What am I doing? Why do I keep returning to this theme of bullshit? As I begin to write this post, that is what I ask myself. And I find that I have an answer. We all have a great need to categorize. To recognize, and to define. Why are conspiracy theories so popular? They simplify. They categorize the unknowable; what may seem like chaos. They bring an illusion of order. So, the question I ask is whether there is order to bullshit, pseudoscience, fraud, lying, bad science, or just plain stupidity. Can we draw a line between them?
Continue Reading » Bullshit, Pseudoscience, Or Bad Science: Which is It?
What if I told you that my brand of headache medicine may make your headache go away faster than another leading brand, such as Excedrin? What would you take my claim to mean? If you are like most people, you will take the word "may" to mean 'probably will' or simply will. However, that is not really what the word "may" means. May means maybe. As in maybe my headache medicine will work faster and maybe it will not.
I recently began saying, or repeating, as is my fashion, that "fitness philosophers" do not often seem to care too much about what is good, only what sounds good. That is a bold, and probably insulting, statement, to some of my friends who are caught up in the world of philosophy, I know. Then, I began reading a book about bullshit. It is not the first book I've perused on the subject of bullshit, and it probably won't be the last. I'll bet that not many people realize that there is serious thought, some of it quite philosophical, about bullshit in the academic world.
Continue Reading » Fitness Bullshit and Philosophy: A Fool-Proof Recipe!
So, you want to get real strong, do you? Then, why in the world are you here on this page? If you are attracted to the idea of achieving great physical strength without actually exploring the limits of your physical strength, then you are not attracted to strength training! You see, the title is nonsense. Why did I choose it? Because it mirrors the titles, or the themes, of the majority of articles about strength training on the web.
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!"
Continue Reading » What if the Fitness Industry Really Was Scientific?
Train Smart; Not Hard. This is one of those aphorisms I'm not sure about. It sounds good, doesn't it? On one hand, I've said it myself in regards to strength training. When I said it, I had a fairly specific idea of what I meant. I meant to say that you should ignore the macho caveman bullshit that is such a part of messages about strength training, where people say things like "Just shut up and lift heavy. Work hard. Beast mode!" I meant that you should THINK, PLAN, ASSESS, and, you know, just generally behave like you have something between your ears. Don't live up to the meathead view of strength training. It really does take some smarts to get very, very strong.
Continue Reading » Train Smart; Not Hard - Does Intelligence Mean Less Effort is Required?
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.
Continue Reading » What Can the Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) Tell Us About Strength Training?
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.
Continue Reading » Is Exercise Subjective? The Personal Training Industry and Demand Creation
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.
Continue Reading » Double Standards in the Strength Training Community
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.
Continue Reading » Looking for Fitness Info? Don't Be Overly Impressed by Numbers!
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.
Continue Reading » Don't Overcomplicate Strength Training: Find the Elegant Solution!
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.
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.
Continue Reading » Fitness Insider Groups and the Ultimate Attribution Error
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.
Continue Reading » The Time to Think about Evidence Is NOW: Before You've Seen It
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!