The Tinker Bell Fallacy: Attitude and Positive Thinking BS In Strength Training
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12 Jul 2012 23:30

This is a continuation of the post All Important Attitudes: How They Affect our Fitness and Strength Training Pursuits

I've mentioned a certain pet-peeve statement several times in different posts, most notably in The Deadlift is not a Deadlift and Other Infectious Aphorisms, Why Fitness, Diet, Bodybuilding, and Strength Training Programs Work, Training to Fail Part 5: Focus and Pick A Program. Man, that's a lot! This statement just really riles me up, I guess.

The statement I am talking about goes something like this: "A bad program done with the right attitude can work better than a good program done with the wrong attitude.”

Obviously, this statement is supposed to describe how your attitude affects your success. But it is about as "arm-chair" psychology as you can get into. I think of it as the "Tinker Bell fallacy."

You remember the part in Peter Pan where Tinker Bell is near death, don't you? She says that she thinks that maybe she could get well again if only children believed in fairies. So clap if you believe in your crappy strength training program. And remember, if you don't clap, you won't get results! Tinker Bell will die.

The idea is basically that if you believe hard enough, you will get good results. People that wholeheartedly believe in something will tend to display the kind of attitude that proponents of this view expect: a gung-ho attitude.

They seem to think that a gung-ho attitude is synonymous attitude with a capital A, or in other words, its very definition. This idea really does seem to be prevalent in most of the strength training world. It comes down to positive attitude and the widespread pop-psychology claim that positive thinking is the key to success in anything you try to accomplish. Well, the many claims about the power of positive thinking are, to put it bluntly, mostly a load of BS. Positive thinking will not cause ineffective strategies to become effective!

I’ve seen all sorts of psycho-babble spouted by strength training experts but it all seems to come down to “don’t be a pussy” and “be very enthusiastic about the things I tell you to do."

As I've said before, this is like saying that beating your head against the wall with the proper attitude is better than stopping short of the wall with the wrong attitude.


tinker bell

Image by Nova May Solite



What we need to realize is that behavior is not always a good indication of underlying attitude since behavior is so very contingent on specific circumstances.

Many advocates of “boot camp” training programs feel that the behavior that they instill during such programs has permanently changed the trainees attitudes and approach to training. However, it would take a much longer time and a much more intensive effort to actually achieve this kind of change.

Much of the behavior seen is simply “rising to the moment” and adapting to the social environment. Remove the social environment and you remove the stimulus that required the adaptation.

That being said, what's the motivation behind getting people to just believe in whatever it is you hand them? Well, let's say you come to me and say you just wanna have some big guns and pecs. Being a maximal-strength guy and not a bodybuilding guy, I have two choices. I can either tell you that I'm not the right guy for you or I can put you in a box I am more comfortable with, and then try to convince you that if you just approach it with the right attitude, it will work for you.

So, you think telling a guy that just wants big guns and pecs that he needs to work on a big back squat is far-fetched. Well, it is not. There are people out there right at this moment handing out beginner strength training routines with an emphasis on back squat, even to guys who really just want to bodybuild. Just clap your hands if you believe that squatting twice a week will give you big guns and pecs. Tinker Bell lives!

The point, as I hope is clear, is that no amount of gung-ho feeling will make a bunch of back squats (and maybe a bit of bench press) magically grow your arms and chest to huge proportions. The training you do must fit your specific goals.

Does it sound like I am saying it is not a great idea to go to a maximal strength person about your bodybuilding? Yes, that is what I am saying. If you assumed that it also would not be a great idea to go to a physique guy about your deadlift total, you're getting the idea.

Remember, Peter Pan was for children! Don't worry, every time you say, "I don't believe in this program," it will not cause a strength training expert somewhere to fall down dead.

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This page created 12 Jul 2012 23:30
Last updated 17 Apr 2014 15:40

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