Consume enough fitness information, and you may still come away from it all unsure of what to do.
Most experts will tout a slight variation on the mainstream. They endlessly cite research and peer support. They use social proof to make the evidence appear stronger. They manipulate language, appealing to your deepest needs.
Finally, they instill a false scarcity. You need to buy their limited-offer solution to your problem right now.
These approaches often lead to poor exercises and overtraining. Many fail to achieve decent fitness results and injure themselves.
We are living through an age with unprecedented access to knowledge. This has a cost though. The primary sources in fitness today are heavily influenced by marketing.
Satisfying the market brings its own demands. It means generating excitement, acting sophisticated, encouraging fun, and promising transformation. It means sharing audiences to increase profits at the expense of taking a stand. These have nothing to do with proper training.
This reality also fails to spread anything that varies greatly from the norm. Unusual or even simple ideas would prevent networking or attract fewer supporters.
This is all said not to decry this as unjust, but to acknowledge it, so we can then make the best decisions.
Keep in mind too that this does not necessarily make what is popular wrong. It does raise suspicion though.
In the end, you have to decide what works best for you, often through trial and error. If you learn widely, you will have more ideas to consider.
Nonetheless, your time is not infinite. You need to advance toward your goals. It will save effort and prevent ultimate failure if you think properly.
Consider these suggestions to analyze fitness information effectively.
Ashoka was an Indian emperor of the ancient Mauryan Empire. Continuing in the tradition of his dynasty, he sought to expand his borders, desiring to bring most of India and beyond under his rule.
He achieved this goal, culminating with his victory over the equally mighty state of Kalinga, bringing mass suffering and death. Upon reflection, Ashoka felt tremendous regret, realizing the futility of war. This in part led him to embracing Buddhism and preaching non-violence, becoming a great and benevolent ruler.
Ashoka had to learn through experience, just as you must train to refine your approach to fitness. Though the advice here will improve the efficiency of this process, you still must learn in part through mistakes.
Study your experiences carefully and evaluate your progress honestly, knowing that…
The wisest men follow their own direction.
- Study the basic research.
You will find the most relevant principles in biomechanics and physiology. They will help you to understand how the body operates. You learn anatomy and forces, how energy systems work, how your muscles function, and so forth.
Even the fundamental sciences such as physics can teach great insights. Theories in these fields have stood the test of time.
You will discover that many programs ignore or disregard what you learn from these areas.
For example, the research shows that our bodies evolved to handle heavy weights only through compound movements, whether or not this suits our goals. This is embodied by studying the length-tension relationship, the application of forces, and through countless ways otherwise.
Applied research in exercise science, such as what program works best, involves many variables. This brings more doubt and less rigor. This explains why training remains an art and not just a science, with so many factors and preferences at play.
When you learn through a source that mentions the research, trace it back to the origin. Are the conclusions supported?
This process reveals that the difference between sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy has little basic research to defend it. It relies on just two books that speculated on the matter, appealing to authority.
- Know the common logical fallacies.
These will help you to quickly identify poor information.
An “a priori” argument assumes something is true. This can involve circular reasoning as well, whereas the conclusion supports the premise and vice versa. Many that advocate mobility exercises argue in this fashion. They ignore that perhaps we are not meant to move in such ways.
The bandwagon fallacy argues that since many support something, it must be true. Kettlebell exercises provide a good example. Though widespread, safer and better alternatives exist for every fitness component they develop.
A non sequitur addresses a different argument, often one that the audience supports. Some use this to criticize that blogs allow anyone to publish their opinions online. They then fail to address the validity behind the concepts in question.
A slippery slope argues that the current state will cause things to worsen. This website advocates a limited set of exercises. Some will then ask, just what exercises can we do? Should we fear moving at all? This completely avoids looking at why we should use these exercises.
An argument from mystery is best demonstrated through the Russian and Eastern European methods. These include concepts such as periodization. You may be impressed by elaborate math, esoteric terminology, and fancy exercises like the Turkish get-up. You may come to believe that great strength is mostly a skill that relies little on muscle size. It is unfortunate that even academia falls for these ploys.
An ad hominem occurs when the person behind an idea is attacked. While their credibility can be questioned, attacking their character, perceived or real, is irrelevant. Know too that liking someone does not make their ideas any more valid.
A strawman argument constructs an easy target that fails to represent the opposing side of the issue. Many associate my plan with High Intensity Training (HIT) and then attack the worst of that philosophy. They ignore that I disagree with many of their principles. There is diversity present within HIT as well.
