Sunday, March 3, 2013

Why I post less "science" than I used to

This blog has recently been on a bit of a simplicity kick.  I've been  pointing out how desperate we all are for novelty - because we are desperate for immediate results - and how that makes us vulnerable to all sorts of hype and fad approaches to diet and exercise.   The basics - good sleep, real food, daily activity, strength training, stand up straight - are boring but effective.

Each of these elements however also comes with a bunch of sectarianism and argument.  Sleep - in total darkness, with no electronics within 10 metres; real food - paleo or not paleo, high carb, low fat, etc etc etc; daily activity - run or don't run...if you run it better be in minimal shoes POSE style and sitting is toxic; strength training - is vital....but it needs to be SuperSlow (TM), you need to do barbell squats (!) or take note of the unique physical properties of kettlebells; posture - do you Gokhale?

I've been there with all of these trends....and am finding it harder to get as excited about any of it anymore.  I don't think there is any magic (apart from consistency on the basics.  And strength training can do wonderful things)

It doesn't mean that all this debate is not important - it is - but what is more important is simply that people do something. (and do it safely)

Anyway, that was not what I was going to write.

I wanted to point to this piece, which explains why I am less prone to posting random links to scientific abstracts than I used to be.   People throw abstracts at each other in these arguments, yet sometimes these studies do not even say what the combatants think that they do.

Hey, eff-tard with the abstract link. Yeah. You

The rate at which psuedo-information flies around has now reached epic proportions. And not in a good way.

I have been that eff-tard


Stuart Gilbert said...

I've noticed that you have also been quite self critical recently. There is no need to be.
Looking back at some of your old posts, it is clear that you have been on quite a journey, in order to reach the place you currently find yourself at, and there is no telling whether that journey has yet reached an end. Let me tell you that you are not alone. There are many of us, I for one, who have travelled similar paths. But, as frustrating as the search for truth may be sometimes, I would rather take that road, than be left to be a victim of the many hucksters and sharks of the health and fitness world, who prey on the ignorant.
Keep doing what you are doing. It is appreciated by many of us here. For those of us willing to read the efforts of yourself, and the other critical thinkers out there, the old adage bears true, that " a wise man learns from his mistakes, but an even wiser man learns from the mistakes of others."

Unknown said...

Absolutely. I believe most people reading this blog agree on what's really important. But the implementation is still tricky, for example balancing the volume/recovery for strength training. Because while strength training is magical, the magic takes time, and it's easy to doubt the method and jump on another train before you get past neural adaptation to actual GAINZ:-) I also think people just don't know how to programme their training and need strict rules, this problem is even more apparent with limited euqipment. I read this stuff for a long time yet I still need to ask Drew Baye if this or that routine effectively adresses all muscle groups, is short enough, balanced, safe etc. This is where I focus my attention. To improve those chosen basics within the training philosophy I find best. This can lead to problems in other aras, as you mentioned. Sleep is just sleep, no need for "perfect" environment full of sleep enhancing lamps and expensive tracking gadgets that will post your REM phase alysis on Twitter.
By the way sorry I deleted You and James from friends on FB, I decided to follow the fitness info on the web only, and only when I want to, because it led to the very thing you warn against...overthinking fitness:-)

Unknown said...

A quote from a wise man:

"The Three Stages of Cultivation — The first is the primitive stage. It is a stage of original ignorance in which a person knows nothing about the art of combat. In a fight, he simply blocks and strikes instinctively without a concern for what is right and wrong. Of course, he may not be so-called scientific, but, nevertheless, being himself, his attacks or defenses are fluid. The second stage — the stage of sophistication, or mechanical stage — begins when a person starts his training. He is taught the different ways of blocking, striking, kicking, standing, breathing, and thinking — unquestionably, he has gained the scientific knowledge of combat, but unfortunately his original self and sense of freedom are lost, and his action no longer flows by itself. His mind tends to freeze at different movements for calculations and analysis, and even worse, he might be called “intellectually bound” and maintain himself outside of the actual reality. The third stage — the stage of artlessness, or spontaneous stage — occurs when, after years of serious and hard practice, the student realizes that after all, gung fu is nothing special. And instead of trying to impose on his mind, he adjusts himself to his opponent like water pressing on an earthen wall. It flows through the slightest crack. There is nothing to try to do but try to be purposeless and formless, like water. All of his classical techniques and standard styles are minimized, if not wiped out, and nothingness prevails. He is no longer confined."

Welcome, you are no longer confined, you can now relax and enjoy your continuing journey. :)

Ondro: Just a suggestion to your routine seeking; give this guy and his blog a chance ;-) (give it the first 10 blogposts, after that it really kick-starts to unfold in a very eye opening way, at least it did it for me).

Anonymous said...

I'm right there with you man. Simplicity rules! A lot of what I have read here recently has strengthened my belief that (safe!) strength training, coupled with walking in nature is the way to go. I also do other stuff, just for fun (mostly volleyball), but strength training and walking will be the two things I will do for the rest of my life, as well as eating as "real" food as opposed to industrial crap...and keeping stress under control. That's really all there is to it..if maintaining health is the goal. Fads, quick fixes and complex exercise systems are really just the ways the industry uses to make money of confused and bewildered people. The truth is so simple that the whole thing would more or less collapse if more people understood it. I keep my self fit with 30 minutes of intense strength training per week and walking. No one is going to profit from that! (except ME! :-)

Anyhoo...Keep up the good work!

Unknown said...

And I forgot Matt Perryman. His blog is Myosynthesis and his free ebook Maximum Muscle. Another genius and an eye-opener.

