Martin Berkhan descended from the mountain one day bearing his seminal article “Fuckarounditis”. It is a must-read for anyone attempting to get stronger. This article may contain
strong language by the way.
All you need to fix your routine, really, is to study Martin’s article.
But after symptom #25, Martin ran out of inspiration, indignation, and most crucially alcohol. Today
I presume to expand on his important theme because the epidemic rages unchecked. Even among those who really
should know better by now.
I'm just a guy with some body transformation experience and a positive attitude. But I can't stand this galloping ignorance anymore and neither should you. Brace your hip extensors for some
Ten Appalling Fitness Fallacies
1. Fitness is a physical pursuit
That is the merest tip of the iceberg. Fitness is the
supreme intellectual and spiritual pursuit and includes a physical component. Practiced properly it improves
every aspect of your being, coincidentally including athletic performance. Your analytical skills, emotional
intelligence, and ceaseless ambition are vastly more influential than any aspect of your physique.
means taking advantage of every hour of the day. No, this doesn’t mean constant suffering and exertion.
Quite the opposite. The foundation of all health is a happy and stable life full of relaxation and
fun. Having fun is deadly important. If you stop having fun the wolves are going to
rip you open and pull your intestines like taffy.
Put another way, fitness is the ultimate game and the stakes
are nothing less than your health and happiness. If you think MMORPGs are a good time, they are merely kindergarten-level preparation for the real RPG: leveling up your own bad self.
|He has an unfair advantage.
2. Hardship is an obstacle to greatness.
is exactly backwards. One constantly sees nonsense along the lines of, “She beat cancer and now runs
marathons daily! There go all my excuses!” Or “He lost three limbs and now
he’s the world champion of single-arm pullups! #soinspiringiwetmyself”
course the man with one limb is the pullup champion! It was that or rot in a chair. Simply
getting through a typical day requires badassery on his part that most of us, who consider hardship to be commercial gym music,
literally cannot imagine. Do you think he’s going to hang out on the adductor machine playing with
his phone? Hell no! His only options are to fight like hell or die in pain.
You know who has it hard? People living a comfortable life with no health complaints. People
who get by on a diet of junk food. People who would rather watch TV than get up and move. People
who never had to contend with premature death, illness, poverty, or the capricious wrath of an angry god.
people are living an existential nightmare. They are slowly dying, helpless and alienated, in a soul-suffocating
oubliette of their own complacency. Drop them a rope and they’ll throw it right back in your face.
You know what inspires me? When somebody who has every reason to be complacent chooses exertion.
The 18-year-old dude with good genetics who squats double bodyweight on nothing more than pizza and sex.
When that guy cleans up his eating, when that guy starts asking for advice, when that guy abandons his comforts and
takes full responsibility for improving himself as a man – that inspires me. And you know what?
He will get absolutely zero credit for it; everyone will attribute his progress to genetics and circumstance. Yet
he will continue striving ever harder because his motivation comes from within. And that inspires me even
Just look around, you’ll find many people who overcame extreme physical and personal hardship to
become skilled athletes. Not to make light of their hard work – quite the opposite – but fitness
is nothing compared to their past victories.
But find me one person who fits the dude's description.
You will search in vain. Unless you decide that you yourself are going to be that dude. Or dudette.
|Mind your own business.
3. Other people at the gym are too distracting
If you are distracted by
other people at the gym to the point that it interferes with your training, the problem lies not with them, but with you.
people’s training is irrelevant. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re at the gym
for the same reasons as you. They are not. And for heaven’s sake, if they want
your opinion or a spot, they’ll ask for it.
But that doesn’t mean you should just tune everyone out.
You need to be aware of your surroundings and treat others like proper gentlemen and ladies. That guy standing in front of the mirror with his shirt pulled up, stroking his abs? Let
him have his moment, he earned it. The guy in the rack next to you doing quarter squats with a floppy back?
Keep out of his line of sight in the mirror so he can stay focused on whatever he’s trying to do.
Save the ruthless judgment for yourself, where it might actually do some good.
