think about things they have a negative reaction to, and criticize those things, but when something happens to coincide with their general views, the thinking stops, even if it doesn't represent a credible "scientific" stance. One of these instances is anecdotal evidence, and "this works for me" prescriptions given by individual trainees, or better yet, celebrities who strength train or stay fit for movies, or what have you.

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Is Exercise Subjective? The Personal Training Industry and Demand Creation

Of the following items, which do you feel you absolutely need: Food, water, clothing, shelter, microwave oven, cell phone, and personal training? A bit of a daft question, perhaps. We know, as humans, that our absolute necessities of survival do not include microwave ovens, cell phones, and personal training. We can say that we must have food, water, clothing, and shelter. We might also include healthcare and education in that list. Other things, no matter how much we love them, are luxuries. However, what we don't always realize is that before the microwave oven was invented, there was no demand for it. And for years, when our rotary phone was attached to the kitchen wall and we had to stretch the coiled cord of the handset over to the broom closet so our parents wouldn't hear our private conversation, there was no demand for cell phones. So, just because a product or service is useful and even though it changes our lives, the demand for these things does not exist until they arrive on the scene. But, often, it takes more than usefulness to create demand for a product.

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Double Standards in the Strength Training Community

In the Powerlifting community — and this has become synonymous with "Strength Training" — the new unspoken set of rules for economic success is to train hard, compete, set at least one World Record in some federation (there are about a hundred of those so pick something legit), write an eBook workout program, claim you use it for your "many" trainees and sell the hell out of it.

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Looking for Fitness Info? Don't Be Overly Impressed by Numbers!

This is not the first post where I talked about how numbers can easily impress and mislead us. I mentioned numbers and "proofiness" in The Data Dump in Fitness Information: Time to Get Back on Track. Another closely related post is Quantitative Measurements and Quality Evaluations.

Our [western] culture is a bit obsessed with measurement. In all sorts of fitness realms we see measurements - numbers - being assigned to things that cannot readily be measured, and sometimes things that cannot be measured at all. Numbers have, perhaps, too much power to impress. Science guys will tell you all about statistical significance, and maybe statistical correlation (a little on that below) but we can be mislead by much more mundane and easily understood numbers. It often starts with what we can and cannot measure. Before we begin, note that since this is about numbers, which I am not very good with, I could have screwed up some of the example figures. So, don't hesitate to let me know.

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Don't Overcomplicate Strength Training: Find the Elegant Solution!

You know, we often hear that we should "keep it simple." That is good advice. It really is. As you read this post, it may seem to come down to a fancy way of saying keep it simple. Well, many of today's "simple" strength training programs have sort of scooted past simple and sat down hard on simplistic. So, I want to say before I even begin, that elegant solutions, which I am talking about here, are not the same thing as simplistic solutions! We're trying to take out the complications, not to prove how very simple it all is.

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Is Your Expert Really an Expert? The Problem of Inappropriate Expertize and Name-Dropping in the Fitness Industry

I've been making a lot of statements about expertize and experts lately. There are a couple of reasons for this. For one, critical thinking and skepticism has become as popular as frozen Margaritas in Mexican restaurants, and just as bland and weak. Usually, these excited new thinkers invoke science. One of the secrets, it seems, to being scientific, is to go on and on about how you should be wary of experts and go around refuting them.

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Fitness Insider Groups and the Ultimate Attribution Error

You can read the article or listen to the video talk below, which has more material in it, with additional commentary.

The fitness industry is made up of in-groups and out-groups. Of course, whatever group you are in, is the in-group as far as you are concerned. Some groups have more social power than others, however, and are able to draw more members. So we have something like minorities in the fitness world. William Graham Summer, an American sociologist and a social-Darwinist, is said to have coined the terms in-group and out-group, in his 1906 book Folkways. I use these terms differently than the nasty way in which he used them.

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The Time to Think about Evidence Is NOW: Before You've Seen It

I find often that people who talk about rational thinking and skepticism a lot do not seem to think very hard at all. I was reading an article about skepticism in which the author made the point that you can still think rationally about a subject even when there is not a lot, or no, scientific evidence concerning it. This I agree with and it's a point that needs to be made given the constant shouting about evidence…even when you have it, your brain is not supposed to shut down.

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Exposing the Dirty Little Secret in Strength Training and Coaching: Expert Intuition

Strength training and fitness in general brings on reams of discussion as to what it means to be an expert. They also bring on droves of people who play at being an expert on the internet and, increasingly, on television. Recognize that I cannot hope to define expertize without it tending to align with my own interests and biases. However, I do think that the non-expert may be distinctly recognizable!

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The Data Dump in Fitness Information: Time to Get Back on Track

By Eric Troy

I've read a couple of journal papers here and there. And I've also published a fair amount of them here on Ground Up Strength, if permission was given to do so. One thing that you may have noticed about journal articles these days is that they are full of tables and supplemental attachments. Some of them useful and essential and some of them ridiculous fluff. You may even have noticed that I routinely leave out many of the tables in these journals. That is because they look particularly useless, adding nothing to the content or readability of the paper and serving only to create noise and distract the reader, taking up his or her precious time.

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You Too Can Lift A Car!

Or not. One of the most prevailing habits in this industry is to take isolated pieces of information and run with them, making sweeping conclusions with little to no consideration of other factors. Information is nothing in and of itself. It's what you do with it, or, how you apply it in regards to the BIG PICTURE. Probably one of the biggest drawbacks of the information age is unlimited information with limited background. Limited background makes facts interchangeable with knowledge. I discussed this often misunderstood difference between knowledge and facts in my post: Facts, Knowledge, and Reasoning Skills

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The Deadlift is not a Deadlift and Other Infectious Aphorisms

Popular strength coaches, and bodybuilding coaches who talk about strength training as well, are always inventing little aphorisms and catch phrases designed to get across some central philosophy or concept inherent to their way of viewing training for strength. Problem is with catch slogans and aphorisms, is that they are designed to sell a concept rather than to teach a concept. An aphorism is only as good as the qualifications you give it when you explain its underlying rationale. With most of these statements, it is the style that sells them, more than the content. One of our members called this type of thing a fallacy by slogan and this is an apt way to put it. A good aphorism is catchy like an infectious rash: Everybody spreads it around and it does more harm than good.

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20 Home Remedies for Treating Minor Burns: Not!

Instead of listing out twenty tips in an obviously deceitful display of "yeah right you gullible fool," all I really need to say is this: Pick twenty random things from around your house that can be smeared on a burn, poured on a burn, etc. And you have your twenty home remedy tips.

Soy sauce. Mustard. Vinegar. Hey, take some chewing tobacco, chew it up real good, and spit it on your burns. I swear, it works wonders. My grandmother used to swear on it for bee stings, too. The point is it doesn't matter what I say, there is someone who will believe it.

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Organic Versus GMO Soy, Isoflavones, Red Herrings and Junk Science

I wanted to make a quick post about the review, The Role Of Soy In Vegetarian Diets. After reading this, what I want everyone to notice is just WHAT the concerns about soy are centered on and what they are not. The concerns about soy have been centered on its isoflavone content as you can read about in the article. Mercola and many others seem to want to "shift" the debate to organic versus non-organic soy crops. This is called a "red herring" and is a signal that these writers want to deflect our attention. It's misdirection.

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