No Magic Pill

Knowledge + effort + time = success

A letter on behalf of my female readers

Posted by Ben on Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dear Ms. Deardorff,

Please stop writing about subjects in which you obviously have little or no knowledge. You are doing your readers—and yourself—a disservice by using your position and access at a widely-read newspaper to offer advice that is based on outdated, uninformed, and/or hazardous practices. By passing off this checklist as (a) “good” advice and (b) “good” journalism, you are endangering the health and well-being of those who read and trust your words. Please leave mainstream media and take a position teaching part-time, community college, supplemental journalism courses that focus on making money by writing well enough to convince hiring managers that you actually know what you’re talking about (sentence ended with a preposition just to irk you). It’s difficult enough keeping people away from the Tracy Anderson-flavored Kool-Aid.



Now that I’ve performed my public service for this month, let me quickly run through the “advice” in the article and point out why it’s worth about as much as Enron stock right now:

1. Instead of sit-ups, do bicycle crunches — Good, don’t do sit-ups. Seriously, you shouldn’t. They put undue strain on the lower back and neck, depending on how you do them, plus they’re anything but functional—in what situation in everyday life can you point out where you’d need dynamic trunk flexion strength? Isometric, certainly. Rotational? Of course, but flexion? Not so much. Trunk work should focus on stabilization (isometric) to improve posture and rotation for real-world carryover. Bicycle crunches to hit both of these training styles to an extent, but you certainly need other movements to complete the development (like trunk extension, to fix your seated-too-long posture, and some kind of resisted rotation work). I’ll give the good author half of a Brownie Point, not a whole one for ignoring the myriad other dimensions in which the trunk should be trained.

2. Instead of weighted squats, do lunges — Now wait just a !$#!@#$ minute. I HAVE to quote the part after the squats line:

Squats with a weight bar on your back build serious bulk in the rear end and upper thighs, places women are most likely looking to trim down, said Richardson, who found that weighted squats increased her muscle—and made her waist bigger. “It did not look cute,” she said. They also strain the knees and lower back.

Serious bulk? What do you consider serious bulk? Yes, you add muscle. This is a good thing. It makes you stronger. The Amy Winehouse look is just barferific, lemme tell ya, but you’re not going to get HYOOGE. If it were that easy, don’t you think all the gym rats who spend two hours a day hump-curling barbells in the squat rack would have arms that looked like bowling balls? And that’s the guys with many many many times more testosterone in their systems than the women this article targets. Look, try buying some clothes that fit a fit body, not a spaghetti noodle. Sure, your waist may get a little larger, but the added strength will carryover to your entire body, and you’ll look proportionately better overall. If your idea of “cute” is “waif,” you’re not well. Seriously. There’s a continuum from sick to well to healthy to fit. Health is the absense of illness/disease. Fitness is the development of potential. Oh yeah, the knees and back thing? You know what that is? Because people think squatting is supposed to just happen—“bend with your knees” and such. I’ve had to beat that line out of people before. Yes, you don’t want to lift with your back, but you also don’t want to “lift” with your knees, either. The power is in your hips when you squat correctly (and secondarily in your trunk, which gets at point #1). It’s easy to blame squats for knee and back problems, but in reality, it’s ignorance on the part of the squatter (or, more likely, the idiot trainer).

By the way, lunges are great. I whole-heartedly endorse lunges and other unilateral leg work. The problem with the comparison is that they don’t compare to squats. Lunges are hip-dominant (the backside of your legs and butt) while squats are more quad-dominant (the fronts of your legs). Lunges are an integral part of a full training program, but squats are not to be ignored. Oh yeah, one other thing: women suffer from osteoporosis in FAR greater numbers than men. Want to know a way to avoid it? Weight-bearing exercise, especially lifts that load the axial skeleton (read: your spine). It has to be done correctly, but the weight-bearing work makes your bones more dense and encourages bone growth. Combined with proper diet, properly-lifted heavy weights are an almost sure-fire way to avoid “brittle bone disease” later in life, plus you won’t have to worry about falling nearly as much since you’ll be stronger for the effort in the first place.

3. Instead of behind-the-neck shoulder presses, do seated shoulder presses — Um, did you just say to do the same thing, only seated instead of standing? Yes, behind-the-neck presses are often done with too much weight, meaning bad posture and exposure of the shoulder girdle, neck, and upper back to unnecessary strains, sprains, and worse. Look, this one’s easy: (1) stay on your feet so that you make the movement a full-body effort, (2) bring the load down in front of your neck but without excessive backward lean (a little is acceptable to maintain your center-of-gravity), and (3) keep your elbows tucked to your sides or slightly flared (no more than 45 degrees) to keep the load on the larger shoulder muscles—flaring your elbows to the sides and pressing overhead still exposes the underlying shoulder structure to increased risk of injury.

4. Instead of straight-leg push-ups, do push-ups on your knees — What, just because you have “innie” plumbing instead of “outie” plumbing, you can’t do real push-ups? Sounds like we have a self-hating author. If you can’t do a full, proper push-up, don’t drop to your knees like a two-dollar hooker. Instead, find a wall or a solid chair or bench and otherwise start out with your hands higher than the ground. Find a height that is doable yet challenging. Do your push-ups as prescribed by your training program in this position. Once that becomes easier (read: you can do all sets and reps without failure), lower your hands. Continue this until you reach the floor, then start raising your feet (this could take a year or more—it took about that long for me to nail chin-ups). If Ms. Deardorff was so concerned about your knees during squats, she should’ve kept them in mind here, where the kneecap can be placed in a compromised position if loaded as she suggests.

5. Instead of deadlifts, do leg kick-backs — Hey, Julie, this is aimed straight at you:

Ladies, please, she obviously has some spiritual connection to Sarah Palin. Don’t sell yourselves short. If you’re not supposed to deadlift, that means you’re not supposed to lift anything from a height below your waist. No kids, no books, no groceries, no nothing. You might as well resign yourself to the Tracy Anderson School of Non-Training where you’re not supposed to lift ANYthing weighing more than three pounds. I don’t know in what world this makes sense, but it sure ain’t this one. Please please please please please deadlift, albeit properly. Frankly, the squat and deadlift should look nearly identical from the feet to the shoulders; the placement of the load—and thus the arms—is the only major visual difference. Learn how to do it properly. You’ll save your knees and back a lot of grief. You’ll also strengthen literally everything in your body. Leave the kick-backs to the cardio bunnies.

Deadlifts, squats, lunges, presses, rows, pull-ups. Six exercises, all weight-bearing, all mind-numbingly simple (once form is addressed), all time and again shown to make a stronger, functional HUMAN. Screw the sexist, defeatist, helpless mentality behind articles like this one. Aside from some plumbing and hormonal differences, men and women are physiologically the same. Don’t let someone tell you to do this or that and not this or that just because you can lactate and ovulate (or could, at one point, depending on your age) :)

No links today. I wanted to crank this one out. The backlog is growing again, but I’ll get them out this coming week. Scouts honor (too bad I wasn’t a Scout) ;)


3 Responses to “A letter on behalf of my female readers”

  1. Brianne said

    a. men. And I need a shirt like that to wear to the gym the next time I am squatting and some loser “trainer” tries to tell me I am going down “too low”.

  2. Julie Keen said

    Hey … that f-you wasn’t aimed at me was it?!?! :oD

  3. Ben said

    Not if you fix my shoulder ;)

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