Ponderous Fitness Content

Back in college, I worked as a grocery store cashier, so I could see all the magazines that were in the checkout lane. Each month, they would add a new Cosmopolitan. It didn’t take long to see a pattern in the titles. They were rewriting the same content over and over.

We can laugh at the Cosmo ladies, but we guys are no different. We read the same ponderous articles on the same fitness topics over and over again. The only thing that changes is the title and maybe the name of the new study with 12 untrained college-aged males that confirmed the last 100 studies using 12 untrained college-aged males.

Everything’s been said before
There’s nothing left to say, anymore
When it’s all the same
You can ask for it by name

Marilyn Manson – This is the new shit

I’m going to list a few of the fitness articles and video topics that I never want to be exposed to again. Then I’ll rewrite the article in as few words as possible with common sense. I may forget a few, so add them in the comments.

When is the best time of the day to exercise?

Whatever works best for your schedule. If multiple times of the day work for you, experiment.

What is the best number of reps or sets to gain strength or hypertrophy?

Experiment. If you do higher reps, try lower, or vice-versa. Cycle quarterly, weekly, or even mid-set. Men have successfully gained muscle and strength using every combination of reps and sets.

All these articles are nearly worthless because they used a fixed rep cadence which they maintain throughout each rep, set, and workout. How mechanical.

There are a trillion combinations to try that will never be tested. Nor do they need to be. Do whatever gets you results, holds your interest, and keeps you coming back to the gym.

I’m not even going to get into the skill aspect that rarely gets mentioned when measuring strength. Been there, done that.

Is 10,000 steps a day correct?

There is no magical number. It would be impossible to test. We are of different ages, different weights, and different levels of fitness. Experiment.

Is running safe? Or does running cause injuries?

Running hurts for some of us and feels great to others. Do you need an article convincing you that the choice you made to run or not run was correct or incorrect? No, you don’t.

Is sitting too much hurting our health?

Probably. Stand up and maybe go for a walk.

Why fitness goals are good/bad?

Has anyone else noticed the trend that media cycles between “set goals” to “goals are bad”? My goal is to never read another article telling me why I should or shouldn’t set goals. 😁

Last Words

99% of the stuff being written about fitness is for first-year fitness enthusiasts, not for us. We have some wisdom. We have life experience. We don’t need to click on these articles or videos. If something truly groundbreaking is discovered, you’ll hear about it from multiple sources.

23 Comments

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  1. Stuart Gilbert

    Jan 21, 2024 — 11:26 am

    I asked…and you duly delivered…
    I agree that we should always experiment for ourselves. We are all an ongoing experiment of n=1, where the variables constantly change as our life progresses.
    However we should guard against taking the analogous advice of the n=1 experimentation of other people. Throughout the history of the fitness industry that has led to some truly shocking and disastrous information being passed around. You know like the recommendation for some ineffective, dangerous exercises, because they seemed to work miracles for someone else…that kind of stuff.
    The one good thing about keeping half an eye on studies, is ( even though some are poorly done and can be as unhelpful as the analogies mentioned above) that eventually you start to notice trends and accepted truths start to appear. The rise of strength training for overall health and its importance for us as we age is an example of such that springs to mind. Consider the fact that in the 70’s strength training was seen as unimportant by most and certainly nowhere near the status that cardio was given. Now due to the studies undertaken, it has taken its place alongside cardio as a foundation pillar of a sound fitness program.

  2. @Stuart – I do have fitness mentors that are wiser than me that are speaking to me at my level. I use them as a filter to shield me from the noise of the content being written for the general public.

    If something is really groundbreaking, I’m sure I’ll hear about it from my mentors. Usually they go about correcting the misinterpretations of the study. And if they don’t bring up the topic, then it likely isn’t worth my time.

    I was trying to think of any big fitness topics that were new to me in recent years. The only one I can think of is “blood flow restrictive training”. Everything else to my memory is recycled versions of things I’ve read many times already.

  3. I’m reminded of the words of friend of the blog Chris Highcock from 2014:

    “I’ve become somewhat disillusioned by much of the drama in the online fitness/health/diet world. The debates are religious in nature with heretics fighting strange arcane battles while 90% of the world just get fatter and less active.