Since avoiding distraction
is not always possible, you must develop the skill of regaining your focus. If some glue-sniffer accosts
you between sets, treating you to a five-minute monologue about his childhood in Florida and how he hates mosquitoes, accept
this challenge with grace. Then practice switching from gregarious menschkenner to ruthless decapitator
in the shortest time possible. Ideally 2-3 seconds, so that his demise is relatively painless.
4. Food choices don't matter "if it fits your macros" ("IIFYM")
Nutrition is complicated. The state of modern knowledge is
positively medieval. Most realize that reducing that complexity to “calories in, calories out”
is ridiculous. Protein, fat, carbohydrate, and alcohol are all metabolized very differently by the body
regardless of potential chemical energy. So those with a bit more sophistication speak in terms of macronutrients,
or macros. If you want to drive your body composition one way or the other, you set a goal for the four
macronutrients and try to hit it consistently.
But that is still a grotesque oversimplification.
If macronutrients were all that mattered, people would get the same body composition results on a diet of whey, sugar,
and Crisco as they would with meat, fish, and vegetables. Stated that way it seems obvious.
But it is shocking how easily people turn to IIFYM as an excuse to eat garbage.
News flash: micronutrients
matter. The very definition of a “vitamin” is a nutrient without which you will develop deficiency
symptoms. Eating a diet of whey donuts is ever so much fun until your teeth fall out from scurvy.
Also, consider minerals. Is calcium important? Are sodium and potassium important?
Or is it all good as long as it fits your macros, braaaaaaaaaah?
Micros are not just for preventing disease.
They are necessary for peak performance. For example, several B vitamins are essential to metabolize
fat. No B vitamins, no fat oxidation. And they’re water soluble; you can’t
just pop a pill and forget about it because you’ll absorb them poorly and piss out most of what you do absorb within
the hour. If you want to burn stored fat, you need to eat green vegetables frequently.
also control hunger. Make no mistake, hunger is stronger than you are and it will wreck your diet if you
don’t treat it with respect. Meet your macros with whey donuts and you will succumb to hunger long
before you approach your goal, and probably even before you get scurvy.
Apologists occasionally defend IIFYM
as a compliance strategy. “Yes,” comes the objection, “it’s true that Oreos are
not an ideal source of fat and carbohydrate. But if I can eat them once a week, then that makes me stick
to my diet the other six days because I don’t feel deprived.”
You have fallen victim to the most egregious fallacy of all:
|Only six more days to cheat day!
5. Fat loss diets require deprivation.
There is some truth to the Oreo apology. It’s certainly
better to eat garbage one day out of the week instead of seven, and that brings results. But if you stop
eating garbage completely, something amazing happens. YOU STOP WANTING GARBAGE. You
start enjoying real food. You come to enjoy real food even more than garbage! This may
sound like a miracle. But it only works if you stop. Eating. Garbage.
fight alcoholism, should you go on a weekly bender? To fight heroin addiction, do you inject black tar
only on Sundays? Don’t kid yourself. Don’t spend the majority of your life
pining after “cheat day”. The only way to break a bad habit is to break it!
you are getting full-spectrum nutrition, maintaining a slight caloric deficit is not difficult. Add patience,
and leanness becomes the most natural thing in the world. I’m not talking about bodybuilding-contest
lean – your body doesn’t want to get that close to starvation and it’s going to fight you with its entire
arsenal of tricks. (Which is all part of the fun.) But to be healthy, strong, fit,
and yes even have abs, the proper diet does not feel like deprivation. Yes, you are eating less, but you
are eating better, and you are happier. Not just happy. HappiER.
|You're doing it wrong.
6. Pain is gain
You do not make progress by suffering pain. That
is absolutely ridiculous. Proper athletic training is very like the opposite of pain. Of
course, there is discomfort. But pain? Give me a break!
You want pain? Stub
your toe. Compare that to the feeling after grinding out the last rep of a new weightlifting personal record
using muscles you never had before. That’s not pain, that’s euphoria.
have to enjoy your life. Humans were not born to suffer, that’s just convenient bullshit to justify
tyranny. Humans were born to love and to overcome challenges, and we receive bountiful neurochemical rewards
when we follow those prime directives.
To get those rewards, you have to go beyond your fake comfort zone.
