Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Black Box...empiricism or processes

I  have mentioned the Hillfit pieces that I am working on.  Thay have got me studying a varirty of interesting things as background for the different articles.  For example, Keith Norris post the other days got me reading things about the theories around muscle hypertrophy.  Keith pointed to a fascinating study (abstract) which Tom Kelso summarised here.

Anyway that is not the point.

The complexities of that got me thinking.  Exercise science is complicated.  As you delve deeper into the biology of it all things get ever more complex.  Metabolism and the cell biology is deep and difficult but also wonderful (check out this video)  Muscle growth is driven by mechanical loading of the muscle, metabolic stress and muscle damage / trauma.  The precise pathways get more and more complex the deeper you look.

However sometimes I wonder how much you need to understand.   In the afterword to Art Devany's book Nassim Taleb talks about this idea - Evidence-based science and working with the black box.   He explains that ultimately the science explaining the body keeps changing.  What was once accepted wisdom changes as knowledge develops.  Somtimes this change totally negates what has gone before.....yet while the explanation may switch 180 degrees, the experience is constant.  Understanding the process is interesting  but what is ultimately more important is applying what works.

For example if it is clear that negative reps work the lesson is to do negatives....how they work is a different issue.  Whatever metabolic pathways they signal or whatever gene expression effects are apparent may be interesting.....but our suppositions about process may be totally wrong.

We are on a search for progress.  Understanding the mechanisms may help but knowing what works is more important.   So how do we find what works?

Here is Keith doing what works for him.....


JamesSteeleII said...

So true Chris. Something alot of physiologists focus on are acute effects and processes stimulated without actually obtaining any evidence for a chronic training effect. An example would be research that shows increased 'protein synthesis' from a particular training method over another. Thats all well and good but when unless empirical data from longer term studies looking at hard end points rather than surrogate biochemical process markers actually demonstrate the effect it means nothing. It just provides impetus to direct further research into the potential for it.

praguestepchild said...

Taleb wrote an afterword to DeVany's pseudo-scientific book? Fuck me.

Fitness said...

It seems to me that this is yet more evidence that it is crucial to use intuition, not just science in your pursuit of any field including muscular development.