Is anything more useless than the “form check”?

I’m not sure who thought it would be a good idea to post videos of squats and deadlifts on the internet to get a “form check”. This almost always turns out to be the blind leading the blind, and even when it isn’t, has anyone actually made their form “better” by reading a list of generic form cues? What does “better” even mean? Do people even have a benchmark in mind when they ask for advice, or are they just giving in to their own neuroses?

“Better form” is the leprechaun of internet fitness communities. Want a better squat? Get under the bar and practice it until you can handle over double body weight. Better pull? Pick the thing up. Figure out how your body wants to move under load. It can move just fine without “expert” biomechanical advice. Doing the thing and paying attention to what happens is more valuable than any internet checklists.

The Limits In Your Head (CNS Fatigue)

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“The CNS recovers in 12-24 hours after a workout”. What does that even mean? What’s recovering? What got tired in the first place? Nobody talking about the trendy subject of “CNS fatigue” ever seems to know, and being skeptical as I am of the outrageous-sounding, my suspicion is that the shroud of mystery is hiding voodoo — or just plain old ignorance. We already know that “fitness people” typically have a grasp of biology somewhat less than what you’d expect from a middle-school science education, which lets them speak of “toxins” hiding away in your body, or with a belief that genes “evolve for” certain types of foods found only in organic supermarkets.

Unfortunately even many who come through exercise science programs come out thinking of the human body as a Mr. Potatohead, just a bunch of pieces that happen to stick together and do stuff. Biology is not a rigid machine obeying a clear set of formal rules. Think storm. Think global economy. Complex, nonlinear, exponential.

Central fatigue is nevertheless a real and observable phenomenon, and I was recently pointed at an article, The Race Against Time, which neatly sums up how it applies to sport.

Keep on reading &rarrow;The Limits In Your Head (CNS Fatigue)

Autoregulating Workouts for Bodybuilding, Strength, & Fat Loss

I hate programs. I mean, I like them, but I hate the thought process behind them and how they lock people into a mindset that they can’t ever change anything because the program is so well designed. Just because it’s written down on a piece of paper doesn’t mean it reflects the needs of your … Keep on reading &rarrow;

Dispel the Dogma and Find the Gems

A few days ago, my buddy Bret Contreras wrote up a summary of John Broz’s training methods over on T-Nation. I’ve been following Broz and his athletes closely for the last year and a half, and he’s never failed to impress. Whether you agree with his methods or not, you can’t argue with his results.

My own experimentation with daily training started when Broz’s comments convinced me to give it a good try. Over the years, I’ve always found that I respond better to more training, but less “intensity” in each session. By intensity I don’t mean weight on the bar as a percentage of maximum. I mean effort. I mean exhaustion. Typical wisdom says you need to throw all your energy into your workouts and leave yourself crawling out of the gym.

Keep on reading &rarrow;Dispel the Dogma and Find the Gems

I Am Not a Geared Powerlifter [Context Matters]

A few years ago, I posted a squat video on Youtube. Not the best source of intelligent commentary on good days, several comments stuck out to me. These users, with the best of intentions I’m sure, gave me what I can best describe as “internet powerlifter squat advice”, which I found confusing. I’m not a … Keep on reading &rarrow;

The Value of Restraint in Training Weights [Strength Progressions]

We like fast progress. All of us do. I like it. When poundages aren’t going up on the regular, I start second guessing. I wonder where I’m screwing it up. I need that regular feedback. I know it doesn’t work that way. I know in the sense that I’m aware of the facts. As we realize now, knowing is only part of the issue.

I know that muscle tissue can only synthesize so fast and there are limits to how much can be added on a given body without chemical intervention. I know that neural factors adapt on an asymptotal curve, increasing strength rapidly before leveling off in a new plateau as neurons rewire themselves. I know these things, and yet, it’s the psychological rush, the hit of mesolimbic pleasure-reward, of hitting new levels and new PRs that motivates most of us.

Without that quick feedback of success, the signpost on the road to tell us we’re heading in the right direction, it’s easy to start second guessing. Once that happens, you’ve lost.

Keep on reading &rarrow;The Value of Restraint in Training Weights [Strength Progressions]

Pain Isn’t A Virtue [Muscle & Strength Gains]

In biology, it’s rare to find an instance where more is always better. Biological systems respond in dose-response relationships. More is better — to a point. Once you get past that ideal range, more is worse. You can visualize this as an inverted U-shaped graph, with the ideal range falling into a nice hump between … Keep on reading &rarrow;