We are rapidly hurtling into a new age of information and data with multibillion-dollar corporations such as Facebook who in the first quarter of 2018 posted revenues of 12,000,000,000 dollars up 50% from 2017 that’s one company (be it a mammoth of a company) in a space which is worth trillions of dollars. What do these companies have in common? They collect and manipulate data to help organisations make smarter decisions or to target advertising to customers who are actually looking for their product. To say it was big business would be an understatement.
What the fuck does Facebook have to do with these damn gains?
Probably a lot more than you realise, we are the first generation to have so much information available to us at the drop of a keystroke. Don’t know how to squat? Well get yourself onto youtube and you can choose from literally thousands of tutorials from people who are world leading experts and people who can barely squat their own bodyweight.
The point of this article is not to bring any kind of judgment on this new age of information or technology or to propose that one is better than the other. You would be literally an idiot to not be leveraging the resources available to you that are free at the point of entry.
The point of this article is to show you how fucking futile these resources are if you aren’t willing to bridge the gap and to do something about it.
The rich get richer and the fat get fatter
Do you think the average person milling about the streets of *insert name of modern metropolis here* is more or less educated than the same average person milling about in a city during the 1700s? I don’t think it would be a massive jump in supposition to say that the average person in 2018 is better educated in matters of health, nutrition and exercise than the average Edward or Polly in pre-industrial revolution Britain. Yet we are massively more obese on average than the people of those centuries.
Our standard of living far surpasses even the richest person of those centuries we have access to conveniences and knowledge they couldn’t even dream of. You see the problem is not a problem of education as is so often brought up to be one of the primary mechanisms for the obesity problem.
People know they shouldn’t subsist on a diet of Muffins, McDonalds and Magnums. They know they should exercise for 20-30 minutes 6x per week. They aren’t fucking illiterate (well for the most part). I think the rampant scale of the increasing obesity epidemic has shown that “education” isn’t really the issue.
You can’t teach a man how to read if he insists on keeping his eyes closed.
Education without the want to learn is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. When you have someone who wants to make a change, someone who wants to take steps to move forward then Education is incredibly powerful. Most people don’t want to learn how to lose weight or they don’t want to learn how to exercise better. Most people don’t give a fuck they are more preoccupied with how to make their already easy life easier, they are more interested in pleasure seeking or getting more in return for fuck all.
This is not an article on weight loss, weight loss is just a common and illustrative example of where the real gap is.
“If there is one man to whom I do feel myself inferior, it is a coal-miner.”
― George Orwell,
When the choices are working in a coal mine (from all accounts one of the worst things you could do in pre-modern age countries) and your family starving to death then you are probably going to jump down that mine. Getting fitter, losing weight, getting stronger, starting a business you name a goal that people would like. These aren’t life and death decisions they are improvements on what you are currently doing (assumedly) but they are improvements that require sacrifice and action.
We generally speaking are hardwired to take the path of least resistance and there isn’t a lot of resistance these days. If you are lucky enough to live in a modern democratic society you can perfectly subsist doing nothing other than collecting state benefits and making do with what little you can muster. It’s by no means a glamorous life or existence but it is a tenable one. To do any more requires action.
You need to go to school or to work, to put forward effort every day to improve your situation and the situation of those important to you by creating value to someone or by increasing your ability to produce that value. But without action, you will never rise above the minimal level of subsistence afforded by the society you inhabit.
People understand this, yet not everyone actions this.
You can speak into the void of the internet until you are blue in the fucking face about what the best way to do this or that is. It doesn’t matter what you are speaking of or what you are trying to educate people on if the people you are talking to are not willing to take action then your information is nothing but static something on in the background drowning out the sound of their own painful thought.
When we boil it down to the core essentials it doesn’t matter how you engage in fat loss, bodybuilding, powerlifting CrossFit or whatever hobby or goal orientated activity you do in your spare time. If you are taking action every day in the general direction of your ultimate goal regardless of what that action is you are going to make far more progress than anyone who has a good formal education in the field and keeps up to date with the bleeding age thought in the space but doesn’t act on it day to day.
It is a favourite activity of fitness “professionals” or those who have been in the space for a while spending a lot of time online reading, listening and watching every nook and cranny of their favourite part of exercise and diet to make fun or to lampoon on what are termed as “stupid” or less sophisticated ideas. That is ineffective or not as woke as they have the good fortune of being. If only you could be so lucky to be as current and smart as they.
Low carb is stupid and doesn’t work, low fat was created by cereal producers during the 1950s, CrossFit is a cult of idiots, powerlifters are fat. So on and so on into a spiral of nonsense and self-aggrandisement.
Simplicity, consistency and action
Look out in the world, especially in the world of health and fitness what do all the successful ideas and movements have in common
- Starting Strength
- Low Carb
- Intermittent Fasting
- Juice detoxes
You can explain the concept in 2-3 sentences, people understand what you are talking about and they punt out the same message all of the time. Why would this make these brands or ideas popular?