Unknown said...

Oh, and I should have stated before that that chaos and pain guy is an asshole and people might get offended by his writings and pictures (others will laugh out loud). So WARNING!

Anonymous said...

I've followed this blog for years like others commenting. I completely agree about the simplicity. Remember that simplicity is hard and complexity is easy. You start complex and get simple, not the opposite. I am in outstanding snowboarding condition (my primary sport), can climb at my highest levels, and run my peak distance of six years ago on my off days. I don't even lift anymore bro'.

Unknown said...

Jozef: Díky za tip:-) That said, I've already read Myosynthesis...the Chaos blog seems to fall in the same range of accepting that we just don't know and doing a lot of chaotic training.

I am not locked in HIT world. I actually believe it's suboptimal way to train if you have all the will and time in the world. But I don't. And many authors agree that HIT works. Keith Norris trains about 6 times a week, yet says 1 hour a week is enough for 80% of the benefits and for 90% you need 4 hours.
I am just reading the new book by Brad Schonefeld, The Max Muscle Plan.(foreword written by Layne Norton PhD)He advocates science-based approach, it all looks very sensible, yet very different from HIT. More complicated for sure, but everything is.
He says in the book:"Does HIT work? Absolutely. Provided you train sufficiently hard, an HIT routine increases strength and builds muscle. For those pressed for time, it can be an efficient alternative for multi-set training." I thing we all intuitively know there are better programmes if you have time to train at least three times a week and constantly do multiple set routines, playing with the programme. But HIT is golden for me, as I need to focus on studying and life, not training. I take those 80% for 1 hour vs hypothetical 100% (+ perfect rest and nutrition) for 11 hours. Thanks:-)

Sifter said...

It's not just about working out though.
Fish oil....wonderful for you, oh wait, no, it causes stage 4 stomach tumors in rats.

Vit D. .... wonderful for you, oh, wait, not if you're pregnant.

Vit E, ....and so on.

It's the nature of things.We tend to complexicate things on our search for knowledge (or money, i.e. fitness gurus... Sonnen, others) when really it's usually not so hard. As has been reprinted many times. lift something heavy, repeat, sprint, rest, don't eat shit. The discipline is what' hard, not the protocol.

Chris said...


A good comment. There is never just one way of doing things. I am certainly not exclusive about HIT - it does work and is time efficient. BUT lots of the science seems to indicate that additional sets and more frequent training can improve outcomes. The last few weeks as a change of pace I have been training more often with more sets....and I have not collapsed or got worse - it has been a good experience.

Chris said...



Unknown said...


If you have access to good gym, you should at least read The Max Muscle Solution. It's REALLY good. Something like Aragon or McDonald could write, no fad, full package. Check out Amazon ratings. The problem is you need the gym as there are too many various exercises but otherwise it could be very sustainable. It doesn't "exclude the middle". It's like a positive combination of everything that works, which makes it a bit less practical than HIT - I like the "autopilot" routine I do right now, as you can forget about it for the rest of the week, no programming or manipulating. But it probably compromises reults to a certain degree.

Chris said...

Cheers, I have just downloaded it to my kindle. It looks good. I read his paper on hypertrophy and it was excellent. Certainly not hit though! He doesn't dismiss hit, just says it is not optimal for growth For time efficiency though I per week hit is fine.

Unknown said...

Drew Baye seems to be well aware of HIT limits and tries to turn those into strengths. So I try an A/B routine he described in PWDIR as an example, about 6 exercises + 2 for neck/forearms, but it allows to use more single joint movements and target more muscle groups per week while still allowing for intensity and recovery.

I like Schoenfelds work, it looks relatively possible to do it and you can see how much work he put in it. Those who write about "complicated" routines usually can't really give the reader the plan in a clear way, or they just say you need to discover the art yourself. I am not sure though what is the plan after finishing his 6-month plan:-)

Anonymous said...

speaking of studies;
"High Intensity Interval Resistance training"
Not from a HIT group, either.
I was drawn to HIT at first because I hate strength training and wanted the most efficient routines, etc. I have never achieved strength improvements with HIT/SS over what I got from regular BW stuff.

Stuart Gilbert said...

how did you structure your recent forays into higher volume and frequency training? How many days per week? Was it a split routine? Were the sets done to failure, and how many did you do for each bodypart? In your opinion, over the long term would the results have matched your HIT efforts, and would you personally have found it sustainable?

Chris said...


It is not exactly high volume, but I am doing something close to Lyle McDonald's generic bulking routine. (google it) Heavy move for 2/3 x 5-8 then a lighter move for 2 x 12-14. The idea is that hypertophy is driven by tension, muscle damage and metabolic stress. The heavier sets give the tension and the higher reps the metabolic stress. I'm still in and out of the gym in under 35 mintues. Not to failure but working to add weight reps as regularly as possible. Also picking safe moves.

Stuart Gilbert said...

Thanks for taking the time to answer that Chris....

Craig said...


Interesting approach. Recently, someone on the BBS site reported some positive experiences with DeVany's 15-8-4 protocol. Since then, I've been wondering about multiple set approaches that hit both the muscle tension & metabolic stress aspect.

Do you rest much between sets?

Chris said...


I tried DeVany's approach years ago wen he first mentioned it on his blog and later when he wrote about it in his book, but I never really enjoyed it. That first set always got me too tired to do the later ones properly. It also appealed to me too much as a magic bullet method from a guru that I am trying to wean myself away from.

All approaches work... to some extent. Constant to failure stuff was getting hard mentally as much as anything and I just want to think about progression in weight on bar for a while.