    “I am also less inclined to give much attention to the alternative, new or faddish approaches. Ecclesiastes has it right – there is nothing new under the sun. Certainly the science is interesting and is discovering things, but there is little justification for the tabloid excitement about some new diet or exercise.

    “Eat well. Not too much. Move. Lift weights. Sleep. Laugh. Spend time outside. Relax.

    https://conditioningresearch.blogspot.com/2014/06/disillusion.html

  4. @Jim – 100% agree

  5. I went through a couple years in the early 2000s, around the time that the Body for Life book was the rage, when I bought too many ‘fitness porn’ mags (on the racks beside the financial porn, celebrity porn, computer porn, and diet porn mags). Having to push out a monthly product with ads every month strains the soup very thinly.

    Once you’re past the beginner level, as you say, then you have to start going to books, researching more deeply, and then getting your own experience.

    Headlines with “six-pack abs diet” “fat-blasting foods” “what to eat to lose weight” trigger me like nobody’s business.

    Other headline key-phrases that signal filler: “The Best Exercise For [body part]/Target Your [body part]”, “Lose x Lbs in 4 weeks”, “How [celebrity] Works Out,” “The Only [bodyweight / dumbbell / kettlebell] Routine You’ll Ever Need”, “The Key Exercise You’re Not Doing [or Are Doing Wrong]”, etc. Too many to count.

  6. Thanks for posting this. I think you could take it one step further, though. Those fitness articles aren’t about fitness, just like Cosmo isn’t about beauty and fashion. They’re about fear and feelings of inadequacy. Fear of aging, fear of getting weak or feeble, fear of not being beautiful or thin, fear of being poor. Fear breeds consumption, that’s what the advertisers pay for.

    The takes you offer on the topics in this post are all the opposite – personal empowerment through self-knowledge. Know yourself, empower yourself, and lose the fear.

  7. Stuart Gilbert

    Jan 22, 2024 — 10:33 pm

    Actually I can think of one topic that was new ( since about 2012 anyway) and bucked the trend…
    It does link slightly to the topic of how many steps etc, but reverses it and challenges / challenged the fitness industry somewhat.
    When James O’Keefe brought out his paper and did his TED talk on the dangers of too much running, he was soon joined by other researchers who also questioned the wisdom of doing too much cardio. I will point out that the father of Aerobics, Dr Kenneth Cooper had actually made a u turn on his original recommendations and had questioned the wisdom of doing too much before O’Keefe, but O’Keefe’s work made bigger ripples through the industry.
    Here we had someone who had nothing to gain from his stance, questioning why people were exercising so much. He and the others who took his stance tended to come from a cardiologist/ health practitioners standpoint. No surprise then that those who rushed to man the ramparts and barricades in a manic attempt to refute his claims, were all from the fitness industry / media who could suddenly see an attack on their passion, but more importantly, their livelihood. There wasn’t too much money to be made from shoes, gels, equipment etc, by recommending moderating your mileage to less than 20 per week for health’s sake.
    Since then the likes of Lee et al have recently questioned the idea of too much strength training ( more than 2 hours per week) being detrimental to health also. Of course this had the strength training community up in arms too ( no surprise there).
    This avenue of research I find interesting and it certainly went against the trend of the time. This is an area that I like to keep an eye on as I age.

  8. @Mike – Great list.

    @Geoff – Very true. A little motivation can turn into fear. Part of the fear is that if we don’t click on the article we may miss important information. And then 99% of the time it is recycled info.

    @Stuart – As a former runner, I missed that story completely. It is a classic example on information that is not relevant to me. I know how I feel when I run. If I were a runner, I’d likely agree with your example.

  9. @Jim – wow that was 10 years ago…. I still think the same! I’m 55 almost 56 now. My training is pretty similar to what it was….

    I do continue to keep an eye on what is happening, but that is really from mentors like MAS mentions. MAS is one of the sources I monitor. I always read Clarence Bass every month when he updates his website. I like Bill DeSimone’s work. Doug McGuff puts out good videos. Ray Peat fascinates and puzzles me. Lyle McDona;d has been saying the same thing for decades. Brad Pilon keeps experimenting and researching is interesting to read.

    The basics don’t change though. What we need to develop is a resistance to marketing. The latest things are still heavily marketed but it is via Instagram and X rather than via blogs.

