Something has been really pissing me off lately. I joined twitter and, as a consequence of seeing twitter-esque content (that is, short snippets of grabby stuff) oriented towards fitness, have seen an enormous amount of content that goes something like this:
“Want to get X? Then do Y!”
Harmless enough. The click often leads you to a diet or exercise or something like that that is helpful in the attainment of your goals. But, there are some implied elements of this that I find despicable.
First, it is always accompanied by a picture. That picture is of a fitness model. That fitness model’s physique is directly implied to be the result of said workout tip, by virtue of the feature to begin with. No one would aspire to be a mildly out of shape guy trying Y for the first time on his way to X. The featured model has achieved X, which is why you trust the nature of activity Y to begin with. This is an age old trick – use bow-flex, ab-thingy, home-gym contraption and YOU could look just like THIS GUY who *cough* doesn’t include any aspect of this bullshit in his routine but is coincidentally available to demonstrate its use nonetheless. I’m not singling out any major fitness publication or program in particular for inventing this treachery; I just want everyone to be clear what is going on at face value.
Plain and simple, it’s fitness bullshit and I’ve had about enough. Want to know how I know it’s bullshit? Because the dude featured always has a physique that is the result of basic body sculpting activities to achieve the end of an aesthetic build. This type of build most likely comes as a result of basic muscle building based on the tried and true (surprise!) split of some iteration of Bi/Tri, Chest/Back, Leg/Core, Cardio, Rest cycle with enough variety in movement to avoid boredom accompanied by careful food intake monitoring in order to avoid fat retention and promote muscle gain – and it works like a motherfucking charm! But, that is not the point. The people you see in photos work very hard for that aesthetic result and, I dare to say, rarely use gimmicks to achieve that. Getting to look like that is actually about as simple as following a gourmet French cookbook – the process is simple enough to understand, the proper execution is beyond most people’s capability.
So, when they take you to the video of teaching split squat jumps with perfect form, you are ACTUALLY privy to some scrawny Fitness Magazine staffer taking you through the moves. There is nothing wrong with split squat jumps – they are a fine conditioning tool. BUT, WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO THE FITNESS MODEL?!
Why aren’t there jacked dudes nationwide doing split squat jumps all day to get those oh-so-succulent abs? Um, because of the old bait and switch, that’s why.
The general fitness industry has been recycling the same old shit for decades: apply this magic and get results! Why can’t you just simply write out what Zyzz does on a double-sided sheet of paper and call it a day? Oh, right, because it is much more profitable for a publication to dole out snippets of work and then recycle said snippets a decade later when everyone has moved on and you have a new audience. All the while, the guy in the picture (implying they have done these moves to get those results) have done nothing more than dedicate a tremendous amount of time and energy to figuring out for themselves and making it happen. Worst of all, is the explicitly implied message that all of this is easy – all you need to do is follow some overly-reductionist routine.
Can I interject and declare that the only way to get what you want is hard work? I’d like to outline some mainstream fitness regimens and what you can expect to look like if you WORK YOUR ASS OFF (we’re talking like a decade here folks…if you are starting from scratch, that is). If you are aspiring to fitness goals, pick what you want to look like (and/or who you would like to perform like), and work your ass off. Here is what the end-game looks like for these various lifting regiments, based on what the best in the industry have served us up. Rest assured, they practice what they preach and got where they are by none other means than following the general paradigm of their activity for a LLLLOOOOONNNNNGGGG time. Here is what you can expect with years of dedicated training.
Body Building – It comes in many forms, but we will go with the prototypical “bulky” version, from a lay person’s perspective. The goal is size, muscle separation and looking like a goddamn action figure. You get a side bonus of being strong as fuck. No-split squats involved.
Aesthetic Building – (i.e. the paradigm that every cover magazine guy follows) – “body building lite” a more “natural” look to the body building routine. Big shoulders, arms, chest, narrow waist, cut legs, cut abs. But, focused on proportions. You will also get strong as you could ever want to be. No-split squats required.
Power Liftingand/or strong man (pretty much ends up the same) – Brick shit house. The only thing that matters is moving that weight/object. The only thing that matters is contributing to those totals. Split squats are a waste of your precious time.
Olympic Lifting – All legs and back. The only thing that matters is getting that weight over head in two ways…snatch and clean/jerk. The only thing that matters is contributing to those totals. Split squats are a waste of your precious time. Just look at those quads…it’s like he’s got 3 goddamn knees!
CrossFit – Bulky arms, stupid big mid-section, stocky legs, underdeveloped chest (relatively) and as ripped as the aesthetic model, but much different proportions. Yea, split squats might be a part of the routine, but definitely as an afterthought to the 1000 other movements you could pull from and have way more fun doing.
Honestly, I have no idea what you would look like if you followed a “quick tip” style of workout regimen. Probably something like this:
Because you got duped into thinking you can “quick tip” your way to success. I, for one, spare no opportunity to mock this shit, because in the end having worked so hard myself for modest gains (recognizing for myself, as the marketing target, just how pervasive the mindset is that gains “should” come quickly). It should come as no shock that I find it heinously misleading that you can feed people bits of scattered solo movements or three-steppers and expect to encourage lasting change in those individuals. The crazy thing is, there are oodles of low/no cost information available online (i.e. Starting Strength, 5-3-1 strength) that expressly outline a complete program that are widely applicable to all sorts of goals. And they work! And they are FREE. However, they aren’t easy – that might be the problem.
Of course, any representative from these sound-byte oriented parties would retreat to say that this is not their intent and that they encourage a sustained workout routine. And of course, people will take umbrage declaring “their publication is true to its audience.” Well, then I’m not talking about you. We all KNOW who the culprits are and can smell the bullshit a mile away. So I’m not going to fall over myself making caveats and avoiding hurt feelings, sparing individuals from the assault. If you do it, you are shit. If you are true to your audience, you are true to your audience.
What am I really saying, in the end? What is the point of this rant? Well, as a gym owner, people stop by and want to do what we are doing and, in the process, I have to dispel an entire upbringing of “quick fixes” and “top 10 steps.” People have become irreconcilably convinced that strength and fitness goals ought to be easy, if only they had the magic recipe in the form of the “perfect” program or diet. News flash – everything works. Zumba? Works. Yoga? Works. P90x? Works. They all do what they proclaim to do, if you are a dedicated zealot to the cause.
Want to know the reason why it may have not worked for you? Because you weren’t dedicated. You didn’t’ make a life change. You didn’t abandon the notion that it should be easy and failed to work hard enough to realize your goals. This rant is equal parts directed at the producer of this nonsense information and the consumer of this information. They conspire in tandem to create dreams, but not results. They coddle, sugar coat and skim over the important details to make people think they can get what they want. Both parties are complicit in actively deceiving themselves and creating an environment where no one has accountability to actually produce a change.
In the end, here is the challenge – the test to see if you are selling the bottom line or bullshit. If people did explicitly what was in your publication for a year, would they be on the right path to looking like the person the cover?
Note: I have excluded women entirely from this comparison as the claims made are rarely as straightforward as the men. The element of “beauty” is all-together absent from the male discussion and the forefront of the topic when discussing women. Height, breast size, waist, facial features, hip structure and so on play important roles in perception that have no real analogue in the visible male figure. Thus, I won’t make the mistake of lumping the groups together. It’s a tricky business being a woman, and I am not going to pretend that I know what it feels like to be marketed to as one. I suspect, however, that many of the same principles apply.