Before someone takes an action they need to go through a process of – discovery, understanding, empathy and then eventually action. That action can be signing up or trying out the programme or diet, regardless of what it is it’s the action that converts someone from an on the sidelines thinking about doing something to being a raging zealot with a Reebok tattoo on their shin.
Think what you want about these companies, programmes and ideas they are polarising which is another feather in their cap. They take people from the sidelines and get them into the game and you can only affect someone’s practice if they are participating in the game.
People need to become familiar with something by reading about it, watching some video or maybe having a nosey about into the training environment. Once they become familiar they need to begin to understand it which will help to imbue confidence in whatever the idea, system or programme is.
Once they become confident in their understanding then they will be in a position to take action. The quicker you can take someone along that journey the better off you will be as a practitioner or a business.
This is why simple ideas catch fire because people get their head around it and take action on it quickly catching on like wildfire from person to person. The original idea behind Crossfit is a complete and utter cluster fuck from an exercise physiology perspective it is literally snake oil, it is also the most successful trend to ever hit the strength training world.
The barrier to entry is zero. Show up do some hard work, get congratulated, bond with the people also getting beasted and get smashed with endorphins afterwards. Before you know it you are at a regional competition and fully in love with CrossFit.
Where CrossFit excels is inclusiveness and low barrier to entry. Weightlifting, Strongman and Powerlifting generally look scarier, have an air of “competence” around them and are much more difficult for people to engage with from the start. There are die-hard fans of every single one of these strength sports but only really CrossFit has approached mass adoption.
American football and Baseball are far from simple sports but they have a massive fan base and lots of active athletes in them. Why is this? People understand the sport it’s in the American psyche they grow up watching and playing it, therefore, it is incredibly accessible and taking an action like playing pick up football at the weekend or watching Monday night football is easy and enjoyable.
Lots of people know how to bench 400lbs but there still isn’t a lot of 400lb bench pressers.
We are in a weird place in training at the minute. There are literally tens to hundreds of thousands of people who have a reasonably advanced knowledge of training and perodisation. That’s only if we include those who have an undergraduate degree in exercise science or a sports science related topic, there will be millions of people who have a reasonably well-developed understanding of training and programming thanks to the internet.
How many 400lb bench pressers do you know? How many of those people have advanced degrees or spend lots of time trawling Reddit or popular websites like juggernaut or strength by science?
According to open powerlifting, there have been 10,974 400lb+ male bench pressers who have competed in a registered powerlifting meet worldwide that they have data for (accurate as of 11th July 2018). This is raw bench press for either tested or untested federations. This represents <11.535% of the people they have data for.
What proportion of these people do you think to have an in-depth or advanced knowledge of training principals and science, I would be willing to bet a minority of these people are holders of such knowledge or qualifications. Yet they are all in the upper 11.5% of performers in the bench press in a sport where literally a 1/3 of the sport is bench press so how do you suppose they got there.
It’s a mixture of factors
- Training history/background
- Use/Lack of use of PEDs
However no one got to a 400lb and above bench press by not bench pressing, that’s something you can take to the bank.
Specific Goal, Specific Action.
If you want to get a bigger bench press all you have to understand is that you need to bench press to get moving towards your goal. Through trial and error, you would probably come across a lot of the solutions that people have already worked out. You would probably work out that just adding weight to the bar has a pretty short shelf life for getting stronger, you would probably find that it’s easier to push the number of reps than the number of kilos. You would probably work out that lots of high rep sets were shit for strength gain. You would probably work out that lifting too heavy all the time just meant you got tired and couldn’t perform well week to week. You would probably figure out that when you are particularly tired then time off or lighter sessions are important.
You would essentially figure out what you needed to do to move forward in your goal to get a bigger bench press.
If in another scenario you went straight to youtube, google or t-nation to try and decide on the best course of action you are probably going to leave with more questions than answers. DUP or linear perodisation, rogue bar or normal power bar, do I need a cage, should I get a comp bench, how best to arch. The number of complications you could come up with would be near endless.
What is true however is that your course to action will be slower and you will be slower to rule out different ideas and strategies since you won’t be a gaining as much real-world experience as the “idiot” who just fired on into it.
Training is a vocation, not an academic pursuit.
As we draw to the end of this article you are probably thinking I am saying that information is useless and you should just “shut up and squat” or some similar nonsensical term favoured by morons. Well, that would be terribly unsophisticated of you.
What I am trying to convince you the reader of is that lifting, running, playing a sport and training others is a practical pursuit. Your own cultivated experience is by far the most powerful feedback tool you have. If you are diligent in your record keeping and robust in your thinking and self-criticism you will learn things with a certainty that reading can never bring.
Articles, videos, research and conversation with other athletes and coaches is a wonderful wellspring of ideas but it is not a fountain of wisdom or knowledge. You can only really gain those things in the real world and you can only ascertain what is really taking place or changing if you are dug into the real world with your eyes open and your ears to the ground.
If you took the time you are currently spending online looking for ideas and just spent more time pouring over your training log and really digging into your own training you will see MUCH better results of that I guarantee you.