    It has been interesting watching topics percolate through the fitness world, hit the mainstream and gradually go back to obscurity. For example Intermittent Fasting of the Leangains style -16/8 – that bubbled around, got massive in the fitness space, hit he mainstream and then disappeared. Similarly HIIT or Tabata – I first read about that in Clarence Bass books … then it hit (!) the mainstream and everyone was doing intervals with Gibala talking about one minute exercise etc and now it has gone and Zone 2 is the big thing.

    This is from a few years ago now but the same ideas….. https://medium.com/@chrishighcock/gnosticism-in-health-and-fitness-e9674f1f65f6?source=user_profile———6—————————-

  10. Well said, Mas. The basics don’t get clicks.

    On a side note, can you share the brand of creatine monohydrate that you use? My husband gets headaches and migraines regularly and I want to try creatine after hearing of your success.

  11. @Chris – Always great to see you in the comments. So many voices from the olden days are no longer participating anymore.

    @Essleyfit – Nutricost, but I don’t think the brand matters.

    I’m having my sister test the shoulder hangs and creatine as well. She is starting with just the creatine. I want Ohio to go through a few seasons before I share her results.

    I’ve started reducing my creatine from 15g to 5g a day to see if I can maintain the benefit. If I can’t, then I’ll know it is the creatine. If I can, then the benefit will have been from the shoulder hangs.

  12. I think many of us who read this will have gone through all the different flavours of fitness that gets thrown up. I’m very guilty of this too! I was a HIT Body of Science type for a long while but where I’ve ended up is some basic strengthening exercises recommended by a physio – a lot more stability exercise, lot off working the small muscles in the feet, shoulders and hips. Its not sexy, but it strengthens me and make my joint feel good.

    I remember a Crossfit quote from a long time ago that was basically saying you can train your grandmother like an Olympic athlete if you apply appropriate load. My argument now would be more train your Olympic athletes with exercises that work for your grandmother, but with more load.

    The point about exercise safety is often ignored. My only other observation, particularly noting the comment above tennis is that most exercise routine don’t address multiple planes of motion. Dr McGills comment that the best lifters in the weight room are not the best atheletes on the field is a pertinent one.

  13. Stuart Gilbert

    Jan 25, 2024 — 12:08 pm

    Hi Chris,
    Nice to hear from you again.
    My fitness journey is a lot like yours. I’ve tried various stuff but now I’m fairly vanilla and reserved in what I do…always with safety in mind, but also enjoyment, after all, why ( and I am a year older than you) at this time of our lives would we do something that we couldn’t stand. I, for example, don’t care how good the Concept 2 erg is. I don’t enjoy doing it, so I’m not going to.
    Just one question. You seem to be pretty much a walker and resistance training kind of guy with only a few sources of influence. I know that you flirted with running a few years ago…but has your opinion changed on anything in the last few years? Despite settling into a pretty set format it seems…
    If so, what have you changed your mind on?

  14. Chris Highcock

    Jan 26, 2024 — 10:15 pm

    Hi Stuart

    I don’t think much has changed. I walk a lot. Resistance train once or twice a week at home either with dumbells or callisthenics. Much of the last few years a lot of my training was isometrics using the Timed Static Contraction approach developed by Ken Hutchins and promoted by Drew Baye. Diet stays pretty constant. I think PUFAs are to be avoided I tend to keep protein quite high but generally just eat well.

    I did spend a few years running a short distance everyday but developed an injured ankle and stopped. I’d rather be able to walk. I’m 55 almost 56 and my aim is to maintain function as I get older.

    I don’t think there is anything particularly new or exciting. I keep reading different places but there really isn’t much new to say.

    The new thing I’m aware of and concerned about is how many people who influence in the fitness/nutrition are using drugs even if they call it TRT. I don’t trust most physique photos any more.

    I hope that doesn’t prompt a lot of questions Stuart. There really is not much to say.