Equivocation diverts the argument into harping on definitions. This may include whether or not intensity is a percentage on your one rep max or the degree of effort you put forth. This ignores that the same word can describe two separate but useful concepts.
Either/or reasoning forces you to choose between two options. In fitness, this applies to the debate between single versus multiple sets. You must choose one or many. This ignores that you could choose 2-3 sets, as I suggest, with one tough set and 1-2 warm-up sets.
An appeal to moderation argues that the middle ground is best. This ignores that you can define the medium position however you wish. Furthermore, even a bit of a poor option is not wise. Using a bad exercise only some of the time will still harm you.
By further exploring logical fallacies on your own, many more examples will come to mind.
- Understand human psychology.
Poor ways of thinking overlap with the fallacies. While certain aspects of human psychology aided us throughout our evolution and still do in the present day, they can lead to some very bad decisions.
If something is available, we tend to give it more attention. Those belonging to gyms feel compelled to use the elaborate machines. We eat more junk food when it is present in our homes. Overcome these temptations through avoidance.
We make false attributions, known as post hoc analysis. Two variables that both go up or down at the same time still may have no association with each other. Correlation does not mean causation.
Be wary of adhering to patterns for their own sake. The numbers 1, 3, and 5 appear often throughout programs. Are these used because they work best or because they appear elegant? While these can still work in the right context, they must lead to progress.
Most make decisions based on emotions instead of logic. Marketing exploits this tendency. Pause and think before making a decision.
Many want closure despite countless variables involved in fitness. They feel that one approach alone must be true. A final word on the matter is unlikely though.
Enough evidence will never be good enough for someone who does not want to change their mind.
People want cures over preventions. This explains why so many value supplements over getting enough calories and plenty of sleep.
Accept things as they are and not how they ought to be. In fitness, genes and drugs can form an insurmountable difference between trainees. Be honest with yourself.
On the other hand, many blame external factors over internal decisions. There are so many things you can optimize. Have you ever met someone with a so-called low potential that did everything they could to succeed? Dedication may even change your nature so to speak, by positively affecting gene expression.
If a little of something is good, more is better, they say. Many justify adding more and more exercise. Instead, apply just what you need for progress.
Authority figures possessing titles, degrees, and so on can influence you to make decisions that otherwise would seem unsound. Focus on the ideas. Never seek approval for what you know to be wrong.
To develop a habit, you may want to reinforce good behavior through small rewards. Your old habits also must have at least did something for you, so you should fulfill those needs with an alternative.
For instance, instead of drinking coffee in the morning, you could go for a jog in the sunlight. Follow this with a cold shower. You could then drink a large glass of water to get a similar energy-boosting effect.
The sunk cost fallacy has many continue along a poor course since they have already invested time and resources. They overvalue their current state. You can view this when someone remains in a bad relationship, but it also occurs when someone maintains a poor fitness program.
It is difficult to be inconsistent with our prior beliefs. Do you think I am likely to change my advice much? If you fail to benefit from this content, you should find a new source.
Take into account incentives for behavior. This has endless applications. Is there a reward or a penalty that encourages a course of action?
Intelligence is no fortress against poor thinking. You just get better at convincing yourself that the defense is impregnable. Awareness will expose the flaws.
- Define your goals.
Are your steps taking you closer? Evaluate this by being specific. Avoid variety and keep things simple.
For strength and size, you must add weight to your lifts. Worrying about hormones, the burning sensation, and other indirect or irrelevant factors will distract you and overcomplicate things.
Is your goal to have larger arms? You may find the bench press and the row, the exercises suggested here for the upper body, are sufficient. If you make progress on them, you may discover that your arms have grown bigger than ever before.
This may occur due to the tension that develops, despite less range of motion for these muscles, and from the indirect effect too. Your joints feel much better, so you work harder. You do not need to dwell on these factors though.
If you failed to achieve the results you wanted, then direct arm work may help. Perhaps you incorporate what you gleaned from here, such as tension being greatest at middle lengths, to add a standing curl instead of using the preacher bench. You accept the consequences of this choice.
Analyzing Fitness Information Effectively
The errors mentioned here are present in every fitness source, including this website. Nonetheless, I hope my ideas appear sensible as a whole. They are certainly easy to try.
We can differ in methods so long as we progress. Clearly there is variety in what programs can work.
Be open-minded yet skeptical. Keep asking yourself a simple question: why? Seek honest answers.
Study the basic research, know logical fallacies, understand poor thinking, and define your goals to analyze fitness information effectively.