Complacency is your fake comfort zone. Push beyond your fake comfort zone and discover a real comfort
zone that you never knew existed. Get out of the damn shire!
If training is still causing you pain, you should probably get that looked
|Crunches are a useful exercise for insects.
7. Crunches and sit-ups produce six-pack abs
The function of abdominal muscles is to stabilize
your trunk while you move weight. Yes, you can use them to bring your pelvis closer to your rib cage.
Some advanced athletes benefit from that. But the idea that it produces anything but misery for
beginners is nonsense on stilts.
You want to know why so many people are instinctively obsessed
with a six-pack? Because it is the ultimate peacock tail of honest-to-God lean strength. Unfakeable,
so please, don’t try to fake this.
If you want to wave that tail, get strong and lean. Deadlifts,
squats, real food. Case closed.
|One door conceals the deadly failbeast.
8. Don't change too much at once, because new habits are
best built gradually
I’m willing to allow that there might be individual variation on this one. But frankly,
I doubt it. If you make gradual changes, you are going to get gradual results. Very
gradual results. Like, waste-years-of-your-precious-life results. Maybe you have that
kind of patience. Maybe you are terrified of discomfort and change. Maybe you want to
peel that band-aid off ever so slowly while it dangles awkwardly, day in and day out.
Getting healthier and gaining strength are already gradual
enterprises. There’s no need to drag them out gratuitously. When you make as many
healthy changes at once as you can think of, you will begin to see results almost immediately. That will
build your confidence and make you eager, even desperate, for more. You get the hard work over in one solid
shove for the briefest possible period of discomfort.
When you’re doing everything as you know you should,
compliance becomes easy. When you start cheating around the edges, you start having a hard time.
Just like a bubble has a hard time when it’s poked with a pin.
Take the sensible route. Eat
healthy now, not later. Lift a challenging weight now, not once you’ve earned your online PhD in
kinesiology. Rip the band-aid off and get on with your life.
|see also "Samson and Delilah"
9. Body hair has nothing to do with athletic prowess
Some of you were with me until now. What could a lavish beard have to do with the action of the pectoralis major at the bottom of a
max bench press?
The beard is perhaps masculinity’s most distinctive secondary sexual characteristic.
Some say that shaving is an insult to your face. I’m not going that far; there are legitimate
reasons for removing some or even all of your facial hair. But it’s there for a reason.
It has a greater psychological impact than you might think. And in strength training, you can’t
afford to miss a psychological advantage.
Grow a beard – if you can. Maybe you can’t.
I couldn’t until recently. It takes androgens which are in tragically short supply these days
for environmental, dietary, and other, more unmanly reasons. Resist beard implants as you would
testicle implants. There is no substitute for the real thing.
Reactions from women will likely
range from cautiously accepting to adverse, but you’re not doing this for women. You’re doing
it to make progress towards your goals. You are learning to trust, accept, and use your body as nature
intended. Observe how your confidence increases. Observe how your interactions with
other males alter drastically.
observe how people start giving you grief. How long you gonna grow that thing? Why’d
you do it? Why must you make me so very uncomfortable by having facial hair?
This will teach
you to give less of a fuck about other people’s worthless opinions, which in itself is a huge fitness and life-skills
This isn’t just for the men. Ladies, you can achieve the same advantage to
even greater effect by not shaving your armpit and leg hair. Love your body as nature made you and rock
that overhead press.
|Deadlift + squat = unified fitness theory
10. Fitness is complicated.
Look, it’s really not. We make it that way because
we have too much time on our hands and we need to deal with the boredom between max deadlift attempts. It
is true that the human body is so complex that modern science barely understands the major processes. That
is why paleo is such an effective philosophy; instead of trying to master 25th-century biochemistry, you can simply
refer to the better understood environment of evolutionary adaptation. Don’t count micrograms of
selenium. Just eat real food.
Simplify your training in the same way. Yes, there
really is "one weird trick": if you want to gain strength, squat and deadlift with proper range of motion
and challenging weight, and then rest. All else is fine-tuning; knock yourself out.
These ten worthless fallacies will bedevil humanity for countless generations to come. But
they won't bedevil you. Go forth with love and overcome challenges.
# # #
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