  15. Stuart Gilbert

    Jan 26, 2024 — 10:31 pm

    Chris,
    Nah no more questions. You covered it quite well there.
    As I said, my fitness journey is similar to yours. I’ve settled into what I like doing. I keep half an eye on things, but I doubt that there will be anything that will really shake me from what I do. I tinker occasionally, but nothing drastic.
    My questioning previously just helped me get my head around things and finally led me to where I am now…which is, like your program, pretty basic and vanilla. It’s funny how as we get older we suddenly realise that things have come round full circle.
    Like yourself I tend to treat a lot of information from online gurus and influencers with a pinch of salt, as it is hard to know who to trust these days. It is getting harder to know who has a productive method and who has been “helped” by “supplementation”, so like yourself I have my own trusted sources that I stick to.
    I have my areas of interest which these days include longevity and training safety ( which is a trend probably noticed on the Hillfit Facebook page ) but often I post articles on the Facebook page that I find interesting (which makes it an online library for me) and which I feel that others might do also.
    Good to hear from you again anyway…take care.

  16. Chris Highcock

    Jan 26, 2024 — 10:32 pm

    Cheers Stuart.

  17. Stuart Gilbert

    Jan 28, 2024 — 12:36 am

    Just came across this great article that is very relevant to the content of this post.
    It aligns spectacularly well with what MAS and Chris were saying…
    Stick with the tried and tested…ignore the fluff…
    https://bloodyelbow.com/2023/11/01/health-mma-risks-of-experimenting/?fbclid=IwAR16VjEXtJdiwtKeiORTczD8mpa8XoyAb-Ti-yg2Tfn5GWUA_7ySIHUTE_8_aem_AXGQnUQYGbz96UakJmdGTNT8rTSLWJBAIJxcItJwHZ-MGozWptM0eqGZEw85vFUfJHk

  18. Chris Highcock

    Feb 1, 2024 — 1:26 am

    I was thinking more about all this on my way to work. With training – physical exercise now I think I have a number of aims and a few principles or boundaries that I will not cross.

    As a basic rule I want training to enhance rather than diminish my life. So whatever I do I want to minimise risk such that I will never want to compromise my ability to walk, squat or get up from the floor. Watching my mum in a care home and those with her you realise what is ultimately important. Those skills and abilities are supreme. Exercise and diet need a longevity focus.

    Then – related – there is an acceptance that mobility/flexibikity/strength are vital as we get older. Training and everything else needs to promote and maintain them.

    Continual progress – ie the idea of adding a rep or weight every workout – is not possible. At some point maintenance is progress.

    Then it is about realising lots of routes exist to the destination. Choose the safest and most enjoyable.

    And walk a lot. And sleep. And don’t drink alcohol.

  19. Stuart Gilbert

    Feb 1, 2024 — 10:26 pm

    Chris,
    Great points. Totally agree.

  20. Stuart Gilbert

    Feb 4, 2024 — 10:15 pm

    Thought that people might appreciate this video clip.
    This is the kind of content that still fires me up these days. I look at the advice from people older than me, who have paved the way via their own research and their own mistakes. I learn so much more from them than from some “jacked” 20 to 40 something, with lessons still to learn.
    https://youtu.be/tM599A6wUAw?si=0yDS17-LEiANn-nl

  21. Chris Highcock

    Feb 5, 2024 — 12:58 am

    @MAS. I totally agree. I’m 56. What. 20/30/40 year old is doing is interesting but I’d like to know how he will look and perform when he is 55. Show me a guy who is 50 or 60. They will have some wisdom to share.

    Or they might do. TRT has made things more difficult to judge. So many older guys are on drugs now that it can be hard to get a realistic view of where they really are. Even the high profile HIT guys seem to be on drugs so I am less open to their material.

    Maybe all roads do lead to Clarence Bass!

  22. Stuart Gilbert

    Feb 5, 2024 — 7:05 am

    Chris…it wasn’t MAS…it was me…but I’ll take it…
    You’re right about Clarence…but even he had a slight history with the “sauce”.
    My main influence was always Richard Winett…so sad that he no longer produces the Master Trainer….
    Kenneth Cooper is another one to watch and learn from.
    And obviously, slightly closer to my age, I’ve learnt so much useful stuff that has kept me training, from Bill DeSimone.

  23. @Stuart – I just watched that video last night.

    Attia had that look in his eyes that he might finally be understanding exercise risk with bro-lifting.

    About 5 or 6 years ago, he had a show with a fellow carb hater and they started talking about the potato diet and how it was effective. I could hear his brain melting as he went into cognitive dissonance. I wish I could remember which show it was on.

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